3 Ways Your Brand Can Embrace the Marketing Power of Snapchat

Snapchat.jpgIf you’re a social media marketer, the latest buzz isn’t circling around just Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or even LinkedIn. Now, it’s all about snapping. Snapchat is a mobile photo- and video-sharing tool; with 100 million daily active users and 400 million snaps sent each day, it’s one of the top 20 most used smartphone apps in the country. What makes it unique from, say, Instagram, Flickr or Vine is that Snapchat is entirely mobile-based. Additionally, the photos - captured on the sender’s smartphone - have a limited time window for viewing. After opening a snap, the recipient will only be able to view the content for the time span allotted by the sender, which can range anywhere from one to 10 seconds.  

According to Snapchat research, nearly two-thirds of American adults own a smartphone. More than 60 percent of them use Snapchat, with over a third (37 percent) of those users falling between the ages of 18-24. Alternatively, over a quarter (26 percent) of Snapchat users are between 13 and 17 years old, and just under a quarter (23 percent) of users are 25 to 34 year-olds. So naturally, we must conclude that the majority of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 24, falling into a demographic group that’s the holy grail for marketers: millennials. 

Now for the million-dollar question (or if you want to get specific, $16-19 billion, Snapchat’s estimated value): Why do Snapchatting brands from McDonald’s, HBO and General Electric to Taco Bell, Acura and Heineken care about a mobile app used by teens and young adults to exchange selfies and pictures of Sunday’s brunch? Answer: because Snapchat’s messaging power extends far beyond that. Let’s walk through the Snapchat features that offer marketing potential for your brand:  

Your Brand Opportunity #1: Live Stories with brand and consumer-curated content

How can you paint a picture of your brand’s Snapchat identity when every trace of the image disappears in 10 seconds or less? That’s where ‘Stories’ come in. Snapchat users have the option to submit photos and videos to their individual Stories, which all followers then have the option of viewing as many times as they’d like for 24 hours. For brands, there are ‘Live Stories’, which combine user-curated content with brand-sponsored content, available for viewing by all Snapchat users. This feature evolved from Snapchat’s initial ‘Sponsored Stories’ feature, which launched last fall with a 20-second trailer for Universal’s upcoming film, “Ouija.” The ad appeared at the top of the Stories section with a clear “Sponsored” note, fully disclosing to Snapchat viewers that they were about to watch an ad (if they chose to open it). Studies found that people who viewed the Snapchat trailer for “Ouija” were 13 percent more likely to buy tickets to see the movie on its opening weekend. 

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From October 2014-April 2015, brands used Sponsored Stories with the intention of reaching all Snapchat users, regardless of whether or not they followed the brand’s account. However, now brands have the option to appear as part of a ‘Live Story’, which gathers photo and video content from events or destinations around the world, ranging from fans celebrating the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Vancouver, Canada, to daily life in the West Bank. For example, Samsung partnered with the American Music Awards last November to promote its Galaxy Series. The Live Story broadcasted behind-the-scenes, Samsung-branded photos and videos combined with user-generated shots from the crowd and red carpet.


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According to Snapchat’s data, the number of Stories viewed now surpasses the number of individual Snaps viewed per day, indicating that users are most definitely fans of this feature. Additionally, up to eight times as many 13 to 34 year olds in the US opt to view Snapchat’s Live Stories rather than TV for similar events. Why? Because Stories give users a close-up, firsthand experience - minus the requirement of actually attending your featured event. Instead, they can live vicariously through others’ experiences by watching their curated content. And you can’t get much closer to an experience than by viewing it directly through someone else’s eyes - think of it as an extension of the social TV phenomenon we’ve discussed in past posts.

Your Brand Opportunity #2: Ads Within Broadcasters’ Published Content

sperry-ad-phone-blogIntroduced in January 2015, ‘Discover’ is another section of Snapchat that displays photos, videos and news articles from various broadcast channels - such as CNN, National Geographic and Food Network - that is refreshed every 24 hours, modeled after Stories. Marketers have the option to purchase 10-second advertisements that are nestled between published content on each news channel, following the format of a TV or YouTube ad.

However, the decision still remains with the user on whether to watch your ad or skip past it by simply tapping the screen. Although Discover was initially housed in a separate section of the app (requiring an extra swipe for access), Snapchat recently repositioned it to be featured front and center: right above Live Stories and Recent Updates, allowing for higher exposure. But you must be wondering, what will this cost my brand? When first launched, Adweek reported that Discover ads boasted a hefty price tag of $750,000 per day, although Snapchat has since (thankfully!) lowered its rates

Your Brand Opportunity #3: Geofilters for Sharing Locations in Real-Time

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Similar to Instagram, Snapchat offers filters to enhance its users’ photos. Users also have the option to use specially designed filters for national and cultural holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Fourth of July. In July 2014, Geofilters were introduced. This function, which allows users to share their geographic locations, was initially only available in large cities and popular tourist destinations, such as New York City or Disneyland. But, since Snapchat began crowdsourcing Geofilters in December, the pool of available filters has expanded to include thousands of locations such as specific neighborhoods, college campuses and localized events, like parades or concerts.  

Then last month, Snapchat launched a new type of Geofilter: sponsored (and marked accordingly). McDonald’s was the first business to take advantage of the feature with overlays of its signature McDoubles and fries—among other products and logos - available to users when inside any McDonald’s U.S. location. Fashion brand Lilly Pulitzer soon followed suit with its own branded filters, only appearing when users entered one of 31 corporate stores. While still fairly young, sponsored Geofilters display the potential for marketers to connect with Snapchat users on an even more customized level.
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Snapchat for Brands: How You Can Get Started

The quality that runs across all Snapchat marketing approaches is quite simple: the user ultimately has the option to view or deny the content pushed out by brands. Watch the branded Live Story or Discover ad, or don’t. Use the sponsored Geofilter or skip it. Today’s consumers prefer to have a choice when it comes to exposing themselves to advertising content, and Snapchat is a platform that keeps the control in the users’ hands (literally). Consequently, the ads they do decide to watch are more likely to have a positive lasting impact, as they were not forced upon unwilling eyes. 

In September, Snapchat will celebrate its fourth birthday. Our agency predicts that its popularity among users (currently over 100 million) and adoption by brands will only continue to grow. But like any human interaction, if you want to make an authentic connection, you can’t force it. To form a lasting relationship, your marketing campaign has to be a two-way street - the Snapchat user has to want to consume your content, which points to a larger key message. As with the implementation of any social tool, crafting a strong Snapchat identity should be only one piece of your company’s overall communications and brand development strategy. Ensure your company’s brand identity is integrated across all marketing materials and social platforms in order to establish a solid follower base.

Do you feel your brand is ready to get on Snapchat, but don’t know where to start? For some inspiration, check out the brands that made Adweek’s cut for Best Brands on Snapchat: 




Image Sources: Adweek, Sprinklr, Fireband Group, Marketing Land, Ad Age, Maccabee PR
About the Author

Julia Irwin

Julia Irwin is an assistant account executive at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Social Media Marketing

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