Is Snapchat the next best digital marketing tool?
Snapchat has become an established media platform valued at over $16 billion and with over 100 million users worldwide. It is the most used platform for anyone 18-35 years old.
Whilst is is most successful in America, it has become a major player in the social networks favoured by the younger generations. Snapchat can no longer be ignored if you want to reach this age group. The UK and Europe are typically 18 months behind in their social media habits, but in 2016, Snapchat’s UK user base experienced an enormous growth: up almost 90% year-on-year with 11.2 million users. Forecasts are for a further increase to 13.6 million users by the end of 2017. This compares with 12.2 million UK users for Instagram and 30.3 million (mobile) UK users on Facebook in 2016. Whilst the growth forecasts warn of a slowdown for Snapchat, it is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
To put this in context, here are some recent figures on social media usage:
- There are 3.7bn Internet Users worldwide
- 2.7bn of these are active social media users (2.5bn on mobile).
- In 2016, 76% UK holiday makers booked online, 37% via mobile.
- 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles.
- In the UK, 84% of the adult population is active on social media.
What is Snapchat?
In a nutshell, it’s instant sharing of a story, photo or video (or Snap) with friends and followers. Unlike other social media platforms, a Snap can only be viewed for up to 10 seconds before it disappears. Any Snap is deleted once it has been viewed by all intended recipients and any Snap shared to My Story (someone’s profile) is deleted after 24 hours.
You can apply some quite colourful and fun filters or face-swapping effects to your pictures and videos and there are other entertaining functions to explore, which will appeal to all. You do have to know people’s snapchat codename (or snapcode) to follow them/find your friends. Alternatively, you can take a picture of someone’s snapcode icon (a cute little ghost). That icon is scanned into Snapchat where it is identified and added to your list of connections. You can share your snapcode icon on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) to encourage your existing followers to join you on Snapchat.
Why is it a worthwhile marketing platform?
As one retail company (Everlane) described it: “Facebook is a spot for updating our community and having one-on-one conversations. But Snapchat is completely different. Snapchat gives us the chance to explore transparency in a completely new way. No fancy cameras. No editing. Just raw, live, footage. It’s beautiful, and it’s the platform for the modern generation.”
Snapchat has cornered real-time social networking with its focus on looking at content there and then or else it will disappear. Whilst Facebook and Twitter aim to be responsive and of the moment, they leave a lasting impression and timeline records which isn’t the case with Snapchat. This means the Snapchat stories you send won’t be quite as polished as something might be posted to Facebook or Instagram, but that is part of the charm.
Snapchat has also been described by users as being more intimate and less intrusive than other platforms. It gives the feeling of being part of a community rather than being invited to watch a more polished ad. Because people don’t have to scroll through a Facebook page or posts, it feels like more genuine interaction.
Snapchat is the favourite social media platform of “millenials” (people under the age of 35). This age group tends to be more weary of traditional advertising than others, and more likely to use Snapchat than Facebook and other platforms. They also feel social media pressure keenly and perceive Snapchat as alleviating some of this pressure.
Snapchat is therefore a potentially essential way to reach an audience who might not otherwise engage with your business. Snapchat is also the fastest growing social media platform amongst the 35-45 age group, so its reach is extending.
Here is a bit of research background on age groups and their purchasing habits (in very broad terms):
Millenials (23 – 40 year old) – Forever connected, loyalty is hard to win, moving Fast, sharing culture, money poor, time rich
Generation X (40 – 50 year old) – Work hard, play hard, ethical choices, respond to email marketing, long lasting loyalty once won
Baby Boomers (50’s+) – Brand loyalty, least likely to purchase on mobile.
Finally, Snapchat offers an insight into the culture of a business, the ins and outs of what they do, how they do it, etc, a bit like a “backstage pass”. It offers the opportunity to share funny, snappy, “about us” items that might not fit easily on another social media platform. Be mindful though, that does imply a certain amount of “no holds barred” which not everyone will be comfortable with.
Are there specific marketing or advertising tools I can use on Snapchat?
There are several ways you can use Snapchat for business/marketing purposes aside from sharing stories, videos and pictures. Some carry a cost but are really interesting to use:
- You could start by sending out Snapchat messages that require responses like exclusive coupons, contests, giveaways, and promotional codes. It creates interaction, interest, and the impression of getting something special because of the temporary nature of the message.
- Snapchat ads: the traditional way of getting your message across but with a Snapchat feel. Snapchat ads appear between stories but again not for long, and users have the option to swipe away.
- Snapchat image filters: one of the fun functions of Snapchat is to allow you to add filters and funny effects to your photos and videos. Businesses can create their own filters which are then available to use by anyone following them. An interesting way to get your brand image or logo across.
- Snapchat geo-filters: this is a combination of image filters giving the opportunity to apply them based on whether you are in the locality of the business. For examples, one hotel company offered filters which carried their logo and messages such as “wish you were here”. Snapchat users staying in that location could use theses filters over their holiday snaps and share with friends as postcards. In essence, this company got others to do their advertising for them!
Do other social media platforms offer similar features?
The success of Snapchat has not gone unnoticed and other platforms have added features for their users to rival Snapchat’s “off-the-moment” appeal. These include Instagram stories, which allow users to share a slideshow of videos and pictures with followers/friends. Just like Snapchat, these “Stories” only last 24 hours.
Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has also launched the “Facebook live” feature which allows users to share off-the-cuff moments with their friends, another way to present Facebook as a more spontaneous platform.
A word of caution
As a New York Times journalist put it in a recent article about using Snapchat: “The best Snapchat stories generally are ones that tell a narrative in a personal, visual way that pulls in and keeps the viewer.[…] Even Snapchat stories must uphold the same standards as anything else published by The Times. There are just more doodles and emojis in a Snapchat story than you would see in print!”
Snapchat isn’t necessarily the easiest way to communicate. It takes time to feel comfortable with being open and spontaneous in dealings with customers online if you are not used to it. A lot of people are wary of the effect this kind of spontaneous social media content on their reputation. Snapchat can, however, be a risk worth taking after a little practice: you can still plan your campaigns, just in a different way and with a different time-frame and audience in mind.
So take the plunge, start small and on something you are comfortable to share. It takes a while to build up a following and an audience, but videos in particular are viewed and shared millions of time each day, making it a really important app to keep your eye on. Have a go and get familiar with it. It is really fun!