When we mention Snapchat to clients, many act like they’ve just seen a ghost. “We can’t,” they say. “We couldn’t,” they swear. “Could we?” they ask.
The short answer is yes. In fact, when it comes to social, Snapchat’s influence is far from ephemeral. Here’s everything you need to know about Snapchat as a social channel.
What it is
At its most basic, Snapchat is a photo and video messaging app. Users take a picture or video through the app, doodle and jabber all over it, then select who to send it on to. Recipients touch and hold down a message to view it – pretty stock standard so far.
Snapchat’s key point of difference however is that messages don’t stick around – they vanish after a pre-determined amount of time (anywhere from 1-10sec). When you take a screenshot, it lets the sender know. It’s intentionally disposable messaging for the insta-generation.
Just recently, Snapchat introduced a text chat function (called Chat), the ability to integrate recorded reactions instantly into this chat (called Here), and less recently, a mechanism to create reels out of multiple photos and videos (called Stories).
What it isn’t
There’s a common misconception made when looking at the dossier of Snapchat’s features, that the app is built almost exclusively for the safe delivery of sexts and dick pics. And while this is definitely what some people use Snapchat for, 98.4% of people don’t (source).
And it’s this majority that use Snapchat mostly to send funny, incidental grabs from their day to a few close friends. It’s not made for mass broadcasting – it’s more personable than that. Snapchat is ripe with in-jokes, silly selfies, and the otherwise miscellaneous of social interaction.
Who’s on it?
Predominantly, people aged 13-23. Lots of them.
According to Snapchat, in May 2014 over 700 million photos and videos were sent per day, and Stories were viewed 500 million times per day – which is almost 350 times more than the same time two years ago (source).
Despite this growth and active userbase, brands are eerily absent from Snapchat. A few do stand out, such as Taco Bell and Girls (HBO) who, in keeping with the type of content sent on Snapchat, use the medium to offer exclusive deals, sneak peeks and Behind The Scenes looks at upcoming episodes and products, and resend user-submitted content (more).
Snapchat Case Studies is an attempt to collate all brand activity on the platform.
Given the relative absence of advertisers on Snapchat though, the writing should be on the walls (bleeding, spectrally perhaps) for brands brave enough to bust it.
Why be on it?
If a brand uses Snapchat, that brand will forge instant credibility with their target audience, particularly if that audience is younger. In terms of earning trust and cultivating the consumer relationship, Snapchat is unrivalled. Imagine forming in-jokes with your own consumers – one on one, no algorithms in between. Powerful stuff.
That said, Snapchat shouldn’t replace your social media strategy – it should supplement it. Snapchat is the place to show off a different side of your brand, on the cheap.
Who can pull it off?
Above all, Snapchat is fun. It’s personal and candid. It’s a place for close friends. It’s not for everyone.
The demographic of Snapchat is overwhelmingly young, and they’re growing up fast into mature, critically-minded consumers. Let loose, have fun and you will be rewarded in the future.
By fun though, we don’t mean being irreverent or tangentially opinionated. There’s a subtle but important difference. Remain on-brand, offer genuinely interesting off-beat content about your products and services, jump on trends or memes early, offer sneak peeks and exclusive deals.
Speak in the same voice, just use a different tone – the sort of tone you’d reserve for a party or get-together – and you’ll be fine.
How do you track it?
There are two metrics you want to measure when it comes to Snapchat. The first is number of followers. Unsurprisingly, this will determine your reach – the higher the better.
The second is not so immediate but equally important – screenshots. Images and videos aren’t stored on recipient’s devices, and are deleted from Snapchat’s servers shortly after viewing. Ideally you want consumers to screenshot your content for safekeeping, and this hinges on conjuring up genuinely interesting, fun and relevant content.
But short of physically counting these two metrics, the secretive, information-sensitive nature of Snapchat makes it surprisingly hard to track.
Which goes back to our previous point – Snapchat shouldn’t replace your social strategy, but instead be used to supplement it.
Enterprise-level accounts do get special privileges, Girls (HBO) for instance auto-accepts followers, but the full extent of these perks are relatively hush-hush. More sophisticated tracking tools may well be in that offering, and there’s no foretelling what will be offered in the future by a medium eager to channel advertisers.
There it is – Snapchat dispelled. Overwhelmingly, the future for Snapchat is a bright one, and its upsides far outweigh its downsides when leveraged correctly. Rest assured that early adopters will reap the rewards sooner rather than later. In the meantime, Snapchat need not haunt the dreams of clients or creatives alike.
Written by Mark Starmach