Social Media Strategy: Should You Be on Snapchat?

The latest social media craze is a messaging app with over 100 million daily active users – but one premised on photos that disappear in mere seconds, no linking capabilities and a heavy user base that doesn’t know what a VCR is. So why exactly should your business be on Snapchat?

The best reason is because this fast-growing social media platform is rapidly expanding and evolving. While 86% of the app’s users are 34 and younger (and six out of 10 users are younger than 25), its 35-and-over base grew by 84% last year. Equally important, Snapchat has incrementally launched features that broaden its appeal, including its significant 2.0 update this past March.

“I think this year is when we start to see the shift,” said Roy Harmon, director of marketing for Such Ads!, a Snapchat advertising agency. “With the latest update, they’ve turned their product into something that older people can relate to.”  

Snapchat’s original purpose involved sending photos and videos to other friends on Snapchat that disappeared and automatically deleted after they were viewed. Users could add text and emojis to the photos and draw on them. Teenagers loved it, while parents instantly worried about this perfectly-engineered app for hiding content.

But since it was launched four years ago, Snapchat has expanded its focus by adding seamless text, voice and video chat between users. It’s a move that not only seeks to one-up the popularity of messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but also replicate the varied functions of a cellphone within the confines of a single app. In addition, three years ago the company added “Stories,” a dedicated content page that allows users to aggregate posts (or snaps, as they’re called by users) and makes them viewable for a 24-hour period. It’s a key feature for professionals, who no longer need to engage followers one-on-one or in groups. Instead, they can create a daily updated feed that their biggest fans can view anytime they want.

Photos certainly work on Snapchat, but it’s the app’s video capabilities that hold the most potential. Currently, videos on Snapchat generate 10 billion views a day. Sue B. Zimmerman, who carries the title #TheInstagramExpert but is also heavily involved in Snapchat, said the app is a major driver of the “Lifecasting” trend – real, authentic video of our lives that others are drawn to. “It’s like having your own broadcast, your own channel. I think Snapchat is the new TV,” said the social media guru. “People go there to watch people’s lives and what they’re doing. It’s like reality TV for anybody.”

So far the makers of Snapchat have intentionally kept marketing opportunities limited. There are no analytics to track engagement. Direct linking is not possible. Opportunities to advertise are sparse. But, said Harmon, the app’s advertising capabilities will increase, and companies are devising ways to monetize the platform. In the meantime, Harmon suggests a geofilter: a visual tag that can be applied to photos based on the user’s location. (Example: a colorful graphic that says “NOLA” for users in New Orleans.) Businesses can purchase these temporary “on-demand” geofilters on the cheap. “For as little as $5, you’re able to target up to 5 million square feet at a convention or other events,” Harmon said. “You’re able to put your brand out there where people can see it, interact with it and send it to people.”

In addition, professionals can use their snaps in a number of ways to generate business and brand awareness, said social media expert Sunny Lenarduzzi. Her tips: include exclusive discount codes or secret offers for your Snapchat community; facilitate instant customer service and feedback; and use the app as a video content creation tool by downloading your snaps and sharing them on other platforms.

“Tell a great story,” she suggested. “The best part of Snapchat is telling a story that keeps your audience’s attention, so try storyboarding your Snapchat ideas before shooting them.” And unlike other social media platforms where excessive posting feels intrusive, she said, a surge of snaps can build your story without overstaying their welcome, since the posts are deleted after 24 hours.