Using Snapchat For Brands



In a world where every social network claims to be “the next Facebook,” It’s nice to see some upstarts have success with different models. We’ve talked about Vine before, and now there’s a new kid on the block with an even more interesting value proposition: messages that self-destruct. Welcome to the world of Snapchat.


Snapchat’s promise is a simple one, but with interesting implications: You can instant message another user, but those messages aren’t stored anywhere, so the messages have a very short shelf life. Your message could be the holy grail of marketing messages: the right message to the right person at the right time, but it won’t be enduring, and it won’t be shared the way a tweet can be retweeted, or a Facebook update can be shared.


In a world with a constantly changing narrative, and a need for brands to leverage mobile, Snapchat can be a natural addition to online marketing efforts.


Snapchat is extremely popular with a younger demographic than Twitter or Facebook (its userbase skews toward 18-24 rather than 24-45) but it’s for this very reason that Snapchat might be a fit for your brand, if you know how to leverage it correctly.


What Snapchat is


Snapchat’s users primarily use the service to send in-the-moment messages to their friends, or weird messages to people they might not know. This might sound strange, but if you put it into the perspective that “what goes on Facebook or Twitter STAYS on Facebook or Twitter” the appeal of Snapchat for younger users becomes obvious: you can segment your audience, and you don’t have to feel embarrassed later for saying something in the moment. (This can be as simple as sending your friends a Snapchat from a party that someone in your extended group of friends may not have been invited to. If your friend sees the pictures on Facebook, he or she will feel slighted. If you don’t include him or her in your Snapchat, they won’t be able to see those photos, thus saving you and your other friends from an awkward situation.)


Setting up a Snapchat account and getting started is simple. You can download the app for Android or iOS at You choose a username when you install the app, and you can import your friends from Facebook or your contact list.


Once you’ve set up your account and added friends, you snap a photo, add annotations or early-era Perez Hilton-style photo painting, and you’re ready to send your masterpiece. You may send to one person, or groups of people. You choose how long the message stays alive after it has been viewed.


You are able to send and receive messages from people who aren’t from your Facebook or contact lists, unless you turn this feature off


You will be notified by the service of any of your recipients who have taken a screenshot of your message.


The advantages of Snapchat for a brand trying to penetrate the youth market and get word-of-mouth traction is obvious: Use the right message, deliver it to the mobile phones of kids, whose primary currency is “cool,” and watch a trend catch on.


What Snapchat is not


Snapchat is not a photo-sharing site like Instagram, an artistic service to enhance your photos like Over or Picslab, or an instant messaging platform like WhatsApp. Snapchat is not meant to have long, deeply threaded conversations with users.




There will be a temptation on the part of some overzealous brands to use Snapchat simply as a vessel to push out their marketing message. This is an extremely bad idea. Users can block you on the service, and they will if you bombard them with unwanted messages.



How are Brands Using Snapchat?


The most notable example of early adoption of Snapchat is Taco Bell. Taco Bell announced on Twitter in May that it had joined Snapchat and invited its followers to connect using the service. They teased out that users would want to follow the brand to be the first to get a “secret announcement” from Taco Bell.


Fans who added Taco Bell were the first to know about the Beefy Crunchy Burrito, and when it would be in Taco Bell locations for purchase.


The campaign was successful, and you can see screenshots fans captured of the message here: (


Media hits for the return of the burrito were divided between the announcement and the brand’s choice to announce on Snapchat.


This can be a successful method for your brand, but in the case of Taco Bell, it needed to create its Snapchat audience before it could deliver a big announcement. This is the advantage of using your other marketing efforts to build your audience first, before you deliver big announcements.


Suggestions for Getting Started with Snapchat


You’re only limited by a few rules when it comes to the service: Don’t post images that you don’t have the rights to, and don’t post NSFW photos. (If you’re a brand manager with even the most cursory amount of common sense, you wouldn’t be doing this anyway.)


There are some natural fits for this type of messaging, which your brand can explore:


Discounts and promotions: This application is the most straightforward, and it has a built-in “click through rate” feature for tracking adoption. You can measure the number of screenshots taken of your promo code, and you can track that against the promo code itself. (If your analytics track user agents, you can even see how many mobile users used the promo code, to help you gauge success.)


Giveaways/contests/scavenger hunts: This is a more involved method of integrating the platform’s purpose and advantage into your message. Consider using the platform to group message your followers, saying “the first person to snap his or her childhood POG collection gets a free gift!” You then give away small prizes to users who comply, and you screen shot the best submissions. You might not get thousands of entries like you would for a contest that lasts a month, but you’ve surprised and delighted a group of your fans.


Consider running a scavenger hunt as a longer form of this type of brand touch. You could notify your followers that on a specific day, there will be 5 clues, and responses to each will generate prizes; one grand prize will be awarded to a user who gets all of the responses correct. Give clues, and have your followers submit snaps as answers to the questions you Snapchat out.


Another application of this type of campaign is to ask for artistic interpretation submissions from fans on a specific theme, such as “Show us your face when your mom says “we’re out of [your product] and collect the most creative responses.



Customer care: Believe it or not, Snapchat has the potential to be a killer app for brands that want to provide quick, efficient customer service. There is great power in a user being able to post a photo of something going wrong with your product, and you being able to send a message or follow-up questions (or a diagram of where to look for more diagnostic information) directly to the person, helping to diagnose and fix the problem right away.



Loyalty/birthday messages: If you have a list of users with their Snapchat profiles and basic user data (you should be collecting voluntary user data), you can design very targeted campaigns where you surprise and delight your fans with something as simple as wishing them a happy birthday, or by sending them messages about products similar to products they’ve already bought and loved.


Consider finding other ways to leverage loyalty by rewarding Snapchat users who evangelise your product by sending them personal messages, discount codes, or shout outs. There’s huge potential in these personal touches.



How to Effectively Manage your Snapchat Campaigns


1.    Gather your materials/ do your research: Knowing “what the kids are into” isn’t just an annoying advertising trope. It is the reality that misjudging a message or its context could mean “social suicide” for your brand in a medium like Snapchat. Do your research. Ask members of the demographic open-ended questions about trends, memes, and what’s of interest at that moment.


Another place that can help you immensely is This is a site that catalogues, classifies, and explains the most used memes of a given moment, and has an historical database so you can understand why something that was popular 6 months ago may have transmuted into a different meme entirely. Gather imagery that you see repeated on this site, or under the popular tags on Instagram to get a better profile on your target market.


2.  Create canned responses: There are some messages, like promo codes and product announcements, you can reuse images for. You can also set up “canned” responses for contacts who reach out to you, so you’re keeping your response time short, but your contacts feel like they’ve made a personal connection with you.


3.  Have a team dedicated for special events, or for surprise-and-delight campaigns: Just like with Real Time Marketing, your larger campaign (scavenger hunts, photo submission contests) will require a team to pull in the responses, screen-shot, catalogue and triage the response needed, and issue the response in a timely manner. If you’re a contractor for the company, make sure you have a brand ambassador in the room at the time to approve your messages in real time, to keep response times authentic.


4.  Pre-qualify certain targets/find influencers and reach out: In every group, there are people with influence over others. If you have a profile, or a user has posted his or her Snapchat handle somewhere else online, you can find out their Klout score, Twitter following, blog or other online presence. Create a group within Snapchat of the accounts that are influential, and which ones reach out more often than others, and consider rewarding them, or seeding messages with them.


5.  Experiment and have fun: Snapchat was designed with the end user having fun in mind. It’s easy to get bogged down in the normal considerations you have with any campaign, but sometimes, the best campaigns are just fun. Skittles has made a name for itself on Facebook by posting borderline nonsensical posts. The result? Youths LOVE the page, and Skittles has more than 25 million fans, with most posts getting over 2000 likes each. Sometimes, the goal is a simple positive touch with a fan during his or her day.


Snapchat is the latest in a new wave of apps that will fundamentally change the way we relate to each other online. If your brand is interested in tapping into the demographic and psychographic profiles that Snapchat counts as its main fan base, you could reap the rewards of daily positive marketing touches and having your brand perceived as cool by this elusive market.

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