Marketing with Snapchat: Part 1 - The Basics

Snapchat is a fascinating social media platform. It has over a 100 million daily active users, sending over 400 million snaps a day, almost 9,000 per second, while still finding time to watch 10 billion videos a day. Billion. With a “B”. Snapchat is the second most-used social network after Facebook, and is currently the fastest growing network.

So yeah, it’s popular. And any social network this popular deserves a fair bit of our attention. Businesses and marketers have been flocking to Snapchat in droves, trying to figure out how to crack this nut, but when they get there finding mixed results. As you’ll see, Snapchat offers some unique challenges when compared to other social network, and it is definitely not right for everyone or every business.

For one, Snapchat skews young – though maybe not as young as you might think. Only 23% of Snapchat’s U.S. users are between ages 13 and 17, while 18 to 24 year-olds and 25 to 34 year-olds make up 37% and 26% respectively. So, while Snapchat’s user base is heavily skewed toward Millennials, the percentage of Millennials is enormous, with over 60% of smartphone users between the ages of 13 and 34 counting themselves as Snapchat users.

Beyond that, Snapchat is unique among social networks, as messaging occurs directly between two people, there’s no sharing or reposting of other people’s messages in a public forum, and there’s no hashtag searching system. All of these things make it markedly different than the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

The last, and possibly most unique thing about Snapchat is that it is entirely based on self-destructive messaging. Anything that you send or see on Snapchat that is here today, is quite literally gone tomorrow. With Snapchat’s “Stories” feature, people can display short photos and videos for all of their followers to see – which will then disappear after 24 hours. And when it comes to direct text, picture or video messages (“Snaps) from one user to another, those are gone even faster, as they will self-delete after a single view lasting up to ten seconds max.

So how does one overcome these challenges and reach the tens of millions of people using Snapchat at any given moment? How can you effectively promote your product, service or brand to 60% of 13-34 year-olds? Here are some tips and strategies to help you get started with Snapchat.

Getting Users

As previously mentioned, Snapchat is a world without feeds or hashtags. So, getting started in the first place and building up followers can be a bit of a challenge.

For starters, a feature of Snapchat you can take advantage of is the custom QR code associated with each account. These little patterned dots surrounding the picture of the Snapchat ghost (or a ghost-shaped picture of your choice) are an instant visual link for your potential followers. When you encounter another Snapchat user with a smartphone and they snap a pic of your QR code, they immediately find you and have the opportunity to follow you. Obviously, you want this little guy working for you as much as possible and not just with those you meet face to face and present your cell phone screen to. By taking a screenshot of your QR code and posting it on websites, blogs or your other social media accounts, you can spread your QR code to anybody willing to hold up their phone to their computer screen.

Making Snaps

Snaps are the main way of communicating with followers on Snapchat. Any single photo or video that you create and send this way is considered a Snap. Photos have a duration counter in the bottom left corner where you can set the amount of time that the message will display for. Once that amount of time has gone by, the message is gone. Snapchat does allow the temporary ability to replay a Snap, but only immediately after viewing. The only other way to preserve a received message is to take a screenshot while it is playing. Videos function basically the same way, except instead of setting the duration manually, you can record up to ten seconds of video.

Creating Stories

Stories take your Snaps and communication with your followers to the next level. When you post photos or videos to “My Story”, Snapchat stitches together all of the most recent posts and displays them to any of your followers that choose to watch. Only posts from the most recent 24-hour period will display, but those posts can be replayed on demand as long as they are active.

Lenses, Stickers and Doodles

Another unique thing about Snapchat is that it’s a social media platform with it’s own tone and sense of humor. Snapchat doesn’t take itself too seriously, and for the most part, neither do its users. This means that people tend to get a little silly and goofy on Snapchat.

One of the ways people do this is by using lenses, stickers and doodles. Lenses are applied before taking a picture or video. They add fun and silly overlays to the camera providing an augmented view of reality. Many of the lenses have animations and use facial recognition to do things like give people dog ears or goofy glasses.

Stickers are somewhere in-between emoji and gifs. Snapchat provides a deep catalogue of drawings and characters to stick onto your pictures and videos before sending. You can even pin a sticker to a specific spot in a video so that it appears to stay in the same spot in the real world (though the mechanics of making this happen definitely take some practice). Snapchat also allows you to use a pen tool to doodle on pictures and videos with your finger (or stylus if you have one of those).

Unfortunately, one other quirk of Snapchat is that the user interface is not exactly intuitive. It will definitely take some playing around until you figure out how to use it. And while you may be eager to jump right in and start using Snapchat for your brand, you want to make sure you are comfortable with the platform before trying to use it for promotion. What you definitely don’t want to do is mess up the basics and embarrass yourself. Otherwise this whole Snapchatting exercise backfire on you.

Once you’ve got the hang of it come back for some tips on using Snapchat to market your business. Need help with your social media management and marketing strategy? Contact 10twelve today!