Familiarity with the basics behind the leading social media platforms has become a necessary part of any successful marketing strategy. Knowing the tricks behind each, whether it’s original content plus eye-catching image for Facebook, staying engaging within Twitter’s 140-character limit per post or Instagram’s “a picture is worth a thousand words” philosophy, will help companies reach their key consumers. But there’s a little known app called Snapchat that is making headway into the business world.
Primarily known as the go to selfie-sharing app for teens and young adults since its inception a few years ago, regarding Snapchat as a serious player in the digital marketing world may still appear fairly new and surprising to some. Nonetheless, the app has proven itself willing and able to hold its own with a number of unique features that have catapulted Snapchat into an advertising tool.
Snapchat’s My Story feature allows users to send a timed video or photo to all their “Snapchat friends” simultaneously. The content lasts for twenty-four hours, allowing users to repeatedly watch a Story if they so choose. Directly under recent stories from a user’s friends, there is the Live Stories tab. This tab contains event and location-specific Snaps submitted by users, providing a communal vibe to Snapchat. Notable recent events that have taken advantage of this feature include San Diego Comic Con and this year’s post-Academy Awards party hosted by Vanity Fair.
Any loyal Snapchat user is likely to name the Geofilter feature as one of the app’s most engaging aspects. This allows users to choose a location-specific filter for their photo (e.g. The Empire State Building is an option for Midtown), complementing the “let me show you what I am doing right now” mentality that encompasses all social media outlets. While not all locations have a Geofilter, popular tourist locations may have as many as five or six, making it fun for users to discover the latest one at a given location.
It is understandable that major companies would want “in” on the content Snapchat users are choosing to share. Brands such as McDonald’s and films such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2 have taken advantage of Geofilters’ popularity by purchasing their own brand-specific filters that Snapchat users may include in their Snaps to friends.
As of January 2015, Snapchat has introduced Discover, a feature aimed exclusively at companies looking to further market themselves. Discover is Snapchat’s informational and editorial platform which includes twelve “channels”, centered by the Snap Channel. Other channels currently include Cosmopolitan, Food Network, CNN, ESPN, and Buzzfeed. Each channel contains a number of stories, specifically aimed at that particular channel’s targeted audience and designed by its own editorial team. Users can expect, say, recipes from Food Network’s channel and love advice from Cosmopolitan’s channel, along with entertaining videos, quotes, and stories related to trending events. Each channel refreshes itself daily with new content, encouraging users to “check back tomorrow” for the latest content. Though Discover initially met with some backlash since it appeared to take the “social” out of Snapchat’s role as a “social media app”, the feature has aimed to counteract this criticism by now allowing users the option to Snap and share the Discover content with friends.
While Snapchat undoubtedly has a number of features that clearly distinguish its marketing capabilities from the likes of Facebook or Twitter, these features also come with a drawback. They quickly become costly, implying that only the large companies with sufficient resources can truly reap Snapchat’s full benefits. Perhaps the more apt question is not if more companies should look to Snapchat for their marketing needs, but how Snapchat can adapt its advertising format in order to accommodate a wider array of clients without alienating its current users.