Snapchat: Thoughts from a Millennial
First of all, I was born in 1995. I’m actually either a very young millennial, or a very old Gen Z-er. The point is, I’m 20, and I’m in college, so I’m definitely part of Snapchat’s largest user demographic and reasonably qualified to give some Snapchat Marketing Tips -plus I did my research. Roughly 50% of Snapchat’s active users are 13-25 years old.
Snapchat is a relatively new social media service with an objectively limited feature-set. In case you’re unfamiliar with how Snapchat differs from other social media platforms, you pretty much only use Snapchat on a smartphone, and all the app does is enable you to send photos and short videos, called “snaps,” to other users.
You’re probably thinking, “Can’t I just send photos and videos via iMessage, or SMS, or Facebook, or any of a number of other messaging services? What makes Snapchat so popular with people under 30?”
There’s one important difference. With all those services, photos stick around forever, or until the person who received them deletes them (and even then, they may still stick around!). With Snapchat, though, snaps disappear a few seconds after you open them.
Snapchat has a few additional features: You can add brief captions, drawings, or filters to your snaps. The platform also includes a rudimentary messaging function (messages also disappear after you read them), and Snapchat Stories, which I’ll get to later.
Snapchat is characterized by a super casual vibe. Unlike Instagram images, snaps don’t have to be excellent photos; in fact, most of them are technically terrible! Crummy lighting and silly faces are totally acceptable.
Most of my friends have Snapchat, and I get all kinds of snaps. Usually, people just show off whatever they’re doing.
For example, Andrea got new business cards, and sent me a snap of them the other day. Trent was working on a promo video for his lacrosse team, and showed me a clip. I sent my sister a video of the new stereo head I installed in the Volvo yesterday (It sounds phenomenal! Now to figure out all those frightening error messages…). We snap everyday. It’s a casual, fun way to interact with friends online.
I’m super close with my cousins (We live across a field from each other!) and I love finding fun ways to keep in touch with them when I’m at college. So I suggested to my Aunt Laura (yep, same Laura), “You should set V (her daughter) up with Snapchat!”
If you have kids, you’re probably cringing right about now, because you know that Snapchat’s self-destruct feature is mostly notorious for tempting users into sending illicit content. However, ultimately, all online privacy is an illusion, and anything you do could be saved and shared. And yes, just to be clear, Snapchat is no exception.
If you don’t use Snapchat, that bit may be all you know about it. As always, and particularly with kids, the rules of safe online communication apply. That said, I believe Snapchat is a super cool platform for personal communication, thanks to how carefree and casual it can be. Let me explain.
Snapchat is about embracing and sharing human moments, whatever they may be. You can snap anything from a great concert to an excruciatingly dull night of homework. Anytime you have a thought, experience, or emotion that you want to share with someone, you can use snapchat to do it.
Anytime you’re proud of or excited about something, you can snap a picture of it; or just send your face with a caption. Won a game of ultimate frisbee? Sitting at the top of a ferris wheel? About to try skydiving? Scared out of your mind? (I’d be.) You can snap any of that!
There’s virtually no pressure to look good. You can snap without makeup, halfway through an 18” pizza, in your pajamas. For real, my friends do stuff like that all the time! Most of my snaps are me making absurd faces at people. And that’s normal. At least, I think it is…
“What about screenshots?” I’m sure you’re wondering. Snapchat doesn’t actually disable the screenshot feature, so it is still possible for anyone who receives a snap to screenshot it and save it. However, Snapchat notifies the sender when a snap is “screenshotted”.
In practice, my friends and I occasionally screenshot snaps, but only when we’re comfortable with the sender knowing we have the photo. Usually, we only tease the sender, or show it to a few mutual friends. Without exception, everyone is smiling, including the sender. Ultimately, this part comes down to snapping with good friends, and being responsible with the platform.
So, moral of the story: I believe Snapchat is a totally fun personal communication platform. It’s a great way to share lots of human moments with lots of people. As my aunt helped me realize, it’s also the epitome of the struggle of parenting tech-savvy children in the digital age. Fortunately for me, I can’t fully relate yet.
“What about Snapchat for marketing?”
That was Laura’s next question. Typical Aunt Laura.
Initially, I said that I didn’t think Snapchat could be an especially useful social media marketing tool. But I was curious, so I started Googling.
As it turns out, a number of brands have started using Snapchat for marketing. Although I was initially skeptical, I’d like to share how some marketers have successfully overcome the problems I perceived.
Snapchat is about sending content from person to person, rather than posting content to a network of consumers. Re-sharing content, while physically possible, conflicts with the entire Snapchat mindset. So how can a company reach a broad base of consumers without sending every single person a separate snap?
This is where the Snapchat Stories feature comes in. Instead of (or in addition to) sending a snap to an individual person, you can send a snap to your “story.” Snapchat Stories add Snaps together to create a narrative. That snap will be added to your story, and will not be sent directly to any of your friends. However, it will be accessible to all your followers for 24 hours, via the Snapchat Stories tab in the app.
Anyone who wants to see your content can. Anyone who doesn’t can just choose not to look. As a business, this is a non-intrusive way to provide snap content to all your friends at once. Perfect!
The next problem is finding and connecting with your target market. On most social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, you can search the name of a company, person, or entity, and like their page or follow them.
No similar functionality exists in Snapchat. To become friends with someone, they need to type in your exact username, and you need to then accept the friend request. This is critical, because you can only send snaps to your Snapchat friends.
In order to get your customers and fans to become Snapchat friends, you must provide them with your exact username. You can, and successful Snapchat marketers have actually done just that, usually through other social networks.
So should you try to market your business through Snapchat?
My answer: It depends on your target audience. As a marketer, you want to be wherever your market is. If you’re selling to an audience primarily composed of adults older than 30, Snapchat may not be worth your time. There are a lot of social media networks out there, and your energy could be better spent elsewhere.
However, if your target audience is mostly high school and college students, Snapchat could be a great platform for your social media marketing efforts. Many young people use Snapchat more often than Facebook now, and few businesses have started marketing through Snapchat, so it’s a less ad-saturated platform than most other forms of social media.
So you’ve decided that Snapchat is worth your time, you’ve set up a Snapchat and given out your exact username, and you’ve figured out how to use your Snap Story. What should you snap? Here are some Snapchat Marketing Tips!
The short answer: The same kinds of things everyone else does. My advice is to set up a personal Snapchat account, find friends, and figure out how to use the service before you start using Snapchat for business purposes.
The user interface is, in my humble opinion, horrendous. It’s one of the most confusing apps I’ve ever worked with. If you have a kid or know anyone else who uses the platform, just ask them nicely to show you how it works. Seriously, it’ll save you a world of frustration.
Spend time in the app. Pay attention to how other people snap, and snap yourself. You can be pretty liberal about what you snap; people usually are. Take note of the casual vibe, and be willing to share less glamorous moments. Basically, interact with people more like you would in real life than you like do on Facebook or Twitter.
Once you’re comfortable with the platform, start working on using it for marketing. Don’t focus on just advertising your product; you’ll most likely repel the people you’re trying to reach. Instead, use Snapchat to show your fans behind-the-scenes moments, give them exclusive views, and generally showcase the people behind your product. You can also use Snapchat to draw in potential customers with exclusive offers and promotions.
One of the first examples of successful Snapchat marketing was fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, who used Snapchat to give exclusive glimpses of a Spring 2014 clothing line in the fall of 2013. Roughly a month later, Snapchat added the Stories feature; another clothing line used the feature to gain 1,000 followers almost instantly.
Frozen yogurt company 16 Handles did a limited-time Snapchat promotion in which they sent out 16%-, 50%-, and 100%-off coupons via Snapchat in return for snaps of customers tasting flavors at the counter. They went where their target audience was, and used Snapchat to reach lots of potential customers with their promotion.
Ultimately, Snapchat is not set up for businesses; but with creativity, it can be used as a powerful marketing tool. What do you think about Snapchat as a creative marketing tool? Have you ever tried marketing your product or business with Snapchat or a similar platform? And how crazy was I to suggest that my young cousin get Snapchat? Let me know!