Snapchat 101: A Brand Primer

This blog post will disappear in 10 … 9 … 8 …

Just kiddDoes your brand Snapchat?ing.

But would that really be so weird now that “disappearing” has become cool? Ask Snapchat. Ask Instagram. Ask Facebook’s Slingshot. (Is that still a thing?)

Snapchat, the app we all love to hate, introduced us to the world of temporary sharing; it’s no longer just a shiny toy that has yet to be figured out. Brands are diving in and taking advantage of the different experience that Snapchat offers. Let’s take a look back at the Snapchat brand journey, shall we?

September 2011: Snapchat was released to the public. “Why would we want to send something that disappears in 10 seconds?” asked everyone that wasn’t into sending NSFW photos. We downloaded the app anyway, and before we knew it, we were hooked. At this time, Snapchat was solely consumer-user friendly. At Jamba Juice? Snap it. At a parade? Here comes a 10-second video. Was there a huge point to it? No. But it catered to our culture of sharing (or as some would say, over-sharing), and if we want to share 10-second glimpses into our lives, then we’ll do it!

Through this initial phase, brands were sort of left on the sidelines. It was a watch-and-see mentality. There wasn’t really a way to fit in. Then slowly brands like Taco Bell began to experiment. With a username, anyone can add whomever they’d like to their account. The tricky issue from the brand side was that in order to send snaps to their fans, they’d have to individually select each person that added them. It wasn’t exactly easy …

October 2013. … Until Snapchat Stories. Right as we got used to things disappearing in 10 seconds, Snapchat introduced Stories. Stories was an extended version of your standard snaps – allowing users to build snaps on top of each other to form, well, a story. It was visible for 24 hours before disappearing. You didn’t send a Story to an individual; they were posted for everyone who has you on their contact list to see. Aka this was the jackpot for brands. Finally there was a simple way for them to interact with everyone who wanted to interact with them. On top of that, Snapchat provides the number of viewers of your Stories, which is helpful in a world where we’re always trying to figure out ways to measure our social efforts.

October 2014. Like all things online, it was only a matter of time before Snapchat added advertising capabilities. In October 2014, the first ads began to show up in users’ ‘Recent Updates’. Users have the option to watch them or ignore them and, like Stories, they disappear after 24 hours. It’s still too early to gauge how well Snapchat ads are doing, but it’s yet another way brands can use the platform. (And rumor has it, Snapchat’s introduction of Snapcash on Monday could provide even more data for future advertisers on the platform.)

Brands That Get It
If you’re an active reader of this blog, you know by now that two things I hold dear to my heart are Beyoncé and Taco Bell. Taco Bell absolutely kills it on social, and that includes Snapchat. They were one of the earliest users of the platform, and they consistently come up with creative videos and images to engage fans. I mean, whoever is running their Snapchat account has some serious art skills. On top of that, they don’t use it as a one-way communication tool. They encourage fans to send them snaps about particular things, and then they include those Snaps in their Stories for everyone to see.

Taco Bell Owns on Snapchat

Sports teams and leagues have also embraced Snapchat. The NHL, the New Orleans Saints and the Pittsburgh Penguins are among those trying it. They give fans a glimpse into behind-the-scenes looks at their favorite sports and teams, including new merchandise, quick player snaps and more.

And in the fashion world, one of the earliest brands to use Snapchat – and one of my favorite examples – was Rebecca Minkoff. The designer debuted her Spring 2014 collection on Snapchat, minutes before it appeared on the runway, making Snapchat followers feel like VIPs.

Why Should Your Brand Be on Snapchat?
If you represent a brand and are still wondering whether or not Snapchat is something you should be involved on, I would revert to this age-old advice: if your audience is there, you should be there. If you are a consumer-focused company (versus, say, B2B) with a younger target demographic, I say go for it. That’s not to say B2B brands can’t find useful ways to be on Snapchat, but make sure it’s right for you before you spend time on it.

I would argue that perhaps the biggest benefit for brands on Snapchat is the ability to create a more intimate experience with fans. When you open a Snapchat, it feels like it was sent directly to you – even if it’s within a Story that can be seen by thousands. That one-on-one feeling is pretty cool. You can preview new products, give behind-the-scenes looks at your company – and overall, just make your biggest fans feel like VIPs.

What’s the best way you’ve seen a brand use Snapchat?

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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Posted on November 19, 2014 in Social Media

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About the Author

Amanda Grinavich is a Marketing Tech Account Manager at SHIFT Communications. Prior to joining the digital marketing team at SHIFT, Amanda worked on the PR side of the house where she served clients in the technology space. She graduated from Boston University with B.S. in Communications.
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