Make it snappy – Snapchat for business

Posted on 03 May 2016
Reader Question:

Doctor Digital, can Snapchat be used for business, or is it just for awkward photos between teenagers?

Doctor Digital Says:

Snapchat is maturing as a social media platform, and has managed to carve out a spot for itself amongst the competing established channels like Instagram and Facebook. Increasingly business are seeing ways to get in front of their audiences using Snapchat. It’s not for every business, but if your target market is in the 16 – 36 year old age bracket, it might be a perfect way to get the snap on your competitors.

So how does it work? Snapchat blends a mix of video or static images with an array of fonts, digital crayons, emoji and filters. This creates a rich media experience which is appealing to marketers, but it is one of the more complex social media channels to use because of this very feature. Don’t let this put you off, as Snapchat is the perfect vehicle to make ‘human’ videos or images, as they only last for a day and tend to not be presenting the perfect image of your brand, rather the ‘as it happens, warts-and-all’ view.

The snapshot timeframe of Snapchat gives you a close to real time engagement with your customers, it makes your content exclusive and time limited, which opens up myriad opportunities for businesses to give their customers something really compelling.

Using Snapchat for business is not unlike the approach many businesses are taking to live streaming video like Meerkat and Periscope – if you want to know more about that you can check out the factsheet here except unlike those services, you can’t save and stream on YouTube later.

So how might you use Snapchat? Customers never tire of the behind the scenes look at the businesses and brands they love. It might be grist for the mill for you, but for your fans, it’s a peek into the mysterious world of what you do. This works well in a number of industries: creative, fashion, film, food, events, tourism, music – anywhere you are creating a buzz and can give an exclusive look or a special feature that isn’t available on other social media platforms.

The rule of thumb on Snapchat is keep it fun, keep it high energy and keep it PG – the average age of users is young compared to Twitter and Facebook, so most companies using it for business approach it with mindfulness towards how their brand might be compromised if Snapchats are taken out of context.

Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Snapchat was built on private, rather than public messaging. That means there are no tools (yet) to re-share content with friends, the way a Retweet on Twitter can multiply your impact. And lots of basic engagement metrics aren’t obvious. The Snapchat “score” listed next to usernames represents nothing but the total number of Snaps you have sent and received. Businesses instead rely on “opens” or “views” to track engagement. While this makes it more difficult to get blanket viral coverage, it allows intimacy and a more personal feel. 

Small businesses comment that, unlike Facebook, Snapchat doesn’t offer opportunities for local or niche advertising. Its paid advertising options are sky high expensive and suitable only for big brands. And there’s no targeting of specific demographics or communities, as on Facebook. Instead, businesses say they have to be more creative and appeal directly to their followers.

And that’s what Snapchat is basically, a way to cut through, to do something different in a sea of predictable social media content, and especially to reach out to a young consumer demographic who are detached from Facebook and looking to adopt the next big thing.