What is Snapchat?


Snap used to be known as Snapchat and it kind of still is as the social media platform transitions to more diverse offerings. Snap/Snapchat is maturing as a social media platform and on it’s new Snap corporate website calls itself a ‘camera company’, noting the move to content driven by video and imagery. In a relatively short time, Snap has managed to carve out a spot for itself amongst the competing established channels like Instagram and Facebook, to the tune of 150 million daily users. Increasingly businesses 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. With the release of Snapchat 2.0, the app is gearing up to stealthfully become a ubiquitous channel for complex communication, and if you haven’t been an early adopter, now is the time to start getting familiar as the rest of the world is picking up what Snapchat is snapping down.

Before you start using Snapchat for business, get to know the platform by using a personal account. Snapchat has lots of great features like filters, emoji and music effects, and you should know your way around these before you start messaging on behalf of your business.

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 short time and tend to not be presenting the perfect image of your brand, rather the snap of ‘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.

Video case study


Snap, as part of its move into being a camera led platform has released new video glasses, called Spectacles, which went on sale in the US in late 2016. The devices connect directly to the Snapchat app via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, to transfer videos captured with a 115-degree field of view (designed to match human visual perspective, according to the company). Snap has been quietly working on Spectacles for the past several years, and the company boasts that it's one of the smallest wireless video cameras in the world. The glasses are designed to have a full day of battery life to let users take multiple Snaps. Unlike Google Glass which was quietly discontinued, the Snap Spectacles are cheap at $130 and functional. Videos recorded and shared via Spectacles are in a circular format, intended to more closely reflect the way people actually see, according to Snap. It also means the videos can be viewed in any orientation on a smartphone. The Spectacles have a ring of lights around the camera lenses, which light up when a user is recording video.


For the many marketers and businesses that haven’t used Snapchat, like most social media channels it has its own special language and phrases – here are some definitions to help you get across the snappy lingo:

Snapchatters: Snapchat users.

Snap: Taking a snapshot of a photo or video using Snapchat. Users can send more than one snaps to their connections. Receivers can view the snaps for maximum 10 seconds, after that, the snaps get disappear.

Snapback: When receivers send a reply to snap.

Story: Snapchat’s Story feature adds a story together with your snaps to form a narrative. Your story goes live for 24 hours and after that, disappears like a normal snap.

Scores: Total number of snaps sent and received.

Chat: Private messages sent to your Snapchat Friends.

Here: ‘Here’ is a live video chat feature.

Memories: Memories is a camera roll inside Snapchat itself. This feature lets you, for the first time, not only save snaps long-term, but re-edit them with filters and text, then re-share them. Previously, you could save your pictures and videos by downloading them to your smartphone, but you couldn’t view them in the app or send them as snaps or stories.

To differentiate between the user and the marketer, here are how those terms are used from a marketing perspective:

Chat: Brand uses this feature to get interact with their customers. They have intimate conversations with customers by solving their problems and strengthen their brand image.
Snap: Advertisers use this feature to send pictures and videos of products to their Snapchat followers.

Snapback: This feature is used by customers when they receive any snap from any brand.

Story: This is the most creative and effective feature of Brands seeking to tell a story using a couple of images in sequence.

Here: This feature is used by those broadcasting live video and by those who love to watch live events.

Discover: Added exclusively for brand advertising It features content related to comedy central, Food Network, CNN, National Geographic, Vice, Yahoo, and Warner Music Group.

Memories: Snapchat has a search function for Memories that lets users find old photos and video by date, location or even the contents of the image — keywords like “dog,” “Hawaii,” or “January 2016.” This is being used by the company to create a bank of photos and videos, to train the company’s object recognition technology to sort snaps visually, think the machine-learning recommendations used by Apple, Amazon.com, Facebook, and Google.

Using Snapchat for advertising

Snapchat is definitely one of the most intriguing and unknown quantities for advertisers at the moment, so let’s look at the types of offerings they have for businesses and how they work.

Snapchat ads are now called 3V advertising, which stands for Vertical Video Views (3 Vs – get it?!). If you want more detail about what is on offer, the platform also has an ads page on its website, which is effectively a sales presentation that tells potential advertisers everything they need to know about Snapchat ads. Snapchat positions itself as the best way to reach 13 to 34 year olds, with some compelling stats: 37% of its users are over 25, while just 26% are between ages 13 and 17. This puts to bed the idea that Snapchat is simply an app for teenagers without much money to spend, and there is a decent smattering of 35 – 40 year old on its stats too, which indicates that the channel is beginning to reach across to a broader demographic.

Snapchat sees its vertical viewing as a key differentiator in the social view space when it comes to videos and viewing behavior. The use of a vertical video fundamentally means that users do not have to rotate their screens. It’s a small change in how users respond but it is proving to have found favor with audiences according to their testing and is now beginning to make an impact on other social media channels such as Facebook who have jumped on the vertical video bandwagon.

Snapchat allows businesses to target advertisers in a variety of different ways: by Discover Channels, Live Stories as well as geofilters or gender.

Geofilters are collections of Snapchat, brand, or user-created art that enhance Snaps sent from specific locations. For instance, when a user sends a Snap to friends from say Las Vegas, they can access the Vegas Geofilter graphics and add them to their Snap (Tasmanian geofilter graphics are not currently available). Sponsored Geofilters allow brands to create brand-themed Geofilters, which can then be used from specific locations defined by the advertiser.

Discover is Snapchat’s content discovery section where users can find news, videos and articles from established (currently only US based) media outlets like CNN, MTV and Cosmopolitan. Snapchat recently tweaked the way Discover content is displayed and added a sharing option to encourage user interaction. The list of Discover channels now appears in the Stories section of the app. There’s also a new feature that allows users to quickly share Discover content with friends within Snapchat; users hold down a finger on the story, and can personalize it with a caption or a doodle, and send it to friends.

Advertising on Snapchat is maturing quickly. Brands like Universal, McDonald’s, and Pepsi are throwing their weight behind the platform, and early results have indicated that Snapchat ads have a measurable effect on sales. The platform has come a long way in a short time. Just a year ago, commentators speculated that Snapchat would struggle to attract large brands, especially ones with a more wholesome image, because of the salacious nature of some of the content that users shared on the platform. Now, armed with statistics about the results, a rapidly growing audience of engaged consumers across a wider demographic, more competitive pricing and the differentiator of its 3V strategy, Snapchat is being taken more seriously as a viable digital marketing channel.

So how might you use Snapchat in your business?

So can Snapchat actually drive customers to your business or to your website? The answer is absolutely “yes.” If you haven’t started using Snapchat as part of your marketing strategy, you’re definitely missing out on the opportunity to connect with relevant members of your target audience. Right now, the lion’s share of users are millenials, so think teens and early twenties.

But as mentioned before, that demographic is changing with the introduction of new features such as in app messaging and video calling. And don’t forget, once social channels get a critical mass of users, it’s hard to leave them behind, those millennial users will grow and if the Snapchat designers are smart, the app with grow with them. Look at how Facebook has changed and morphed over the last decade, taking its users – and especially its advertisers with them. Snapchat is beginning to take on this agile style model of feature development, and in recent times has added live text, chat and video calls between contacts, which has helped increase use of the application among younger audiences. If you wonder about the penetration of the channel, here are some eye openers:

  • Snapchat has roughly 26 million users in the United States
  • 77 percent of college students use Snapchat daily
  • 58 percent of college students would be likely to purchase a brand's product or service if they received a coupon on Snapchat

If you are wondering about the usage rates in Australia, Business Insider reports that mobile-only Snapchat had 3.068 million Australians on the service in February 2016. 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 cheap and simple targeting of specific demographics or communities, as on Facebook. Instead, businesses say they have to be more creative and appeal directly to their followers.

In relation to Tasmanian businesses, it is unlikely that the advertising feature is going to be financially competitive for businesses just yet, but that doesn’t mean you or your employees can’t use the app to build a profile for your business and engage your followers and fans. It needs to be understood from the get go that Snapchat offers a very different type of exposure for your brand. The fleeting nature of the exposure (10 seconds) is hard to grapple with when we are used to being able to revisit campaigns and know that they have a longish tail on other channels. The temporality of Snapchat is however well understood by its users and in some respects takes away the pressure to find out what you’ve missed out on – it simply doesn’t exist anymore to be worried about. This presents a particular set of challenges and benefits for advertising spend and decisions. The real decision is more about understanding the reason Snapchat can connect with your people, and bring your brand into their lives in an organic way. Here are some of the ways you can use Snapchat to achieve this goal:

Peep inside: 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. Engage the community, take them behind the scenes to show off your company. Have fun, and use the caption and drawing tools within Snapchat to show off your personality and corporate culture. This is a great opportunity to show your fans how different your brand is from your competitors’.

Takeover: The takeover in Snapchat is the now big thing, if you aren’t familiar with the term, a Takeover is when a brand or individual allows another user to create content on their account for a period of time, creating their own story for that day (or even for just a few hours). The user sends all their followers to watch a story on that new account. The takeover is quickly proving to be the most effective method for growing Snapchat audiences while showing variety of content and expose new audiences to new people. It’s collaboration and exciting unpredictable brand antics all at once, and its getting the attention of customers in a very busy marketplace. Look to industry leaders, compelling characters and synergistic brands to play with in a Takeover, hand over your passwords and sit back and watch the fans grow.

Build suspense: Got a new product, service or even a new business coming up? Snapchat is an amazing tool to build suspense. Preview your logo, your location, your product, your new CEO, your color palate, just about anything knowing that it is going to be a teaser. Snapchat is an ideal opportunity to start teasing out videos and pictures of new products. Because these images last a few seconds, you can expect a fair amount of buzz and chatter to surge around your new offering. If you harmonise this strategy on other channels and your website to build the excitement across your whole suite of marketing tools, you can create a comprehensive campaign with something for every social user.

Keep it fresh: If you want to mix it up behind the scenes, rotate control of your Snapchat account among trusted employees. Give them each control of it for a day or so. This adds a great deal of variety and flavor that your fans will enjoy. Just be sure to set some guidelines to keep “bad stuff” from popping up. (You would of course have on-boarded your staff with your social media management policies so they were across what was appropriate for your brand, and make sure you add Snapchat to the mix.)

Snap a video: It’s no accident that pretty much every social media channel now has its own way of presenting video, even if its only for a couple of seconds. Video is compelling on steroids and more sharable than any static image. Videos in any medium should be kept short and snappy, and that’s certainly true with Snapchat. Snapchat video like the static images are limited to 10 seconds. Take that and run with it, because you can make multiple video clips and string them together to tell a story that your followers can go through all at once when they have the time. Regardless of the medium, your audience is out there looking for brief content to digest while in line, sitting in class or on a short break at work. Feed them delicious bite size content and they’ll gobble it up.

Context is king: 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. It’s true that Snapchat has had a bad rep for questionable content, but that is changing and if anything there is a heightened sensitivity to what is shown. There are pretty strict rules about what can be advertised in terms of alcohol and adult concepts, and make sure you are mindful of the expectations of the channel’s audience when you are crafting your posts.

Incentivize me: Snapchat can get you real foot traffic if you own a physical business through using incentives. Incentives are a classic marketing strategy, and have become an expected staple within social media. Businesses often host giveaways and sweepstakes asking fans to like, retweet, share and comment for a chance to win something big. You can really build the hype here using Snapchat and drip feeding the lead-up to the giveaway.

In a factsheet nutshell, Snapchat is 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 and an older tech savvy demographic who are a growing user base. Unlike other social platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, where the aim is to show your content to as many people as possible, Snapchat allows you to send content directly to your subscribers. This can be a benefit if you’re looking to trial a new offer or want to reward people who are committed advocates for your brand. Making content exclusive to Snapchat creates another level of access for your audience, so the more effort you put into creating this ‘exclusive’ content, the more you’ll gain from it. You won't necessarily understand the potential of Snapchat by reading about it. You have to get in there, follow people, and use it. So even if your audience isn't quite there yet, there's a case for trying it out with the early majority ... before the late majority arrives.