Should Your Brand Be On Snapchat?

Snapchat and Brands

I’ll admit that I was skeptical of Snapchat when I first heard about it. It’s just another social media fad that will disappear as quickly as its photo messages, I thought. But eventually, reluctantly, I gave in and downloaded the app. Fast forward a year or two and Snapchat is not only still on my iPhone, but it’s one of my most-used social apps – and I’m not alone in my addiction to appreciation for these self-destructing messages.
According to the Snapchat blog, 20 million snaps were being sent each day by October 2013, and a total of 1 billion snaps had been shared. Then, in May 2014, Snapchat boasted 700 million photo and video messages per day. And just this month, Mashable reported 70% of college students use Snapchat daily, while only 11% use Facebook as often. Business Insider writes:

“Those numbers can’t be directly compared to other services like Instagram, since Snapchat users have the ability to send the same photo to multiple friends at once. But to give some context, Instagram has over 200 million monthly active users, a number Snapchat has never disclosed. It’s also seeing users upload about 60 million photos per day according to Digital Marketing Ramblings. If you assume Snapchat users send a photo message to an average of five people at once, that’d be more than double Instagram’s volume.”

With such a large and active user base, it was really only a matter of time before brands got in on the action. A quick look at the Snapchat Twitter feed proves just how many brands are hopping on the bandwagon. Some recent additions to the Snapchat family include Fallon Tonight, the Dublin Airport and the Philadelphia Eagles. Plus, MTV announced the 2014 VMAs on Snapchat, and InStyle Magazine will release their September cover via the app.
Brands Who Get Snapchat
While there isn’t any data to back it up, I can personally say that, unlike many ads on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I actually get excited when I see a snap from a brand I follow. The first series of snaps I received from the TV show Girls (username: GIRLSHBO) were a bunch of silly photos of the cast on the red carpet. While the red carpet (and celebrities in general) is always so formal, out of reach, and stiff, these funny snaps of the cast goofing around made them, and their brand, more likeable and relatable.
Since a snap only lasts a few seconds and is typically shared with close friends, the messages automatically feel more genuine and personal. GIRLSHBO also sends out teasers about upcoming episodes, and memorable and funny quotes from past ones – all of which feels natural and enjoyable.
Another brand always on top of the social media game, Taco Bell asked their Twitter followers to find them on Snapchat in May 2013 (username: tacobell). Today, the company is noted as one of the most prominent brands on the platform.
In addition to joking around and sharing quirky, novel content, Taco Bell has used Snapchat to make some pretty big announcements: “People are obsessed with Beefy Crunch Burrito, so Snapchat seemed like the right platform to make the [reintroduction] announcement,” Taco Bell director of social and digital media Tressie Lieberman told Mashable. “Sharing that story on Snapchat is a fun way to connect with the fans that we are thrilled to have. It’s all about treating them like personal friends and not consumers.
Building on the sentiment of rewarding your most loyal customers, many brands use Snapchat to distribute unique coupon codes. According to Mashable, the frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles was one of the first brands to use Snapchat in this way. The campaign worked like this: Snap a pic of you or your friends at a 16 Handles to Love16Handles and you’ll get a coupon for anywhere from 16% to 100% off on your purchase. Oh, and you only have 10 seconds to let the cashier scan the coupon. Sending out personalized coupons that have a 10 second time limit is a fun and truly unique experience that users will want to tell their friends about. It’s also an interaction that strengthens their relationship with the brand overall.
The Future of Snapchat for Marketing
During the 2014 World Cup, Snapchat took things to a whole new level with OurStory. Users geo-located in Brazil could upload their photo or video to the story and have it sent out to every Snapchat user around the world.
Snapchat told The Verge that the OurStory feature was being controlled and curated on its part. In addition, representatives said that the company did not promote the feature in Brazil to encourage users to post to the Story. Instead, users picked up on it themselves. Snapchat again experimented with OurStory and Geofilter tools at the Lollapalooza music festival, though this time the stories were only visible to users who located in the Chicago area.

The Verge muses:

“While “Our Story” has an opportunity to expand Snapchat further beyond user-to-user messaging, the company undoubtedly sees the feature as a way to monetize the service in the future. As we reported just this past week, “Our Stories” could easily be sponsored by a major brand like Red Bull, or event organizers like the NBA could pay Snapchat to have a communal story created for events like the Finals. That’s all in the future, however: for now, it seems Snapchat is just testing the waters.”

The Verge is definitely on to something. Maybe Snapchat has learned from Facebook’s post-IPO troubles and wants to figure out how to successfully monetize before going public. I’ll certainly keep an eye on it, but for now we’ll just have to wait and see how everything plays out.
Snapchat may have started as a, well, fratty and creepy photo-sharing app, but it has blossomed into a social media staple that’s here to stay. If you’re comfortable communicating with your most loyal consumers like they’re you’re close friends, then you can’t afford to miss out on the Snapchat opportunity. I can’t think of a more personal way for brands to connect with customers and turn them into loyal ambassadors. While it’s especially worthwhile for big brands who struggle to show that they’re human, I think most brands with a group of loyal consumers can benefit from Snapchat.
It will be interesting to see how brands continue to use Snapchat and how the platform evolves in order to generate revenue. What do you think? Have you experimented with Snapchat as a marketing tool? Tweet us @BIGfishmarket and let us know!
Brigid Gorham

BIG fish PR is an unconventional agency that helps its clients redefine their industries.