Snapchat for Business: Just Say No
Madeleine Coe | On 27, Oct 2016
Just like every social media platform that has risen to notoriety, Snapchat’s popularity had inspired a slew of articles championing the app as the new Manifest Destiny of digital marketers.
How about no?
The temptation of 26 million US-based users is strong, but most of the current user base is underage. Although, Snapchathas been growing in popularity among older users; over 50% of new Snapchat users are older than 25, and the percentage growth of those aged 35 years and older is actually greater than 18- to 24-year-olds, so don’t rule it out just yet.
While Snapchat’s massive daily active user base does seem to be fertile grounds for promoting products or services in an authentic setting, it should be said that Snapchat is not right for every business.
Snapchat’s immediacy and sense of urgency does set it apart from other networks. Temporarily shared images and videos of up to 10 seconds, and texting capabilities do allow for an intimate real-time experience. Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook’s live video function both attain the same immediacy, but also allow you to take advantage of your built-in following on the platform.
Content is deployed to selected recipients and disappears after viewing, or in the case of Snapchat Stories, lasts for 24 hours as a public post before going away forever. This means it is impossible to build traction even with successful content. Since the account posting the content picks the recipients, it is not easy to tell which recipients are really engaging with it. You can see opens, but not views, and users can’t publicly like content, so the only way to tell if followers are engaging is if you get responses or if they elect to un-follow you. Without a stronger way of tracking, a lot of the marketing strategy is just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
For marketers, the biggest drawback is the lack of an advertising platform. Without the ability to promote posts, target audiences, or even track views, any marketing efforts on Snapchat are essentially a shot in the dark. In order to build a robust, well-rounded digital marketing campaign, advertisers need access to this data and tracking capabilities to monitor their efforts. It’s simply not available on Snapchat, and without even the ability to add click-through links, there is not much use for Snapchat as an advertising platform for most businesses.
And if you think you can get away with taking advantage of free use of the app and just build a following with regularly posted content, you may want to reconsider.
Historically, food brands like Taco Bell and 16 Handles have done well, while other businesses have tried with limited success to use contests or flash sales with a promo code or coupon. For most industries, like automotive, for instance, this is not going to be a successful tactic. The fast-paced intimate nature of Snapchat means content that comes across as a sales pitch is going to be seen as distasteful to users, AKA spam.
Snapchat for businesses is —at best— useful for creating a brand experience for your followers. Use it to connect to your base in a humorous, authentic way. If you are able to constantly produce creative and interesting content, or tell stories through videos, expose brief snapshots behind the scenes, and tease new product releases, go for it. But if you can’t keep up with the constant desire for fresh entertainment, the time and effort that you put towards Snapchat is not likely to result in strong ROI.
A long-standing marketing best practice is to maintain an active presence with consistent messaging across a few platforms, rather than trying to divide and conquer every new app or social space that comes along. Examine if Snapchat is right for your business and industry.
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