It was 2011 when two friends in Los Angeles launched a photo and video messaging platform called Snapchat. Like Instagram and Facebook, users could follow friends and create posts, but unlike other platforms, those messages—video and otherwise—would disappear in ten seconds or less.
The social media world exploded with excitement over Snapchat and by 2013, Facebook had offered to purchase the company for a whopping $3 billion. The founders declined and, according to reports, Google countered with an offer of $4 billion. That offer was also denied. While many were dumbfounded to learn that two early twentysomethings—still reportedly living in a basement—would pass up such large sums of cash, it looks like they may have been on to something.
Today, Snapchat is more popular than ever. More than 100 million people log on daily and more than 200 million people use the service monthly. Users skew young—between 13 to 34 years old, though most are around 13-17 years old. Brands are just now starting to utilize the platform for their marketing purposes, and some are experiencing huge successes.
Getting Started on Snapchat
Snapchat is free to download and use. You’ll need to create a username, and it’s best to use the name of your business, without spaces. For example, if your company is called Jane’s Boutique On Main, your username could be JanesBoutiqueOnMain or something similar.
The app then allows you to look up your contacts that also have Snapchat accounts and follow them. The app takes you on a tutorial on how to post public “snaps” and how to send snaps—which are photos and/or videos with captions—to specific people.
Best Snapchat Practices for Small Businesses
- Help your customers find you. In order to find an individual or business on Snapchat, you need to search for exact usernames. Make this easy on your customers by posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that you’ve just launched a company account and include the username.
- Keep a casual tone. Any photos and videos you post to Snapchat should be casual, fun, and not overtly promotional. Tap into your creativity by using colorful graphics within the app and writing on your photos.
- Consider your audience. Since most Snapchat users are teenagers, think about what your customers in that age range would want to know, and how it relates to your business. This could include how-to videos, behind-the-scenes looks at your office or product, and even short introductions to your employees.
- Ask your customers to work for you. Hold a contest for the best snap that showcases a customer using your product. Ask them to send the snap to you and then rate the best that comes in and give a prize to incentivize participation. This way, your customers will be doing marketing activities for your brand.
- Build a story. If a ten-second snap is too short for your brand, consider building a story instead. Stories on Snapchat are a series of snaps available for viewing for a 24-hour period.
- Check out Snapchat Discover. Snapchat recently launched Discover, a page that enables brands to post editorial content for sharing purposes. This is a paid page that, so far, has attracted the attention—and dollars—from the likes of Comedy Central and CNN, but could be a vehicle for your content if you get big enough to warrant a large expenditure of cash. Discover partnerships reportedly start around $75,000 per day.
Measuring Your Success on Snapchat
While snaps do disappear after ten seconds, it is possible to take a screenshot of a snap. Brands can track when screenshots are taken and use those numbers as measuring tools. Another great way to track Snapchat success is to tease a discount in a snap and then tell viewers to go to a specific URL to see the rest of the discount, or specific code associated with it. For this, it’s best to create a unique URL only known to Snapchat users and then track how many people are going there.
Snapchat is an incredibly popular social media platform, but only used by a small amount of brands. This poses a unique opportunity for small businesses to take hold and grab the attention of millions of potential customers every day.