CJRW Snapchat

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was, and now what I’m with isn’t it. And what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me.” Grandpa Simpson


At some point in your life, you may feel like Grandpa Simpson did when young Homer shamed his dad while rockin’ out.  Being with “it” may seem like an insurmountable generation gap; however, that is no reason to give up! Businesses need to learn what “it” is to continue to grow new markets and open new brand communication channels. It may be time for your business to get with “it.”

Simply put, Snapchat is a visual communication app. Snapchat’s allure boils down to ephemerality.  And that’s a five-dollar word that means your content won’t last long; therefore, you think it’s special… more beautiful.  *single tear* Some snaps aren’t necessarily beautiful but captivate users because of the limited time they have to view the post once they commit to opening it. Like other new social media platforms, users give minimal information to create a profile and have minimal options for communication. A snap can be sent to your “story,” or everyone that follows you, or to select people you follow. Your snap can be overlaid with a limited number of keyboard characters (emojis are fair-game), or pre-loaded artwork, like the time, temperature, speed or, if you are in a certain geographical location, artwork. You can select how long your snap is available for viewing and how long it will appear on the screen. Snapchat says, “We have many products within Snapchat, but there is one key feature that they all share: deletion. We believe in the integrity of conversation – personal, unguarded, and of the moment. That’s how it is with in-person conversations, and that’s how we think it should be with mobile conversations as well.” Because snaps don’t stick around for very long, users check in multiple times a day, every day.

Snapchat keeps a tight lid on its numbers; they have an estimated 200 million monthly active users that are very engaged. To put that in perspective, Facebook has 1.19 billion monthly mobile active users (Snapchat and Instagram are mobile only) and Instagram has 300 million. The volume of photos and videos shared on Snapchat is staggering. If you were to view all of the photos shared in the past hour on Snapchat, it would take you 10 years. Snapchat is growing at a very rapid rate. Undoubtably, next month these numbers will all have increased (well, maybe not Facebook), and we may be re-evaluating strategy. But today, Snapchat’s audience is very targeted, mostly teens and Millennials.

Most businesses we work with, start-ups to Fortune 400, want to target Millennials, and they KNOW social media is the ticket. Not only have Millennials eclipsed Baby Boomers in total population, but in a few years, they will have the most buying power. Economists predict Millennials have a pent-up purchasing demand. A caricature of a Millennial would depict a young adult burdened by gigantic student loan debt who has moved back in with their parents. Sure, it’ll be hard to leave the fully stocked pantry of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but Millennials will soon be ready to put on their grown-up pants and boomerang back into the world. People, especially Millennials, do not want to be advertised to – they want to consume content at their leisure. On social media, consumers are savvy to advertisements. Platforms like Snapchat are not yet adulterated.

Capturing the Snapchat crowd eludes brands.  Snapchat’s take on advertising is much different than Facebook.  It prioritizes keeping the communication experience pure: “The best advertisements tell you more about stuff that actually interests you.  Some companies spend a lot of time and collect a lot of data about you to figure that out. [Our product] is a lot simpler. An advertisement will appear in your Recent Updates from time to time, and you can choose if you want to watch it.  No biggie.  It goes away after you view it or within 24 hours, just like Stories.” *Gigantic sigh of relief*  To make users even happier, Snapchat allows users to change their settings so “everyone” or only “my friends” can send snaps.  Once you change your settings so that “everyone” can send you snaps, brand messages start rolling in.  Nice that it defaults to only your friends.

May sound perfect … reaching older teens and Millennials … Having their captive attention … Well, get ready to shell out the big bucks. Reports state ad prices for one day are $750,000. They better have some pretty sophisticated and accurate reporting features to justify that expense. Just recently, Snapchat unveiled a new advertising feature through their location filter. McDonald’s was the first advertiser to promote its brand through the filters. If you are near one of their U.S. locations, you can choose a branded filter to overlay on your snap. Location filters are hyper-local and extremely powerful for fostering brand advocacy within a community. There is huge potential for events and the tourism industry.

Change is in the air.

Users are splintering off from the big guys (Facebook and Twitter) and seek semi-anonymous (Snapchat, Ello and YikYak) user experiences that fit with how they want to communicate with their network. Privacy standards for social media sites in general are changing to meet basic user demands. As these changes occur, brands will have a harder time reaching their target market.  Ello, Snapchat, and others are paving the way for anti-information sharing online communities. Basically, the revolution will definitely not be televised. Instead, it’s social media-ized.  Relevant, branded content needs to drive the businesses’ conversations on social media if they want to reach users on a semi-anonymous social media. Fueling these strategies must be a concerted, platform-specific effort to marry historical and real-time data, excellent content, and smart usage of ad services provided by each platform. So let’s get with “it.”