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Using Snapchat to Boost Your Business

In the five short years since its inception, Snapchat has defied its humble origins to become one of the world’s leading social media platforms. Launched in September 2011 from the living room of co-founder Evan Spiegels’ parents’ house, the app resonated with millennials in particular for its simple but unprecedented concept: Once viewed, gone forever.
Living in the Age of Social Media means that most of us are keenly aware of the lasting power of material shared online. For an entire generation of people who have suffered at least mild embarrassment when confronted with the ghosts of statuses past, Snapchat was a revelation. Over the years it has built on that single popular feature to offer a range of services such as Stories, video-sharing and instant messaging. Snapchat now enjoys over 100 million daily active users and 7 billion video views per day, with many major brands getting in on the action and turning to Snapchat to boost their marketing campaigns. The limited life-span of its posts makes Snapchat a valuable tool for creating exciting and urgent calls-to-action for your customers.

Unfortunately, unless you are part of Generation Y and were therefore weaned on technology, Snapchat is known for being somewhat user-hostile.  Here’s a guide to getting the most out of Snapchat in your marketing campaign:

Getting Started

One of the most important things to understand before embarking on your Snapchat marketing journey is that your audience here are a different breed to your Facebook or Twitter followers. Snapchat’s user base may be growing and expanding beyond the teen audience who were responsible for its initial success, but its culture of casual communication still prevails and will likely continue to do so. The fact that Snapchat’s users are not typically looking for professional content means that a marketing campaign here can’t necessarily be approached in the same way as on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t let this put you off though- this in itself creates opportunities to reach a new audience, and in some ways Snapchat marketing requires less effort than other social media platforms. For a start, Snapchat’s casual environment and the fleeting nature of Snaps means that people tend not to be quite as condemnatory of posts as they can be on other social media platforms. It goes without saying that you should strive to be professional in all your business posts no matter what platform they are on, but Snapchat presents an opportunity to show your customers the fun side of your organisation which will in turn humanize your company and help build customer loyalty.  

Creating a follower base

When launching a Snapchat account, many businesses use promotions to garner an initial following to build on. New York-based frozen yoghurt chain 16 Handles are known for being the first company to successfully implement a Snapchat marketing campaign. In early 2013 the brand launched their “Snappy New Year” promotion where they encouraged users to participate by visiting select locations at certain times and snapping photos of their friends enjoying their frozen yoghurt. In return, snappers received a coupon for anywhere between 16% and 100% off which they then had just 10 seconds to show the cashier. Although 16 Handles didn’t measure the results of their campaign, the exposure they received in the media for their strategy and the amount of businesses flocking to Snapchat since then speak for themselves.

As well as running promotions and giveaways from your Snapchat account, use your other, more established social media accounts to promote Snapchat. The time limit on snaps means that you’re unlikely to reach as many people if they aren’t forewarned of an upcoming offer. Let your Twitter and Facebook followers know that you will be making an exciting announcement on Snapchat at an appointed time, and encourage them to add their friends as well. You can use a simple hashtag to track new followers, as sports ticket provider Chat Sports did with great success back in June 2013.

Chat Sports used Snapchat to offer their community a chance to win tickets to a game. To enter, users had to have five friends add Chat Sports on Snapchat. Then those friends had to send a unique image to Chat Sports with the username of the fan who wanted to win the tickets and the hashtag #gimmietickets. The result was 150 responses in 48 hours.

If you run a smaller business, you might not be able to offer expensive giveaways like Chat Sports did, but don’t let that put you off; merely HAVING a Snapchat account will earmark your company as being on-trend and fun.

Tip: If you are a small or local business, there are so many ways you can use Snapchat to create a sense of community with your followers and get them to engage with your snaps and your business. If you’re a restaurant, for example, you could send out teaser snaps of specials each day coming up to lunchtime. If you’re a retail outlet and you want to promote a new product line, offer discounts or freebies to the first ten people to send snaps of them using your product. If you offer a service instead of a product, you can still get in on the action- if you’re a dentist, for example, you could offer a free clean to first ten people to send you a snap of their smile! You get my drift. The possibilities are endless and the only thing limiting you is your imagination.

Once your Snapchat account is properly established it can become your main platform, and you can use your Snapchat content on your other social media profiles as well. In this way, Snapchat needn’t become too much of a draw on your valuable time and will actually simplify the running of your other social media accounts.

Continually promoting your Snapchat account on Twitter and Facebook should help to draw in followers, but what to do with them once they are there?

Creating Content

The key to creating content that your followers will want to open is to offer them a view of your company through Snapchat that they can’t get anywhere else. People love to get behind the scenes, and this is mutually beneficial as it is so easy on Snapchat to humanize your brand. Post snaps of day-to-day occurrences, your team, and office moments such as staff birthdays or new equipment, and keep it fun and light-hearted. Don’t worry if your snaps don’t look too polished; in an interconnected communication framework like today’s social media environment, being real can trump being perfect. You can use the Stories feature to create fun compilations of the goings-on at your company. You can also schedule Snapchat events throughout the week to keep people coming back.

Tip: Traditional marketing wisdom says that to establish a brand, you must drill the same message into your audience over and over to reinforce a narrative of what you want people to associate with your company. Snapchat turns this convention on its head because the draw of Snapchat is novelty. The only way to make your brand's Snapchat worth caring about is to make it change every day- make your brand an evolving story.

Promotions, as mentioned earlier, are a great way to encourage continued engagement with your posts. Previews, similarly, are a great way to establish a buzz of excitement, especially with the time limit on snaps creating a sense of urgency. The New Orleans Saints implement this strategy to its full potential by regularly sending out stories that include behind-the-scenes footage, a look at kits for the game and images of new Saints products.
One of the easiest and most effective ways of keeping up-to-date on Snapchat and encouraging engagement with your posts is to participate in every live event that you can. Thanks to the advent of hashtags, social media is becoming an integral part of participating in live events and there are a number of benefits to getting in on the action. Your followers will become accustomed to “seeing” you at events, creating a sense of familiarity with your brand which in turn encourages customer loyalty. It also shows your followers that your brand is up-to-date and on trend. Live events are easy because you needn’t be physically present at the event to take part. If you are, even better, but live-snapping is great because it allows you to create a presence at social events even if you are just sitting at home watching them on TV.

You can also keep things current and exciting by running “takeovers” of your Snapchat account. Chipotle, for example, grabbed their followers’ attention by announcing that the band Walk the Moon was going to be taking over their Snapchat account for a day. Many brands team up with celebrities or popular figures and let them be “in charge” of their account, sharing exclusive insights to get people talking. Like promotions, this may not always be feasible on the same scale as the examples listed here; If you’re a small-town coffee shop, Kim Kardashian is probably not going to come and take over your Snapchat account for the day. But if you use local talent- whether it be community figures or popular local musicians/artists- as influencers, they will appreciate the publicity and you will be able to boost your brand. In this way, you can build up your reputation with minimal effort, all the while supporting your local economy which will in turn help to grow your business. Win/win.

Tip: Beat the character limit! Snapchat’s 31-character limit is strict even by today’s social media standards. If you’re finding the limit too constricting, you can simply Copy & Paste text from your clipboard and the limit will not take effect. Remember the time limit though, and don’t include so much text that your snaps lose their impact. This currently only works on Snapchat for iOS.

When you’re not snapping your latest merchandise, promotional offer or local guitar-playing heartthrob, you’re going to need filler posts. We’d all avoid them if we could, but when you are trying to establish or maintain an online presence, you have to be.. well, present. We all have slow news days where we find ourselves grasping for relevant material to post on social media so that we don’t fade into obscurity. Fortunately, filler posts are easy on Snapchat, which is built on the desire for novelty and instant, fleeting gratification. For this reason, Snapchat users tend to be less critical and so you can post pretty much anything as long as it’s not offensive and you can connect it to your business. So snaps of your cat using your merchandise are fair game on Snapchat. In fact, they’ll probably do very well!

In conclusion

If you’re still unsure of whether there’s any value to using Snapchat for marketing purposes, consider some statistics. There are currently over 100 million daily active users on Snapchat and 7 billion video views per day. If Snapchat isn’t a part of your social media strategy, you could be missing out on the opportunity to connect with dozens of people who fit into your target audience. However, there’s more to bridging the gap than just downloading the app. If you’d like to know more about Snapchat for marketing, watch this space- Dungarvan Enterprise Centre will be expanding on this area soon!

Do you use Snapchat as part of your marketing strategy? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below!
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