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Snapchat as a marketing tool

With the right know-how, Snapchat can be a great tool for winning over different customer groups. The instant messaging app is particularly popular among the youth and provides you with a perfect opportunity to build a new, interesting community with which you can communicate regularly.

An overview of the app’s features and opportunities for companies

The app was developed in California and has been around since 2011. It has recently enjoyed a huge hype and many marketers and companies are currently wondering how they can use Snapchat to achieve their marketing goals.

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About 10 billion Snaps (photos and videos) are viewed each day by approximately 150 million active users. More than half of these users are aged between 16 and 24 years. Snapchat users spend an average of 30 minutes on the app per day. In the German market, Snapchat is increasingly gaining more active users as well.

What the so-called "Snapchatters" like most about the app is its authenticity and playfulness, which is not found on any other social media service. The fun factor when creating and sharing photos and videos, including the use of different filters, lenses, and numerous internal functions, appears to be as strong as ever. Snapchat users particularly love the fact that they can freely access very private and personal insights as well as participate in the everyday life of others through the rather spontaneous snaps. There are even several "star personalities" who are building their popularity on this channel.

This blog article will explain how Snapchat works as well as shed light on the various marketing opportunities it presents. The article was created with the support of Natalie Barta, a key Snapchat personality who was of great help with the compilation of the practical examples.

The special thing about Snapchat

Basically, Snapchat is an instant messenger app whose structure is quite different from that of Facebook, Instagram, and the like. These key differences initially made it difficult for elderly social media users to understand the app and its features:

1. There is no newsfeed like on Facebook and Instagram: If you login on Snapchat, you do not land on a newsfeed with posts from other users. Instead, you are presented with a home screen where you can create your own snaps.

2. There are no profiles with post histories: Snaps are only visible for a limited period. There is no real profile where you can view old posts.

3. You cannot like or comment on posts directly.

Begriffserklärungen und Funktionsweise

A "Snap" is either a video or photo that has just been taken. You can decide to either send this Snap to friends, save it in your memories, or post it in a story. You can also decide whether the snap should be visible for any user or only your friends. This can always be changed in the settings.

"Memories" is a storage location for snaps. You can always access it and resend your snaps. If you use a snap that is in your memories, it is marked accordingly for your recipients (white frame around the snap). This also indicates how old the post is.

A story is a form of a personalized channel that consists of a series of snaps. The posted photos and videos are automatically deleted after 24 hours. The only way to know how many friends one has is through the number of views of the individual snaps. These can automatically be set to public enabling every Snapchat user to access the snaps even if they are not in your contact list.

Regardless of whether the photos and videos can only be accessed by friends or are posted in the story – they can be decorated with text, filters (color, temperature, location, time, date, battery level), custom colorful drawings, lenses, 3D stickers, emojis, and the newly introduced bitmojis. You can also save your snaps before posting them!
In addition, you can also make calls and video calls, send voice messages as well as save texts and shared content from Discover in a private chat.
Making a screen shot enables you to save the photos in the gallery. If you are too slow, you are hereby allowed up to two repetitions per day for free.

The above-mentioned "Discover" is an additionally integrated feature for current news from popular channels such as CNN, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, Central, etc.

How can companies use Snapchat effectively?

You should consider the following points if you want to use Snapchat successfully to achieve your marketing goals:

1. Always keep your customers up to date e.g., with the new arrivals, sales, exclusive offers, etc.

2. Keep your fan base entertained with raffles and prize competitions

3. Use custom geo-filters to make yourself popular (at a fee for brand logos): Geo-filters are filters that only appear within a selected region. Anyone can freely configure such filters. You can find all the necessary information regarding configuration of geo-filters at: https://www.snapchat.com/geofilters

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Figure 1: Adidas Originals and Dunkin’ Donuts have already tested the geo-filter function.

4. Behind the scenes: Use your snapchat account to offer your users insights to your company and every day activities or post backstage impressions from the photoshoot of your new catalog. Show that you are interested in your fan base and pose open questions e.g., "Where do you spend your weekends?"

5. Let your fan base contribute creatively ("Should we include products x, y, or z in our catalog?")

Practical examples

Taco Bell (@tacobell) presented a new product via Snapchat: Snapchat users were first informed in advance and a preview image used to arouse their interest. This was then followed by a short video of the event where the company presented the new product.

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Figure 2: @tacobell presenting a new product via Snapchat

TacoBell is one of the early adopters of Snapchat and regularly organizes great promotions. For example, the company previously posted a funny and interactive puzzle with the motto "Find the error", where users were supposed to compare two photos and send the answers to TacoBell.

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Figure 3: @tacobell entertaining its fans with a puzzle

In addition to its promotional events on Snapchat, TacoBell also launched a sponsored campaign in May 2011. This used a filter that showed the head of the user in form of a Taco. An in-house team worked on this for six weeks and the effort certainly paid off: The brand campaign had over 224 million views on a single day. The 750,000 $ budget finally caught the eye with a cost per view of 0.3 cents. The success of this Snapchat approach is particularly reflected in the increasing daily number of TacoBell followers (over 225,000 followers).

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Figure 4: TacoBell’s custom filter (Source)

Additional examples of companies that use Snapchat in marketing

Snapchat is often used for prize competitions by different companies e.g., Sony Music who wish to encourage their users to purchase. In addition, posts on clearance sales are an ideal way of motivating users to add your company on Snapchat.

Behind the scenes: American Apparel (@amappysnap) offers its customers exclusive insights for a whole day. Starting from fitting, the mask, up to the actual shooting – you can follow the whole process on Snapchat!

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Figure 5: Behind the scenes at American Apparel


When understood and used correctly, Snapchat can present a cost-friendly and a major opportunity to reach and inspire new customers, particularly young target groups. The limited time frame and the rather childish format of displaying photos and videos enable companies to present themselves differently and hence solidify the sympathy and loyalty of their customers.

As it is with all social media tools, the use of personalized, targeted content as well as understanding how the tool works, its opportunities, and the user behavior of the target audience are vital for the use of Snapchat. With Snapchat, it is not about perfection but rather spontaneity, proximity, and personality.

It will certainly be interesting to see how similar features on Instagram (e.g., stories) and Facebook will affect the use of Snapchat. There have been different opinions and we will keep an eye on the development.

Last but not least: An infographic about Snapchat from Noobpreneur.com.

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Published on Sep 6, 2016 by Karim-Patrick Bannour