Snapchat is an instant messaging service that allows you to send photos and videos that get deleted after a specified time and are no longer visible to other users. Each user has a channel and can fill it with content. Other users can subscribe to this channel and see the published content, which “self-destructs” after 10 seconds or 24 hours for stories.

Snapchat also offers various editing options such as filters, lenses, drawing, and effects that can be used to change photos and videos (called snaps). Chat, voice, and video calls as well as a news aggregator (snapchat discover), which curates content, belong to the portfolio. Snapchat is currently described as the fastest growing social network (as of July 20, 2016) and is particularly popular among young people. More than half of its users are between 16 and 24 years old.


Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown began to develop an idea that laid the foundations for Snapchat in the summer of 2010. Published content was supposed to be deleted after a while, in other words, ephemeral messaging. The first prototype, called Picaboo, was completed in July 2011. After disputes amongst its founder team, the name of the app was changed to Snapchat. The first users were students who installed the app on their school Ipods, since apps such as Facebook were usually disabled. User numbers keep increasing month-to-month and the first investment took place in April 2012. Snapchat received 485,000 dollars from lightspeed venture partners. By the end of 2012, the app had 500,000 users per month.

Mark Zuckerberg offered CEO Evan Spiegel a partnership with Facebook, which was declined. This process ensured a large media echo, and Snapchat recorded a further increase in user numbers. Meanwhile, Facebook released an app that apparently was similar to Snapchat. After initial success, the Facebook app, called Poke, quickly fell behind Snapchat on the download charts of the Apple and Android app stores. Facebook discontinued the development of Poke in May 2014. Snapchat came out of this conflict stronger and collected further investments to handle the increase in user numbers. There are currently 150 million daily active users).[1]

How it works[edit]

Snapchat is available for download in various app stores. A prerequisite is a mobile device because the app has been specifically developed for mobile use on iOS and Android devices and is not available as a pure web application. You can navigate from the home screen via either buttons or wiping movements to the left, right, up, and down. Different smartphone and tablet functions have been integrated into the app so that the use of the app and the user device is as intuitive as possible for new users.

What is a snap?[edit]

Snaps utilize the photo and video functions of the user device. Snaps are the basis for Snapchat. Users can take snapshots in the form of photos or ten seconds of video and publish them on their channel. It is possible to send individual snaps to friends or share multiple snaps in snapchat stories. The half-life of the content is 10 seconds for regular distribution and 24 hours for stories.

As soon as a user sends a snap, it is uploaded to Snapchat’s servers and the recipient gets a notification that new snaps are available. The app itself loads a copy of the snaps into the memory of the user device. Once this snap is being viewed, the Snapchat server receives a message from the app. Once all recipients have opened and viewed the snap, they are deleted from the server. The data management system of the user device also receives a message which triggers the deletion of the snaps on it.

The only way to save a snap from other users is to create a screenshot. Although the data can be restored in principle, the user device would have to be hacked by rooting or a jailbreak. In principle, it is not impossible to store sent snaps. Snapchat recommends that users should therefore consider what they share with their friends.

Snap processing, filters, and lenses[edit]

A central feature of Snapchat is snap processing, which is used for the optical enrichment of photos and videos. The following options are available, including in combination:[2]

  • Text: A line of text can be inserted into each snap with the T-Button and placed and modified with pointer movements.
  • Emojis: Smilies and graphics from Whatsapp can be inserted.
  • Drawings: Creative drawings can be placed over a snap with the pen button.
  • Filter: If filters are enabled in the settings, they can be applied to videos and photos. In addition, when location-based services are active in the app, various geofilters are available at specific locations. New geofilters can be proposed via the Snapchat website.
  • Lenses: With the Lenses function, faces can be changed if the Selfie cam is activated. Current selfies can be adorned with zombie optics, rainbows and other options thanks to face detection.

Stories, Discover, and Memories[edit]

Other features of Snapchat:[3]

  • Stories: Stories are a collection of photos or videos that are automatically strung together one after the other. This allows messages, instructions, and documentation to be displayed. The Live Stories function is oriented around current events that take place near your location. The stories of all friends of the past 24 hours are available under All Stories.
  • Discover: Media brands such as BuzzFeed, Mashable or Vice have entered into cooperation with Snapchat. This exclusive content is available through Snapchat Discover.
  • Memories: Ever since the introduction of Memories in July 2016, users have been able to save their photos and pre-produce content. If you want to send the content or embed it into a story, you must enter a password.
  • Snapcode: Snapcode allows friends to be added via QR code. Alternatively, they have to be made aware of a snapchat channel via other social media profiles.

Marketing with Snapchat[edit]

The increasing number of users in recent years has resulted in Snapchat integrating different advertising options into the app and now also providing an API for advertising partners. Currently three types of campaigns are offered:[4]

  • Snap ads campaign: Within the framework of the daily distributed snaps, special mobile video ads can be displayed which can direct to additional content. This content can be reached within the ads by a swipe movement. Snapchat itself indicates that the click rates are 5 times higher than comparable campaigns on other platforms.
  • Geofilter campaign: Events, store locations or specific locations can be advertised with geofilters. If a user is near a marked location, he or she can request further information about this geofilter. Snapchat speaks of a range up to 60% of all users per geofilter.
  • Sponsored lens campaign: Lenses are one of two gamification elements at Snapchat (the other one being trophies) that can be used for marketing purposes. Users can playfully use brand lenses and send them to friends. The average time per lens is indicated with 20 seconds.

Relevance to online marketing[edit]

Online marketers can use snapchats to reach young audiences with mobile devices in an innovative way. Companies and brands that are not yet active in mobile marketing can also use the app to send exciting content or market events and store locations. This use is free of charge, which of course does not apply to the advertising partners. For example, young target groups can be reached specifically with mobile video ads where they are active and interested. Lenses can be used as part of a branding campaign and events can be marketed by geofilters. Through elements such as high user engagement, customer empowerment, and gamification, Snapchat is a social media application that can generate a large amount of attention and bind users to the app through innovative operating concepts.


  1. Snapchat Passes Twitter in Daily Usage bloomberg. Accessed on 07/20/2016
  2. How to Get Effects on Snapchat Accessed on 07/20/2016
  3. What's the point of Snapchat and how does it work? Accessed on 07/20/2016
  4. Storytelling in a Snap Accessed on 07/20/2016

Web Links[edit]