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Can Snapchat break into mobile's one-on-one marketing promise?

As marketers flock to crowded platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, alternative platforms such as Snapchat could become a more valuable place to create intimate, one-to-one connections with consumers.

Brands such as Taco Bell, Acura and Karmaloop have all started building a presence on Snapchat, and other brands should look to these examples for inspiration. Snapchat allows brands to create an intimate relationship with consumers, especially millenials, in a fun and fleeting way.

?Snapchat is definitely growing in terms of the user base," said Esha Shah, lead United States strategist for Fetch, San Francisco. "They have about 400 million snaps shared every day, which is more than the number of photos uploaded on Facebook and Instagram, so the volume is definitely there in terms of users."

?They?re actually changing the way users look at photographs,? she said. ?Before, users were taking their time in terms of perfecting the photo and uploading it. With Snapchat, it?s very instantaneous and it?s fleeting, it lasts 10 seconds. The concept of the photograph is changing. Brands can start to leverage that because their users are changing too.

?Brands can leverage the one-to-one interaction. They have 10 seconds to compel them with a message, maybe it?s an offer or campaign. They really have the ability to create value in those ten seconds. It?s the purest because it is one-to-one and it is private.?

Snaps stories
Snapchat was initially released in 2011 and has grown to be a widely popular messaging app, especially among teens and millenials.

Within the app, users can take pictures and videos, add text and drawings on top and send it to their friends. Once their friends open these snaps, they have ten seconds before the snaps disappear.

Users do have the ability to take a screenshot of the snap, but the sender will be notified if a receiver takes a screenshot.

The app is available for free on iOS and Android phones.

In October, Snapchat added a new function to the app called Snapchat Stories, which adds snaps together to create a narrative. In Stories, each snap lives for 24 hours instead of ten seconds, and users can continuously add snaps to a story.

Marketing opportunities
While Snapchat has yet to actually roll out any form of ads or marketing programs, there are still plenty of opportunitues for brands on the platform.

As opposed to broadcasting a single message to millions of users, brands can use Snapchat to personalize their messages to target individual consumers. While this may require more work, it can create a much more meaningful interaction for consumers.

Taco Bell has been an early proponent of Snapchat, creating its first Snapchat initiative this past May.

The company?s first experiment on Snapchat was a campaign for the beefy crunch burrito. The item had a unique fan base, but it was not a regular on the menu.

Taco Bell therefore thought Snapchat was the perfect platform to break the item?s return to the menu. The QSR sent an image of the product with a date on top with no additional messages or explanations, but fans immediately understood that this was the date that the product would return to Taco Bell.

?We loved the idea of Snapchat where you?re able to send a temporary message because it coincided well with the limited-time offer,? said Nick Tran, social media lead at Taco Bell, Irvine, CA.

?The day before, we sent out a tweet and said we?re now on Snapchat,? he said. ?Within that day we had thousands of friends on the platform, so when we sent out our first snap to everybody, everyone who added us within that 24-hour period received our first one. And a lot of people screenshotted it and shared. We saw a lot of fun engagement with people realizing they were the insider of the date of return of this product.?

Since the beefy crunch burrito campaign, Taco Bell has continued to leverage Snapchat, but on a more casual basis, sending random snaps to select followers as opposed to one big campaign.

Taco Bell has also leveraged Snapchat Stories with different stories such as a trip with friends to Taco Bell.

?Getting in the car and seeing a sunset, getting to Taco Bell and hanging out with friends,? Mr. Tran said. ?That was the first time we got into Snapchat Stories. It didn?t center around a product, it was just that experience of hanging out with your friends at taco bell.?

The QSR also created a love story with two sauce packets. The most recent story was about ?Friendsgiving,? and this was tied into an event Taco Bell was hosting in their headquarters for their top fans on social media.

One of Taco Bell's Stories snaps

?It?s more so engaging across all the platforms that our fans participate in, the 18-24 [year-old] segment,? he said. ?We don?t treat the way we engage in social any different than our fans actually would. If you think about the thought process of what a 20-year-old college kid is thinking right now, they?re trying to juggle all the platforms, we take that same approach.

?We use Snapchat as a way to engage with a smaller number of friends. We don?t have the reach on Snapchat that we do on Twitter or Facebook, but it?s a great pace to have a closer one-to-one connection with them.?

As opposed to placing an ad that reaches hundreds of thousands of consumers on Facebook, Snapchat lets Taco Bell really reach out to an individual consumer. It creates a more personal connection and transforms Taco Bell into a human-like persona instead of a rigid company.

?I don?t feel our brand is much different than a person to be honest,? Mr. Tran said. ?We treat our social persona as an actual individual that has friends and people that look to us for an actual relationship that extends beyond just our food. For us its important because we see our fans as friends that we want to continue to build a relationship with. Snapchat just helps us further that relationship by being more like a friend than like a brand.?

Other Snappers
The online retailer Karmaloop has also been leveraging Snapchat for marketing purposes.

Karmaloop?s key demographic tends to be young and trendy, so Snapchat makes a lot of sense for them.

The company sends snaps of models wearing their clothing, but the images tend to be risqué and a bit scandalous, according to Fetch?s Ms. Shah. Karmaloop has an in-house photo studio, so they just take advantage of that and send photos out regularly.

?Now that they have created a voice and following, they?re thinking about testing offers and coupons to see how effective Snapchat could be in driving sales,? Ms. Shah said. ?Snapchat could potentially be the rare social media platform that allows brands to affect ROI and track sales.?

While Snapchat does not really allow for precise tracking and measurement yet, brand such as Karmaloop can look at how many people screenshot a snap to gauge interest. They can also look at feedback on Twitter to see the conversation around the snaps.

Another brand that has been active on Snapchat is Acura. The automobile brand introduced their new prototype for a super car on the platform.

Acura sent an exclusive video to the first 100 users that added them on Snapchat.

By leveraging Snapchat, brands are able to send a personalized, exciting message to individual consumers, enabling them to create a more meaningful relationship.

?Mobile is allowing brands to connect to users on a one-to-one basis,? Ms. Shah said. ?A brand like Taco Bell is going to have a variety of different demographics that they target, so a singular message is not going to be as effective as having five messages for the five major demographics it targets. Now they can do it through mobile?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York