Snapchat is something of a conundrum for marketers. On one hand, its young-skewing user base of millennials and Gen Z, along with its meteoric rise over the last couple of years, make it very attractive. But at the same time, its unique interface presents a challenge for marketers.
Until very recently, Snapchat remained unfriendly to advertisers compared to other mainstream social media platforms by not offering many of the services marketers have come to expect. But in the last six months, Snapchat has been working to rectify this by adding more targeting and measurement options. More recently, the platform enabled programmatic buying, hoping to attract advertising dollars as it prepares for what could be a $25 billion initial public offering. Despite these moves, Snapchat still remains one of the more difficult social media platforms for marketers to crack.
“Snapchat’s UX has always felt light on settings, tutorials, analytics, and for its early users, that’s been part of the appeal," Corbett Drummey, CEO of content marketplace Popular Pays, explained to Marketing Dive. "If Snapchat is eyeing a potential IPO anytime soon, it makes sense that they’d be looking to beef up and solidify their revenue streams.”
Filters are big with Snapchat’s younger users
Part of Snapchat's appeal for marketers is unique formats that appeal to younger consumers who are wary of traditional ads.
Younger users respond differently to branded and sponsored content than those even only a few years older because they grew up with social media and integrated marketing in their entire lives, Drummey stated. For brands on Snapchat, this means trying to connect with messaging tied to a special moment in the audiences’ lives — Drummery gave a “promposal” filter as an example — as this content is more likely to be shared and engaged with by users.
“One of the main reasons people love Snapchat is the filters it has for its users,” Dan Novaes, founder of Pairade, an app and website that helps fans follow celebrity content, told Marketing Dive. “Young users specifically are obsessed with these. Especially when they are relevant to events, locations, and times of the year. The most successful marketers I see are the ones who are able to create an ad that users don't even recognize is an ad.”
Another tactic is to use polls and questions to engage with Snapchat users, per Novaes. Marketers can take advantage of the screenshot feature in branded Snap Stories to ask users what they think about specific products by pitting screenshot “A” against screenshot “B” and then display the results later.
"Right now Snapchat is largely untapped as an advertising space and as a marketer, I am extremely excited to be one of the first to market on the platform — that is when you see the best ROI," Novaes said.
Use QR codes to drive traffic
Even though Snapchat doesn’t really have an in-app method for building a following for a branded account, marketers should consider running campaigns on other social media platforms that use a unique QR code to drive traffic to branded stories, snaps and filters. Drummey suggested a targeted Facebook ad combined with a contest or giveaway as an incentive to increase a Snapchat following.
Leveraging Instagram can also help build a Snapchat following as both are popular with younger consumers.
“On Instagram if you are doing a shout out from another account's post, one of the smartest things to do is have the account mention your username in the caption and then make your landing account private with a call-to-action to follow you on Snapchat for ‘XYZ’ reason — and insert your Snapchat link in the bio,” Novaes explained. “Or have the first post on your public profile have that same to call-to-action if you don’t want to make your account private for a short period of time."
The reason to make an account private is because this gives users fewer options in terms of how to engage and sends them directly down the funnel for following a brand.
Why Snapchat isn’t for every marketer
One issue with marketing on Snapchat is that it’s tough to keep attention focused on brand stories, which is made even more challenging because they disappear after 24 hours. Rather than having to create daily content — which can be an overwhelming prospect for many marketers — Drummey said a more effective approach might be to develop an attention-grabbing dynamic filter that will encourage engagement as well as spur followers to create branded content they will share with their own followers. Including an influencer marketing element to a branded filter launch will improve results, he added.
Addressing the content challenge, Novaes said marketers active on Snapchat have to be consistent with a posting schedule. This is easier now that the app allows for uploading camera rolls, enabling marketers to plan content out further in advance. There are third-party apps that will upload photos as well.
Given the inherent challenges in marketing on Snapchat, it’s worth determining if it is a good fit for a marketing program. In general, raising awareness works better than driving traffic to a website.
“Not everyone can or should take advantage of this space," said Drummey. "It takes a little bit of self-inventory. What are some specific goals you’re setting for your brand that you want to achieve on Snapchat? Snapchat is not the place to drive people to your website or drive installations of your app. It is, however, a perfect place to raise awareness, further a brand message, interact with your brand’s audience or grow a newer, younger one.”
One of the ways Snapchat could further improve the environment for marketers is by doubling down on its search capabilities. If an IPO takes place, the platform might also try to acquire a virtual reality or augmented reality company.
The addition of a search, explore, discover feature points to the app adding a “share username” feature this year and a more robust search function, Drummey said. He also believes the app might end up moving to an algorithm for users’ Stories to drive marketing dollars.
Snapchat may not be easy to use as a social media marketing channel — and it’s certainly not for every marketer. But for those targeting a younger demographic, the rewards are real. And as Snapchat becomes more advertiser friendly, the proven tactics are becoming clearer.