Let’s get one thing straight.

I do not get Snapchat.

I turned 25 a few months ago which puts me in firmly in the ‘I’m too old/I’m not too old to be using Snapchat’ demographic – basically the age group of people who could/should/can use Snapchat but probably missed out and now feel like they can’t catch up. We’re like your mum joining Facebook 5 years too late – there are dead accounts galore and worst of all there’s advertising clogging up your once precious app, the worst right?

You don’t have to use Snapchat to ‘get it’ but like most social networks there’s lingo to be learned, memes to use correctly and filters that are ‘very 2014’.

How do brands navigate this closed off network that’s based around having stupid, silly private conversations between close friends?

What separates Snapchat from the rest?

Snapchat is on the precipice of becoming a core social network. When I say core, I mean the social networks that are becoming an integral part of people’s lives. There are more than 7bn video views every day on Snapchat with over 100 million daily active users and it’s constantly growing.

When you think about your social networks, most people could categorise them by how they use them, and how often. There are ones that are necessary to navigate the internet, others are fun but not essential and others are just for certain things maybe based on niche interests. I’ve categorised these subsections into variable, core and niche.

Niche

Tumblr, Reddit

Niche networks are usually made of power users, lurkers (people who view but never engage) and dead accounts. They’re well known to people who frequent the internet on a daily basis so 16-35 typically but if you asked an infrequent internet user they probably wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about.

Core

LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook

Everyone is on these – eeeeeveryone. Okay Instagram isn’t cracking the over 60’s market as well as it would like, but due to Instagram’s easy cross posting options to other networks they’re much more well-known than if they were in their own silo. LinkedIn is also made up of power users and its larger audience are less frequent users but due to its links with work and organisations, it’s also very well known. Facebook is just Facebook, it’s basically on a par with email now, used for events mostly.

Variable

Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat

These platforms have niche audiences and core users but they’re all platforms that a lot of people will have ‘given a go’ then not really felt a part of a community or understood what they’re supposed to be doing and given up. Twitter is currently trying to solve the problem of it being closed to new users, Pinterest understands who its audience is and doesn’t seem to want to expand it and Snapchat is trying to start the journey towards becoming core.

These definitions are not set, they’re based on the users of the platform and what their marketing/innovation/advertising output has achieved.

So I still don’t get it, what’s to like?

At its core Snapchat is a photo and video message app. It’s the specifics of those messages that set Snapchat apart from its competitors and where it finds its appeal amongst millennials. Users can take images, videos and filter, “lens”, text or sketch layers on their original images making them unique. These ‘snaps’ are available to view for a limited amount of time - as of September 2015 that range is from 1 to 10 seconds - and although you can screenshot these images/videos, the user will know (although there’s ways of getting around it). Stories are available for a longer period of time if users choose to share them that way but they still disappear after a while if they’re not crossposted to other platforms.

There’s lots of reasons why Snapchat has struck a chord with millennials. Its exponential growth is very much borne of the ‘how to start a movement’ strategy that most products/services aimed at the younger generation bank on. But what’s keeping them engaged? What’s keeping them hooked? Based on conversations with power users, Snapchat’s appeal seems firmly rooted in its throwaway and casual nature – rather than uploading pictures of yourself at a party, or a funny thing you saw at work or your best gross face whilst your bored to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or sending it on a message to a friend – you just send it on Snapchat, the ultimate ‘hey look at this cool thing whatever lol’ platform.

Over the years Snapchat has matured introducing Branded Stories in its Discover feature, brands pay to feature in this section and featured much more glossy and designed stories than anything users could produce. The Branded Stories are doing marginally well, considering they’re even on Snapchat they may have even got their specific brand of content cornered – for example the Daily Mail has got the UK tabloid press locked up as other publications are nowhere to be found on the platform. But this type of featured content is not cheap and isn’t usually featured in standard social marketing budgets.

So what do brands do with this nonchalant platform? How do you sell when your users aren’t even bothered that their photos are lost to the ether after 10 seconds? Who’s doing it right?

Celebrities

Following Instagram’s lead, the celebrity Snapchat profile has become increasingly commonplace - and where there’s celebrities, there’s FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Some celebrities have even built their personal brand out of Snapchat and now use the platform to boost their celebrity status.  

DJ Khaled is the King of Snapchat - no seriously, he called himself the King of Snapchat - and with 6 million followers it seems that we have crowned him such.

DJ Khaled snapchat

DJ Khaled’s Snapchat is essential for brands – honestly if you want to know what makes someone a ‘must follow’ then check out his classics. It’s the perfect blend of silliness, story, drama and memes that make him one of those Snapchatters which you talk about IRL (in real life).

Another must-follow to understand what gets follows on Snapchat is Kylie Jenner – beauty mogul and envy of most 16-24 year old women. Why? Because most of her images look effortlessly glamorous, she mostly dances to hip hop and shows off her immaculate make up. It sounds like the typical Snapchat of an 18 year old living in California but with the exception that this 18-year-old is the most viewed person on Snapchat ever.

Kylie Jenner Snapchat

Why should we care what celebrities are doing on Snapchat though?

When celebrities jump on the bandwagon of a product it usually kick-starts a huge amount of hype and ensuing growth, but it also turns this closed network into an open one. Rather than just following your close friends, Snapchat can now be viewed through a similar lens to Instagram where you’re likely to follow your friends, a celebrity or two, your favourite restaurant and hey, why not a couple of brands who are doing cool content? That’s the in you need to assimilate your brand onto a new platform without becoming intrusive.

So what are brands currently doing on Snapchat that’s working?

Whilst everyone is touting 2016 as the year of advertising for Snapchat, there are lots of brands already on the platform proving that paid media isn’t what’s connecting with young people. 

Taco Bell snapchat

Taco Bell

Described as a ‘millennial playground’ by Digiday, the Tacobell Snapchat is a prime example of brands using the platform correctly. Not too controlled or planned (or planned to look that way) it uses real-time content to connect with the brand audience, which is typically 16-25 year olds – perfect for Snapchat. This year they also created its own Valentine’s Day e-cards that users could screenshot, personalise and send to their own Valentines.

Birchbox

Birchbox

Birchbox is a subscription based monthly beauty box that’s filled with the newest and latest beauty brands and trends. Their website and emails are based around Birchbox also becoming an expert in the field of beauty and offering a behind the scenes look at the aggregating of the box, giving sneak peeks for their more dedicated users. A bit more planned and organised than typical snaps, their audience appreciates classier sensibilities in their inbox.

Burberry snapchat mario testino

Burberry

Burberry took a more campaign-based approach to their Snapchat, launching an exclusive 24-hour fashion campaign with famed photographer Mario Testino. The key audience driver for the campaign was that the exclusive images were only up for 24 hours before they disappeared completely – a great use of a high-end cultural influencer teaming with a young hip platform teetering on the edge of becoming essential for millennials.

TL;DR

With their users’ photos and videos gone in a matter of seconds it seems ironic that Snapchat may actually be here to stay. The platform has tapped into a certain generation who have embraced it with open arms, including the celebrities and brands that are now signing up. This is because they’re getting on-board early and doing it correctly. If your brand is right for Snapchat - and you do need to make sure that this platform is right for you first – then definitely take the time to become absorbed in it first before planning your strategy. It’s been concluded that millennials hate traditional advertising, so it is absolutely essential to be authentic with your message, because they’ll recognise a sell when they see one.

Contact us if you want to find out what we offer to social media, or read how to get 100,000 impressions on Twitter or which social media platform you should be focusing on.