Snapchat – Brand opportunity or irrelevance?

Snapchat – Brand opportunity or irrelevance?

In an age where we are looking to create content that is worth reading, participating in and sharing we are overcome with such a vast range of platforms and channels.

One such platform that has gained headlines and prompted much discussion is Snapchat.

What is Snapchat?

Quite simply the platform where you sign in, create visual content in photographic or video form, and make available to friends for a specified time period of 10 seconds or less. All fine, but what’s the potential for brands? What are the things to jump on, ignore and follow in this new short-term and short-form visual message format?

Play by the Snapchat rules

Well my first point is that Snapchat itself is not to be jumped on or followed blindly. It is not the next panacea for all brands. It has its roots and essence in a content sharing method which lends itself most naturally to particular brands. Brands who embrace a playful personality, and have content that is intrinsically in-tune with me-time/us-time moments amongst a group of mainly 18-25 friends. Advertising is out. Surprise, reward, kudos and, dare I say it, storytelling is in. Obviously that rules in the music, film, leisure, entertainment and sports type brands but it doesn’t rule out other categories. As long as short form visual content is created in the spirit of the community then effective engagement can result.

For example Lynx went right to the heart of the community with their Snapchat experiment Taking the issue of sexting head on, for the launch of its new fragrance, Deep Space, Lynx used Snapchat to circulate exclusive content of launch night host Charlie Webster  on a photoshoot. Responses followed and if any response was a little close to the line Lynx replied with an image of the new Deep Space shower gel, urging people to clean up and take a cold shower. A nice example of a brand, which, while playful by nature, does not exist in a category that would be typically inclined to inhabit a platform such as Snapchat. It showed it can be done by embracing the personality of the app.

A different form of paid media

This personality is also evident in the very way in which Snapchat is creating paid media opportunities. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel promised a less ‘creepy’ and intrusive form of advertising and there are some promising examples of this such as the new Sponsored Lenses and also the Discover product. Ad opportunities that are being built into the nature of the content in a way which contributes to the best experience of sharing content with friends. The ultimate nirvana for all brands and, in my view a positive means for brands and agencies to flex their creative muscles, in readiness for what will be an imperative for content creators of the future.

The Golden rules

So what are the golden rules of using Snapchat for marketing? There are plenty of tips beneath the surface but here are what I believe to be the four absolutes that must be ticked 100% of the time.

  1. Set your commercial and marketing goals

Yep, it’s the old adage. Set yourself up with no defined measures and be braced for the fall. Give yourself clear objectives. But don’t expect the old measures of likes and shares because that’s not how Snapchat works. Sharing content isn’t an option. You’re going to have to use things like impressions (ok, but a bit rough), screenshots (better, as these can be tracked and you can encourage cross platform engagement), social listening (good, as if your content is any good then conversation is going to pick up on Twitter and other social platforms) and couponing (again a good way to ensure and track coupon use as the snap cannot be used until at the point of purchase). 16 handles in the US used the opportunity to coupon in an effective way.

So be clear on what you want for your brand from Snapchat and, whether it is awareness, deeper levels of brand engagement or, purchase action then make it your measure and make it your Snapchat content strategy. This activity can then be easily shared across other channels.

  1. Be in the spirit of the app – exclusive, personal, creative and surprising

Behind the scenes, sneak previews, exclusive content and a sense of personalization work wonderfully on Snapchat. Remember there is no newsfeed to clunk through. It is all on user terms with content served in discreet and relevant storytelling terms. Brands that think in this way and respect the discreet in-box nature of the app will succeed.

  1. Embrace the storytelling feature

Marketers can get the impact by adding snaps to a story, which is a more durable collection of photos and videos, each of which stays accessible for 24 hours after creation and can be replayed without limits during that period. But again brands must tell original stories, behind the scenes footage, the evolution of a product launch or a story told through the lens/in the environment of celebrities. Sponsorships of events and popular properties can be highly effective.

  1. Use it in an integrated manner alongside other channels

Don’t think of Snapchat as an isolated tool. It is there to be driven towards from other channels, to reflect the essence of the brand and to build stories that can be amplified elsewhere. Think use of Snapchat announcements on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook; think use of cross platform hashtags; think cross channel.

So, stick or twist? Stick if you have what it takes – the story, the personality, the energy and the creativity. Twist – if you just cannot yet fulfil the demands of the platform.

But you would be well advised to start looking and learning as, say what you like about the platform, it does have an overriding appetite for one type of content – that of the imaginative variety. And this has to be the future of content, in whatever form and towards whoever it is aimed.