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There One Moment, Gone the Next: Understanding Snapchat

There One Moment, Gone the Next: Understanding Snapchat

by Jessica Jones

If you know anyone in the 13-25 age group then you may be familiar with Snapchat. If your target audience focuses on this age group, then you really ought to be familiar with Snapchat. For those still doing their best to hide under the bed whenever the subject of new social media comes up, Snapchat is an app that allows users to communicate by sending images and videos back and forth – sort of like picture messaging after drinking five shots of espresso.

Snapchat lets you edit a picture or video before sending it, writing or drawing on it to personalize it however you see fit – but don’t spend too long creating your masterpiece, because in most cases your intended audience will only be able to view it for ten seconds or less. When you send a Snap you can set a time limit of how long the receiver is allowed to view it – with ten seconds being the max.

Maturity & sophistication on Snapchat.
Maturity & sophistication on Snapchat.

Of course there are ways to save the pictures – screenshots are a common way to capture Snaps before they disappear – but regular users of Snapchat aren’t going to screenshot everything, just the pictures that they’ve got a particular reason to save. Many Snapchat transmissions are viewed for their intended number of seconds and then allowed to vanish.

Okay, that’s what it does – but do you need to care about it?

So is Snapchat relevant to your business? Do you need to learn more about it? The answer to that is, unsurprisingly, a big ol’ “it depends.” The biggest factor is whether it’s important to your business or organization to reach out to users in Snapchat’s age demographic. If so, then yes, it would be a good idea for you to have a presence on Snapchat.

Business presences on Snapchat are still a bit wild and wooly. Snapchat is like amped up text messaging; it’s more friendly to one-on-one or small-circle exchanges than to business that want to reach large audiences with each message. It isn’t like Facebook or Twitter where users Like or Follow you and are then able to see all of your posts – most Snapchat exchanges are conducted on a smaller scale.

In recent months, however, Snapchat has introduced features opening up more opportunities for brands to make their mark – Snapchat Discover features fresh content each day (Snapchat “stories” only last 24 hours before they are replaced) provided by brands like CNN, the Food Network and Vice. While your business may not be able to duke it out for Snapchat space with the likes of People Magazine, this development is a sign that Snapchat’s popularity is continuing to grow – and so are the possibilities for using it as a marketing tool.

Snapchat has been around for close to four years now, which is well beyond the timeline of “passing fad” when it comes to mobile apps. Its user base is still primarily made up of people under the age of 25 – and more and more business that market to that age group are starting to take it seriously. A little Google research will turn up plenty of lists of businesses that have creatively used Snapchat to distribute coupons, promotions, and other content to their users.

This isn’t your mama’s social media!

With Snapchat, creativity is a requirement – this isn’t Facebook where you can type two sentences, hit “Post” and potentially reach hundreds of people. Snapchat is fun, super visual and extremely fast moving – you’ve got ten seconds or less to catch your viewer’s attention, so you’d better have something worthwhile to show. Unsure where to start? Google “Snapchat campaigns” – there’s ample inspiration fodder out there.

If the youngins aren’t your target audience, then you can safely give Snapchat a miss. It’s certainly not for everyone. If you do decide to give it a go, find someone enthusiastic to manage your Snapchat presence. Success on Snapchat is going to be highly dependent on whether the person or people you put in charge of your Snapchat account are truly in touch with the kind of content that will appeal to Snapchat users – and whether they’re genuinely having fun. Faking it is far, far too easy to detect. One of the reasons that the younger crowd loves Snapchat is that their parents haven’t flocked in like they have on Facebook – if your Snaps give off a trying-too-hard vibe, or you come off like the lone parent in a college dorm, your campaign isn’t going to get much traction.

So grab your phone, get crazy, and Snap your heart out! … Or don’t. Or maybe hire a chipper marketing major fresh out of college to manage it for you. Just make sure you trust her, because Snapchat doesn’t yet have a business account option that would allow you to retain administrative control over the account. Sometimes risk is the cost of doing business on the frontier.