Oh, Snap! Engaging with Millennials on Snapchat

“Snapchat is an interesting beast,” Daniel Russell, manager at Go Fish Digital, began.

Created in response to the immediate regret one of the founders felt after sending a picture to a girl, Snapchat was originally labeled the “sexting app.” Snapchat today, though, is only used by two percent of users for this purpose.

According to a survey of college students, the top reasons they preferred to use Snapchat were that it expresses their creativity, is an easy way to keep in touch, and it’s easier than texting. 

Now with 200 million active users, Snapchat is quickly gaining an edge on Twitter and Instagram, and has 1/8th the number of users that Facebook has. Snapchat, however, is actually way above its weight in content consumed per second.

Snapchat, despite its comparative popularity among social media users, is not itself social media. It has no running feed.

Snapchat is also different because there’s no pressure to present your best self, and as a result, no viral effect. In contrast to Facebook and Twitter, it’s heavily image-driven, with limited capacity for written messages – so on Snapchat, you’ve got to keep your message short.

But for a younger demographic, Russell says, this is perfect. “Longform ads in a three-minute segment just aren’t working anymore,” he said. It’s not that millennials have short attention spans, he said. It’s that their time is more valuable to them.

A major drawback, though, is the lack of search functionality – both for finding other interesting users and for exploring topics of interest to the user. If the user doesn’t have another user’s user name or phone number, they won’t be able to search for them in the app.

So with that in mind, how can you start using Snapchat for your brand?

Marketers first have to overcome the barrier to entry – start by making your brand public. Distribute your Snapchat code or username on other social media. Warby Parker, for example, even does contests and giveaways to encourage people to connect with them on Snapchat.

After you’ve done that, be sure to post stories when something cool happens. But make sure it’s relevant to your users – and tone down the promotion.

“This is where so many marketers get tripped up, as soon as they get on there they start promoting,” Russell said. “Snapchat’s more about the long game – it’s about building awareness, but also about building brand loyalty.”

“lt’s not necessarily a transactional platform – and that’s okay.”

How NOT to Snapchat:

  • Don’t take non-adjustable, horizontal snaps. Unlike videos or images on other social media, Snapchat is built for vertical photos and videos.
  • Don’t stick to the eight-second default snap time. Try to stick to 4-5 seconds, unless there’s more text for followers to read.
  • Be careful with fan takeovers. “It can go wrong so fast,” Russell said. “Try to keep control of it.”
  • Avoid posting content with the expectation that it will disappear. “The sexters learned that early on, now brands are learning it.”

Snapchat Case Studies: The Good, the Great, and the Ugly

  • Richard Jefferson
    Jefferson, a basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, started snapping last year during the season. Supposedly, his snaps average between 3 mil and 3.5 mil views per snap. He goes behind the scenes, often in the locker room. “Snapchat is so good for this,” Russell said. “It’s just really personal content.”
  • Taco Bell
    “Taco Bell kills it on Snapchat, they do such a good job,” Russell said. From fun drawings on their snaps to a filter that turned the user’s face into a giant taco, Russell said Taco Bell is constantly doing innovative things on their Snapchat that click with younger demographics.
    “It’s that more personal, one-to-one feel,” Russell said. “And again, it’s about just knowing your audience.”
  • Snapchat
    When Snapchat introduced a Bob Marley filter they faced massive backlash, with negative media coverage from outlets including Time, USA Today, and CNN. They quickly removed the filter, but the negative perception wasn’t as easy to dispel. Russell warns against rolling out new things on Snapchat without thinking it through.
    “Don’t take yourself too seriously, but if you’re planning on doing something edgy, it’s probably a good idea to run it by somebody else first,” he said.

So if your brand is ready to take the leap into Snapchat, just remember, one size doesn’t fit all – don’t use the same tactics as on social media.

What if you’re not ready to join Snapchat? That’s okay too, Russell said.

You have to know your brand, and really consider whether Snapchat is right for you and your brand.

“It worked great for Taco Bell, it works great for a lot of consumer brands, but it may not be right for you,” he said.

To connect with Daniel, follow him on Twitter or visit his website.