Making it snappy: the marketer’s definitive guide to Snapchat
The speed of Snapchat’s ascent in the social media world is matched only by that of its monetisation efforts. While the platform itself still has to prove its chops, the challenge is for brands to harness the app’s popularity without looking like the awkward uncle. By Tate Papworth.
If the notion that, in advertising, brands should be where customers are is anything to go by, then Snapchat is definitely a place to be. According to the company, stories posted in the app can draw tens of millions of viewers per day.
With reach that high, it’s no surprise that brands are eager to associate themselves with the app. But the concept of advertising is relatively new to Snapchat. It was just 15 months ago that the first paid ad – a preview of Universal Studios’ horror film, Ouija – was rolled out. The move was met with mixed reaction by Snapchat’s users.
It also seems that Snapchat itself is still coming to grips with the best way to monetise. (It’s by no means alone in that category – the ‘grow first, monetise later’ route is still a work in progress for the Silicon Valley giants.)
Upon releasing the Ouija ad, Snapchat posted a statement to its blog and did its best to assure users that the app wasn’t about to go down the traditional route of sponsored content, but rather position itself as a tool for creative minds to generate engaging content.
“We won’t put advertisements in your personal communication – things like Snaps or Chats. That would be totally rude. We want to see if we can deliver an experience that’s fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted. It’s nice when all of the brilliant creative minds out there get our attention with terrific content,” the statement said.
The key to engagement
The best use of the app from a marketing perspective is for brands to share their stories in the same short, creative snippets that daily users do, says Joseph Pardillo, Carat Australia Melbourne managing director.
“As everyone fights for the attention span of people, we all of a sudden have an app where you can tell a story of yourself in many different, quick snaps and, if strung together, that desire Millennials have to tell their story throughout the day draws a high level of engagement to the app itself,” he says.
“If brands are able to mimic the consumer behaviour and in turn use the tech platform to also tell the stories about their own brand through those quick snippets and on-the-go type ways, imagine how powerful that can be,” adds Pardillo.
In a recent promotion for its Time Out chocolate brand, Cadbury teamed up with Virtue, Vice’s in-house creative agency. Users were encouraged to utilise the drawing capabilities of Snapchat and turn pictures presented to them into unique works of art.
Vice strategic planner Alice Kimberley says the strategy was a huge success, largely because it utilised Snapchat’s features and encouraged users to engage.
“People really want to be creative, but often don’t have the access or outlet, but Snapchat, just being able to draw on the pictures we provided, made it so easy to do and incredibly easy to enter. It wasn’t like a normal competition, you didn’t have to write 200 words or create a video; it was literally your finger on the screen, working with the existing artwork,” says Kimberley.
The key to getting the right formula for engagement, according to author of The Great Fragmentation and columnist for Marketing, Steve Sammartino, is a combination of having the right team in place and having trust in them to use the tool creatively.
“One thing that needs to happen is that brands need to have creative people in-house and they need to have trust in them. Snapchat isn’t a thing where you can have these contrived social media strategies and those sorts of things,” he says. “Snapchat is not like that.”
The power of teaming up with the right partners was clearly demonstrated in 2014 when Audi and its agency Huge teamed up with satirical news site, The Onion, during the Super Bowl to provide people with “news that isn’t football.”
It was the first large-scale Snapchat campaign to achieve major success and emphasises the point that traditional forms of advertising aren’t going to work as well as campaigns that utilise the features the app offers.
The anatomy of Snapchat
- Snaps: The disappearing-selfies feature on which the app was built, can be videos or still photos.
- Chat: As the message suggests it’s instant messaging but, like the selfies, each message only lasts a little while before disappearing.
- Stories: The past day in the life of everyone you follow, comprising short clips. ‘Live Stories’ are available for brands to sponsor to get in front of users who don’t already follow them.
- Discover: Feeds of text-based new articles, with some video, from old and new media players such as CNN, News.com.au, BuzzFeed and Vice, interspersed with advertising, in a layout reminiscent of semi-interactive iPad magazines.
- Lenses: Graphic overlays on selfie photos or videos, including things like current city name, vintage filters, current speed and face-tracking animations that make you look like you’re spewing rainbows.
Huge reach is possible
The numbers being generated by Snapchat, combined with current trends seeing a spike in users in the 25- to 40- year-old age bracket, make it an enticing platform for brands to sell their message, says Kim Barrett, founder of Your Social Voice.
“Based upon the trend and where it’s going, by the end of the year it’s going to be one of the biggest aggregators of attention, where you can share a snippet of what you’re doing every day, which isn’t just potentially attractive for prospective customers, but also allows you to share your brand message on a platform e ciently and e ectively,” says Barrett.
In November last year, Universal became the first company to utilise the ‘lenses’ feature in a one-day campaign to promote The Peanuts Movie. Users were able to click on an icon, which overlaid images of Peanuts characters, Snoopy and Woodstock around the photo while the show’s theme song played.
The campaign was an effective use of the app’s features, tying in with the notion that, to effectively communicate with consumers, a brand must use the app in the same manner the audience does. It’s a different, purer tack to that taken by Facebook, which, while offering paid-for status updates on one hand, runs a lot of display advertising on the other.
Although successful, the Peanuts campaign came with a hefty price tag. The Financial Times reported that the ad cost Universal US$750,000 for one day, which may be why others haven’t been quick to adopt the same approach.
Ad prices like these are something for which Snapchat has been heavily criticised since opening its doors to paid promotion.
If a promotion is done correctly, however, the large price can be a solid investment. At last year’s Super Bowl, Gato- rade followed in the footsteps of Universal and created a sponsored lens, where users could take a snap in which a giant virtual bucket of Gatorade is dumped on their head, as is tradition with the coach of the winning team.
It was a success for the company. According to Gatorade, the lens had over 100 million views.
Another relatively new feature, ‘Discover’ is an attempt to help ads become innovative, although some have questioned the e ectiveness of using the feature to promote, especially given the hefty price tag attached.
Carat Australia’s Joseph Pardillo believes that the Discover feature is problematic in that it doesn’t truly utilise Snapchat’s functionality.
“Going down the path of creating handles and using the Snapchat Discover functionality is probably still a bit funky and not maximising the app itself, but when you start to talk about creating filters and allowing brands to influence the functionality that the app is mainly used for, that’s the area I think that will be the first cab off the rank in terms of really maximising the benefit of what this app is all about,” says Pardillo.
Kimberley suggests the Discover feature is a great way for companies to introduce themselves to users.
“Great brands are using Discover overseas. If you waddle in there as a brand and just expect audiences to watch your story, you’re very naïve. You need to earn your stripes with Snapchat in a lot of ways,” she says.
“That’s why the Discover feature and leveraging influencers is so important in the first instance. It gets an audience primed and ready to engage with your content.”
To the question of price
Snapchat is in the early stages of making advertisement more accessible for smaller companies, recently slashing its ad prices from US$750,000 to US$100,000.
Even as the technology continues to evolve, and regard- less of whether the platform provides a changing set of features or lands on a stable formula, advertisers will need to become more innovative in order to engage with users.
US fast food chain Taco Bell is an early adopter of this approach, employing a team of two young people to form an in-house Snapchat team. The team is responsible for crafting content specifically for the Stories section of the app three times a week.
The team has been a success for the company and received high praise for its Valentine’s Day campaign, which started last year and continued in 2016. The campaign allowed users to send their Valentine a fun taco-themed snap and was the perfect example of a company using the app in the same way its consumers do.
We haven’t seen the app embraced this way in Australia yet, but Your Social Voice’s Kim Barrett believes that as the app grows, so too will the time and e ort companies put into it.
“I haven’t seen any companies down here doing it to that scale, but I’ve seen some individuals pushing quite hard. I think by around June we’ll have some emerging companies on there and as the year progresses it will become better known, but at the moment there is still reluctance towards it,” says Barrett.
The reluctance towards using Snapchat stems from a combination of a lack of understanding of the technology and the lingering e ects from an image problem associated with the app in its early years. (The disappearing selfies led to a reputation as ‘the sexting app’.)
Barrett believes any reservations towards the brand are unfounded, however, and those who choose to adopt now will reap the rewards.
“There’s a reluctance, but I think it is shifting. It’s very similar to the way that not many people wanted to be on Instagram, but as soon as they rolled out Instagram ads, everyone wanted to be on there,” he says
“So I think there is a reluctance still, but all that means is that the people who are early adopters, or people who want to jump into it with two feet are going to have an advantage at the end of the year when it becomes more widely used.”
Snapchat is known as a tool that engages with Millennials, therefore it’s only natural to assume that it’s really only of any use, in a marketing sense, to companies trying to reach that elusive market; however, Barrett believes there’s room for businesses of all types on the app.
“I think it’s a great platform and I’ve seen a wide range of different people on there. It’s a really elective platform and unless your business is somewhat secretive, like a private investigator, I think it’s pretty suitable for a business in pretty much any scope,” he says.
Similarly, Sammartino argues that Snapchat isn’t any less suitable for a brand than any other form of social media.
“Different forums suit different brands, but I think Snapchat is appropriate for most brands. I think that if Twitter is appropriate for your brand, then Snapchat certainly is,” he says.
While Vice’s Alice Kimberley agrees with the notion that Snap- chat is a Millennial-based app, she believes the perception of a Millen- nial is incorrect and doesn’t see this as a reason for companies to shy away from using the app.
“If you look at it from a demo- graphic perspective, most Millennials are 25 to 34. People that age are buying houses and having kids. So the percep- tion it’s for youth is incorrect and needs to be updated,” she says.
“This is a fantastic acquisition tool in terms of saliency with younger audiences. I don’t think there’s a better tool to get those younger audiences and I can’t think of a brand right now that shouldn’t be recruiting Millennials.”
Taking on Twitter for live events
Live events provide further opportunity for brands to cash in as well. Through Snapchat, it’s very possible for brands to get themselves involved in real-time conversations surrounding particular events, without having to pay large sums of money to become official sponsors.
This has traditionally been the domain of Twitter. Given the type of platform Snapchat is, however, further audience engagement through interactive features is highly achievable, which can create more meaningful consumer engagement.
Again, Australian companies are a little behind when it comes to this, but overseas, it’s becoming more and more prevalent. For example, last year’s Super Bowl saw brands including Mountain Dew and GrubHub join the conversa- tion with interactive stories, which relied on user interaction to dictate how the story proceeded.
Similarly, at half-time McDonald’s released a short snap of a group of friends on a couch, ordering their product. The snap was highly relatable and came at a time when the majority of American users were doing the same thing – sitting on the couch with friends and family, waiting for the game to start again.
In addition, the trailer for Pitch Perfect 2, which featured during the game, created history as the first ad to directly reference Snapchat.
Concerns remain around measurement
With doubts on the ability to measure the true audience reach on the app, Snapchat has recently launched ‘audi ence bundles’ in an attempt to take the first steps towards targeted marketing on the platform. The bundle allows advertisers to buy specific audience bundles, grouped by theme, in the Discover section.
While the audience targeting isn’t quite the demographic-based targeting marketers are keen to see, it’s certainly a step forward and proof that the company is listening.
In a further step towards an enhanced advertising platform, Snap- chat recently announced a global partnership with Viacom. This is a big move, anchored in both content production and advertising sales. The deal will allow Viacom to sell its advertising alongside its own content on the Discover feature and, in addition, Viacom now has the right to sell Snapchat’s US operated ad inventory, which includes ads in ongoing Stories.
Given the fact it’s still relatively new, Snapchat is yet to establish a base in Australia; however, Barrett believes as the platform continues its rise as an advertising machine, Australia will soon see a base on its shores, much like it has with Facebook and Twitter.
“They probably won’t have a base here until a decent advertising platform is rolled out, because that’s really the only reason they would and why companies like Facebook and Twitter are down here. However, I suspect that’s only a matter of time,” Barrett says.
With massive reach capability and an abundance of engaged Millennials, Snapchat is only going to grow as an advertising medium in the coming years. Companies who utilise the app in an innovative, creative way and, more importantly, in the same way its users do, are going to reap the rewards in the future.