Snapchat is a social media platform that allows users to send temporary, seconds-long images to other users. Launched in 2011 by former Stanford students Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, the platform lives off its short-term messages, which become inaccessible after they’re opened.
Although Snapchat is one of the most popular mobile social media apps, its website (as you’d expect) doesn’t receive as much traffic, according to internet analytics company Alexa. Business Insider reports 158 million use the app every day, opening it, on average, 18 times daily. Additionally, 63 percent of respondents to a Variety survey said the main motivation for using the app was to message friends.
Unlike most social networking platforms, the app’s messaging services are entirely mobile-based, so if you want to use Snapchat for your business, your smartphone will become a crucial marketing tool.
Snapchat is also more widely used among millennials, so consider your target audience before committing to the platform. If you want to become a Snapchat marketing pro, you’ll need to understand the app in-depth.
Signing up for an account
Just like Facebook, you must sign up for an account to use Snapchat. You can’t view its content like you do on Twitter or Instagram. However, registration can only be completed on some type of mobile device.
To sign up, you first have to download the app in your mobile device’s app store. Next, open the app and click the Sign Up button. From there, you’ll add your birthday, choose a username, enter your email address and start adding friends from your contacts list.
You’ll want to use your own information as a small business owner, rather than information about your business. During this process, you’ll also be required to verify your account by hunting for ghosts in a grid of nine images.
The anatomy of a Snap
Now that you’ve signed up for an account, it’s time to navigate the opening screen. When you first open the app, the screen defaults to a standard back-facing camera setting.
The top left button, a lightning bolt with or without an X beside it, indicates flash or no flash. The top right button, a camera symbol with two arrows surrounding an O shape, will switch the camera to its front face for selfie mode. The top center ghost icon will lead you to your profile.
To take a photo, press the bottom circular button. Press and hold to take a video. Once you have taken a photo, you can adjust how long the picture will last (from one to 10 seconds) when it is sent to a friend, using the bottom left clock icon. However, before you send your Snap, there are a few ways to edit it using the top right icons.
First, there are a series of emoji stickers to add, including Bitmojis, using the turning page icon. Bitmojis must be enabled in your settings and linked with your Snapchat account, Buzzfeed News says. Next, there’s text in a default bold, white font, which overlays your content using the capital T icon. The drawing tool, which allows you to paint over your content, is the pencil icon located at the very right of the top corner.
Using a thumb, you can swipe left or right to apply a series of filters. There are color filters, similar to those you see on Instagram, which adjust the color of your content. Then there are three similar kinds of filters, where each displays temperature, time and speed. Lastly, you can speed up, slow down or reverse your content (if it’s a video) with different filters.
Next to the timer icon on the bottom left corner, there’s an arrow icon that allows you to save your videos and pictures before or after they’re edited. Previously, the app stored all saved content into your phone’s photo gallery, but it has since evolved into the Memories feature.
According to Mashable, you can import photos directly from your camera roll as well as store content from your stories. The My Eyes Only feature within Memories allows users to password-protect content using a passphrase or a four-digit code. However, know that you can’t recover your password if you forget it.
The third button from the left toward the center (a square border with a plus sign in its upper right corner), allows you to add content to your Snapstory, which is discussed in depth later in this guide.
Customizing your profile
Snapchat is a rather unconventional social network in that it doesn’t allow users to customize an extensive profile. However, it does offer space for users to provide information about themselves.
At the default screen, the top center ghost icon leads you to your profile. Here, you can view your Snapchat score, which is the total number of Snaps you’ve sent and received. You can also see which users have added you under the Added Me tab as well as click shortcuts Add Friends and My Contacts.
The top trophy icon reveals a trophy case of accomplishments (like Sent a Video Snap or Sent 10,000 Snaps) through the app. You can tap on each icon to view its description. If you’re new to the platform, many, if not all, icons will be locks.
At the profile screen, you’ll notice a yellow square with a white ghost in the center. The white area will later be filled with your avatar, which is viewable to anyone on the platform. To change your avatar, click the ghost and get ready to pose! Your camera will take a few photos in a row automatically, which will later be compiled into a GIF and ultimately, create your avatar. You can also opt for a picture from your camera roll, such as a company logo or group photo.
These unique avatars are generated into QR codes, says TechCrunch, which were introduced in January 2015. Rather than searching for a user manually, a user can focus their Snapchat camera on another user’s code to add them without typing their name. Now, you can generate a QR code that links to any web page on the internet through the app.
Interacting with other Snapchat users
There are several ways to interact with other Snapchat users. Unlike most social networks, these interactions are all private, with the exception of the stories feature.
- Adding users: To add users to your friends list, you’ll need to search for their usernames. You can also connect to your contacts list, which allows you to add other users based on their phone number. As mentioned prior, you can add another user using their specific QR code.
- Viewing stories: You can view and reply to other users’ Snap stories. They will be notified of both.
- Sending snaps: A more straightforward step, you can send and receive photo and video content with other users. These interactions are what built and established the entire platform. If you screenshot a Snap, the sender of the Snap will be notified.
- Instant messaging: With the instant messaging feature, you can chat privately amongst users. Responses can be sent much faster than standard text messages, and you can see when the other user is typing. When you reply to a user’s specific Snap sent to you, or a portion of their Snap story, your reply will be sent as an instant message. If you screenshot an instant message, the sender of the message will be notified.
- Sending Snapcash: You’ll need to activate this feature in your Settings and link with a credit or debit card, Business Insider describes, where you can also view your transaction history and add a security code to appear before each transaction. You can enter how much you want to send to a user through an instant message. The company recommends not sending money to users you don’t know personally.
Stories are individual compilations of user content, which expire 24 hours after each Snap video or photo is added. Although no story is too long, you need at least one photo or video to compile a story. Portions of the story can be deleted at any time.
You’re able to see which and how many users view your story. That means other users can see when you view their stories. While you can watch a user’s story as many times as you want, the user will not be notified of how many times you view it.
A story is a great way to show your audience daily operations of your business. It gives potential customers an idea of what an average day in the life is at your workplace. In addition, it gives your employees an opportunity to express their unique personalities.
There are also Live Stories, which allows users “who are at the same event or a specific location to contribute Snaps to the same community narrative,” the company explains. Location services should be turned on to contribute. For instance, major cities, including Los Angeles and New York City, have their own Live Stories, which are always ongoing. They can also be oriented around a specific event, such as the Super Bowl or the Oscars.
Ways to advertise
There are quite a few ways to advertise on Snapchat. According to the company’s site, there are three main methods: Snap ads, sponsored geofilters and sponsored lenses. Major brands like Vans, Coca-Cola, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have used Snapchat for marketing campaigns.
Snap ads are 10-second, full-screen, vertical videos and can offer some type of interactive element, such as a call to action to visit a specific link. Two-thirds of all ads include audio, which play automatically with the sound on. The short clip should provide information about your company and what its products and/or services are.
Gatorade, for instance, once featured an 8-bit tennis game that celebrated Serena Williams’ 23rd Grand Slam victory. For more creative guidance and development, check out the company’s guide to Snap ad attachments. The possibilities are endless.
Sponsored geofilters allow users to send Snaps from specific locations. The lenses can cover a specific location, like coffee shops or department stores. For instance, if your business has multiple branches, you can set the geofilters to your specific locations. If you’re familiar with the platform, you’ll notice major cities and its boroughs have different filters, like Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York City.
Additionally, a geofilter can be also applied nationwide under a certain theme or holiday, like Cheerios’ National Cereal Day and Michael Kors’ National Sunglasses Day filters.
Many brands utilize geofilters to promote events. In June 2017, Snapchat made it easier for all users to design a custom geofilter. By going to settings and selecting On-Demand Geofilters, there are dozens of templates. You can customize it with colors and words. With pricing starting at $5.99, this is an affordable marketing option for any small business.
Sponsored lenses are more interactive than geofilters. Filters are applied after a video or picture is taken, prior to sending to friend(s) and/or adding to a Snapstory. Lenses have special facial recognition technology, which allows users to become dogs, pretend to be Santa Claus, turn into demons, wear flower crowns and even puke rainbows through the app. It happens in three steps: pretrigger of detecting a user’s face, trigger of reacting to the user’s expression (like sticking a tongue out or queuing music) and post-trigger of creating the final product.
If your company sells cars, for example, your sponsored lens could have a user driving a new car with a Little Trees air freshener. The company says this product is their most popular, driving on average three times higher brand awareness than mobile norms and two times lift in purchase intent.
In January 2016, the platform unveiled a new corporate feature: Discover. It’s an entirely different part of the app. With it, users view content created by prominent media organizations like Vice, Cosmopolitan and ESPN.
Similar to the Stories feature, Discover stories compile both audio-video and photo content, which links to articles and graphics, through a Pinterest-like dashboard. TechCrunch says you can choose your favorites and send parts of Discover stories to specific users individually.
In February 2018, Snapchat launched its own merchandise store that lives inside Snapchat Discover, according to TechCrunch. In the Snap Store, users can buy items such as a dancing hot dog plush doll and a streak hat. Currently, the store only features Snapchat items, however, in the future it could potentially be an in-app commerce platform for other brands, which would be big for small businesses.
While brands do have the opportunity to advertise within Discover stories, the costs are out of reach for many small business owners. Wallaroo Media reports these ads begin at $50,000 for daily rates. Plus, the spots, which get premium placement by the app, are already reserved for publications and well-known brands. A live story, on the other hand, begins at $250,000.
A note about influencers
If you know anything about DJ Khaled and his Snapchat success, then you know how the platform can reach an audience even beyond the mobile app. The record producer and radio personality’s Snapchat account gained attention in late 2015. His legacy has since been deemed a “living meme” and “meme in human form” by enthusiastic fans.
Why is DJ Khaled so important for small business owners, anyway? He’s a perfect example of how much leverage a single influencer can have on Snapchat. These influencers cultivate large audiences that you can potentially market to if you choose to pursue a partnership with them. For instance, it’s a great opportunity for product placement. Many influencers promote brands and products for a fee (though it often exceeds its return on investment for companies). Of course, this is an alternative way to advertise that isn’t mediated by Snapchat itself.
To learn about more popular personalities, Mashable compiles other marketing influencers on the platform, such as Elite Daily co-founder Gerard Adams, Instagram fashion editor Eva Chen and Wall Street Journal technology journalist Joanna Stern.
Snapchat tips and tricks
Now that you understand the basics of Snapchat, here are a few tips and tricks to use the app to your brand’s advantage.
- Document your company’s day-to-day operations. What’s a day in the life like at your company? Use the app’s story feature to walk followers through business operations at your workplace. Give them a sneak, exclusive peak they can’t see anywhere else on social media.
- Upload content regularly. Don’t let your following forget that you exist. Use the app regularly to upload frequent, daily content. Snap stories are a good opportunity for this, especially for capturing what it’s like to work for your business.
- Interact with other users. Many users use the app’s messaging feature, so be sure to answer any messages that come your way. The same goes for returning photo snaps.
- Sponsor a Snap Ad. Ten-second audio-visual clips are more traditional but allow you the creative freedom to drive an advertisement using video content as you would on Twitter, Instagram or a similar site.
- Sponsor a lens. Inspire users to engage with your brand’s awareness by bringing it to life. Find a way an average customer would engage with your business’s products or services and apply it to a lens. If you sell coffee, it could be as simple as the filter allowing the user to drink coffee. As mentioned earlier, sponsored lenses are the most effective on the entire platform.
- Design a sponsored geofilter. If you use Snapchat in any McDonald’s across the country with your location settings on, a McDonald’s themed geofilter will appear while flipping through your different filters before sending a snap. You can do the same with your business.