What is it?
Created in 2011, Snapchat is a social media newcomer that continues to grow in popularity. This smartphone application has amassed 26 million users who log nearly 400 million photo and video messages daily. These messages, known as “snaps,” are sent to controlled lists of recipients after senders add optional text captions and drawings. What differentiates Snapchat from other messaging apps is that senders set a 1 to 10 second time limit for messages to be viewed, after which the snap disappears from the sender and recipients’ devices and is deleted from Snapchat’s servers. Despite the destruction of messages, recipients can still screenshot snaps, but the app will let the sender know if this has occurred. Users can create Snapchat “stories,” combinations of images and 5-second videos that can be shared over a span of 24 hours. The story self-destructs after this time period.

Who can benefit?
Since Snapchat is available solely on smartphones, it is a viable channel only for mobile social media marketing. Adequately promoting a business through its short-term visual message format necessitates a good deal of creativity. The key to generating new customers and reaching existing ones, however, is informality. Businesses on Snapchat should understand how to communicate casually, with authenticity and humor. The app can best be leveraged by businesses seeking an opportunity to send personalized or exclusive content for a limited time only. That being said, Snapchat is hugely popular among teenagers and millennials in the 13-25 age range, so businesses whose target markets are composed of this younger demographic stand to gain the most from a Snapchat presence.

How can businesses use it?
Businesses should begin by setting up a Snapchat profile and adding users as friends; users essentially opt into a business’s messages by accepting its friend requests. Simply maintaining an active account with relevant snaps will help a business to stand out from its competition, since Snapchat has yet to achieve the business following that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have.

Snapchat is an excellent tool for increasing brand awareness and excitement, as businesses can share time-sensitive offers and exclusive promotional content. Current customers, for example, can be rewarded with coupons or online promo codes in the form of snaps. Since snaps disappear quickly, customers will have to take screenshots, giving the business an automatic way to track metrics. If sponsoring or hosting an event, a business can use snaps to share inside information with attendees in real time. Events such as tours, tastings, and sales could even be set up as Snapchat-invitation only.

The app is also useful for previewing new products, which can easily be done by sending a string of teaser snaps leading up to the product launch. This strategy builds customer anticipation around a new product before it even gets put on shelves. Existing products can be showcased through several separate snaps or a single story, briefly telling customers why they should check out the item. Product giveaways can be organized through Snapchat as well. Customers can be asked to send snaps that meet a certain set of contest criteria, featuring their username and a unique hashtag, to be entered into a drawing.

By portraying a brand’s personality, Snapchat will help a business to seem more personable, approachable, and relatable. Any snaps sent by a business should have a sense of fun. Snaps should not be highly polished; preferably, they aim for novelty rather than a lasting message, and they are meant to entertain. Humorous behind-the-scenes office footage is a good example of this.

Snapchat can even assist in linking social media marketing channels. The app can be used to cross-promote content from other social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, and followers from these sites can be encouraged to add a business on Snapchat. Snaps or stories can feature captions that ask users to visit a website, a special YouTube video, or another social media account.