In the past few years, social media has become an essential communications tool for businesses who want to engage directly with their fans and potential customers.
One of the questions we get asked all the time is ‘Should my business be on X social media channel?’. This question is more complex than it might first appear. All social media channels have their own strengths, weaknesses, demographics and core purposes. While one might work well for one business’s goals, it might not suit another.
And, even if it suits your business in theory, your decision to create a presence on a particular site should always be made based on your communication goals, needs and the resources you have to deliver content to that channel. Ultimately, every social media channel should fit into your overall business strategy.
In this new blog series, we’re going to take an in depth look at all the major social media channels to give you the information you need to weigh up whether the channel is right for you. This guide should give you the starting point you need to form a solid social media strategy and some recommended tactics you might like to use.
This time, it’s the turn of Snapchat, the image-based communications app.
What is Snapchat?
Since Snapchat launched in September 2011, it has grown steadily in popularity and now boasts 166 million daily users (May 2017).
Snapchat is one of the simpler social media platforms in terms of functionality. It allows users to take photos and short videos, or ‘Snaps’, to send to friends on their contact list. These Snaps can be modified or jazzed up with stickers, text and filters, which is a major draw for the platform.
Snaps can also be added to a user’s ‘Story’, which acts as a public ‘showreel’ of content that is visible to everyone who opts to view it. You can decide to make your Story visible publicly or to just your friends.
As of June 2017, Snapchat has also introduced the ‘Snap Map’ function. This has several functions:
- You can now track the locations of your Snapchat friends, who show up as ‘Actionmojis’ on the map.
- You can see areas that have generated a lot of Snaps using Snapchat’s heatmap option. When you select these areas, you can view a curated showreel of snaps from this area. You can see how long ago the snaps were recorded but no other information about the user who filmed it.
- For ‘Featured’ businesses and events, Snapchat will place a badge stating the name of the event/business on the map and curate tweets from users who snapped from that location.
The Snap Map is currently the only function which makes your Snaps visible to members of the public without them actively searching for your username
The most notable aspect of Snapchat is that it is designed for temporary private communication first and foremost. While individual Snaps can now have infinite duration (or a time limit of up to 10 seconds, your choice), one-to-one Snaps can only be viewed a maximum of twice. Additionally, while Stories can be viewed by an individual an infinite number of times, every Story only lasts 24 hours before disappearing forever. However, users can screenshot snaps to save them to their phone and keep them permanently.
This said, Snapchat is a very powerful platform, offering the opportunity to send content to and engage directly with individual followers, unhindered by the noise often found on other platforms.
Snapchat also offers the opportunity to pay for Geofilters, image filters that become automatically available to users in specified area over a limited time period. These are separate from a Snapchat account and we recommend reading this article to find out more.
In a nutshell: Millennials. 60% of the platform’s users are under 25. Other demographics use the platform too but at a lesser rate (25-34 year olds make up 26%, 35-54 year olds make up 12%).
Consequently, Snapchat works best for those targeting a young audience.
What it’s best for:
- Informal, quirky short-form visual content – especially if its timely.
- Play-by-play content that showcases an experience or process – the platform works well for narrative content, such as guided tours or how-tos.
- Authentic content – Personality not production values.
- Person-led content – Think vlog-style content, where an individual speaks directly to the camera in an informal way.
- Interacting directly with individual fans or customers – the platform can be used as an instant messaging tool.
- Interactive, two-way content – the platform really shines when it is used for truly interactive content. Live Q&As, video tours that take suggestions from viewers, polls; they’re all a great way to engage your followers.
- Keeping customers or fans ‘warm’ – delivering regular content can keep your brand at the forefront of your intended audience’s mind.
What it does less well
- Dry or information heavy content – In a nutshell, if your content is boring or overly complex, it won’t engage or add any value to your follower’s perception of you!
- Calls to actions – Unlike many other social media platforms, Snaps are not interactive so you cannot currently create ‘clickthroughs’ to websites and online resources. Consequently, the only way to direct people to a specific URL is to write the web address on the Snap and ask people to write this into an internet browser. Find out more about how this can be achieved here. While this is feasible, this creates a significant barrier to these campaigns and is best avoided.
- Promotional content such as ads – Snapchat is designed for personal, authentic content. Traditional ads go directly against this and, if you put them out too regularly, will make your followers want to disengage. Think creatively and use content marketing strategies to make your content implicitly interesting or useful when putting out promotional messages.
- Developing new business – One caveat that those considering Snapchat for their business need to take into account is that, currently, it is very difficult to reach new audiences through the platform. Apart from the Snap Map, there is no way to make your content public facing (i.e. visible to those outside your friend list who have not actively sought out your account) and even on the Snap Map, users can’t see who posted the content by default so you are unlikely to gain followers this way. To gain followers, you currently need to promote your Snapchat through other channels.
In social media terms, Snapchat is somewhat atypical in its offering. The platform has a few quirks that need to be worked around or kept in mind while using the platform.
- All content on Snapchat is time limited. Your Snapchat Story will refresh after 24 hours and your Snaps can only be viewed a maximum of twice. Additionally, rather unhelpfully for businesses, messages sent via the instant messaging platform will be deleted after they have been read, meaning you will need to screenshot messages if you require a permanent record.
- Snapchat accounts work via a single login. You cannot allocate admins or additional users to help you manage content, meaning you’ll have to give log in details to anyone you want to manage the platform.
- The Snapchat app functionality is limited. Snapchat content cannot be scheduled in advance (in platform) and must be posted at the time it’s taken. Additionally, Snapchat can currently only be accessed directly via the app on a mobile phone/tablet. However, there are some external tools that can help with Snapchat management and enable desktop access such as MishGuru.
- Most importantly, for users to see your Snaps or Story, they must actively select to view it. This means that your content must remain consistently engaging to encourage followers to view your content in future. Flooding the platform with boring or heavily promotional content risks turning off your followers and doing more harm than good for your brand.
- Snapchat current has very limited analytics capabilities in app compared to many other social media platforms. The platform allows you to see your follower numbers, how many people viewed some or all (completed) your Story, and how many responded to and screenshotted your Story. These are presented in number form and will need to be analysed manually or via analytics platforms such as Snapanalytics if you wish to track your success. Unfortunately, demographic information or specific stats on who viewed your story are not available.
Snapchat might work for you if:
- You want a platform to engage with fans/buyers, rather than attract new business – First and foremost, Snapchat is an engagement tool. If your goal is to maintain relationships with those who enjoy your brand or product, this platform may be a viable outlet for you.
- Your brand can produce lots of behind-the-scenes, narrative or off the cuff visual content – If you can’t meet this requirement, consider another platform.
- You are representing a physical product, brand or experience – While Snapchat can be used to promote many businesses, the short-form and temporary nature of Snapchat lends itself particularly well to these goals. Products can generally deliver regular content to maintain awareness and build a community around their brand, although the tactics and content used will need to be tailored to the item in question. Experience-based products such as events, shows or even life experiences such as University also thrive particularly well on Snapchat, offering a constant stream of potential content.
- You want a quirky, creative or personal-feeling social media channel that fits with your brand image – Does your company pride itself on friendly, accessible staff? Does your company have ‘fun’ as a value? If so, Snapchat might work for you.
- You are prepared to be authentic and informal – The best content on Snapchat has people and personality at its core. They want their brands to feel ‘real’ and to be personable the same way a celebrity might. Are you prepared to do this?
- You want a platform for interactive Q&As or online events – Snapchat comes into its own when it asks for the audience to interact with the content by responding with suggestions or questions.
Are you considering Snapchat or another social media channel for your business? Don’t know where to start? 360 integrated PR offer a range of social media services for businesses who are established or complete novices in the social media scene. Find out more here or call us for a complimentary chat!