NOT JUST FOR SELFIES ANYMORE: Snapchat adds advertising

In the past year, Snapchat’s popularity has skyrocketed. The photo sharing app is currently valued at $10 billion – and that was before the introduction of its new ad units earlier this month!

The majority of my friends and contemporaries are regular—and enthusiastic – users. Unfortunately, Snapchat seems to have gotten a bad rap. Most of the people I know who don’t use it don’t really understand it; they think its sole purpose is to send risqué selfies that disappear after 10 seconds (unless the receiver takes a screenshot). In reality, Snapchat is a way to share photos and videos with friends and has become quite popular among teens and young adults. Here’s the “101” overview.

A “snap” consists of a 1-10 second photo or video that can be sent to one or a few friends that disappears after it is viewed. There is also a “My Story” function, which consists of a string of photos and/or videos that last longer than a direct “snap” – but still are only visible for 24 hours.

What makes Snapchat different from other social media platforms?Disposability. Users are obligated to review content in a timely fashion or miss out on it. According to the pitch deck distributed by Snapchat, “just like in-person conversations” attention is forced. “Every piece of content [users] view is triggered by pressing and holding the screen, meaning people have to consciously engage with content while using Snapchat,” reads the deck. “When people share, recipients pay attention, knowing content can’t be viewed a few days later.” This is what brands are starting to recognize and what Snapchat is trying to make advertisers understand – the app can be an ongoing conversation and connection with a brand’s fans.

Why should this app appeal to brands?
Well, we can start off with the overwhelming user data and engagement metrics. Over 700 million snaps (photo and video) are viewed daily and more than 1 billion stories are viewed daily (note: these can be watched multiple times throughout a 24 hour span). Snapchat also hits an influential, yet difficult-to-reach demographic – its users are mainly in the 13-25 age group and skew female. In a study conducted by Sumpto, 77% of college students used Snapchat at least once. An overwhelming 73% say they would open a Snapchat from a brand they know, while 45% said they would even open a Snapchat from a brand they didn’t know. Those numbers are pretty high and pretty remarkable when you take into consideration the direct conversation capabilities with this audience. This is an entirely new way of storytelling for brands and is a great way to remain relevant with this segment.

How Brands Are Using Snapchat:
Although there aren’t many brands on Snapchat, there are a select few early adopters – such as McDonald’s, Audi and GrubHub – that are taking the app by storm. Brands are using a range of approaches to reach their audience, including:

  • Personal insights (celebrity Snapchat accounts)
  • Exclusive “behind the scenes” content (such as big award shows or red carpet events)
  • In the Moment shots (capturing real-time excitement and events)
  • Promo Codes (discount opportunities)
  • Teasers
  • New product introductions

What are the challenges to getting brands on board with Snapchat?
First off, many advertisers don’t use it personally and don’t understand how it works; therefore, they aren’t quite sure how advertising fits into this app. Also, while building a large audience on Snapchat isn’t impossible, it is more difficult than on other social channels. Doing it requires a lot of work and cross-promotion on other social networks – but isn’t that something brands should be doing anyway? Given that advertisements are a new feature of the app, brands will want to see some metrics and results from campaigns of similar products before giving it a shot.

It won’t be long before we see ads trickling into our Snapchat “Recent Updates” as brands step up to this new challenge. It will be interesting to see how brands take advantage of this new opportunity and which ones will really stand out.