Tips to Avoid Influencer Relationship Fraud


By now, it’s no secret that influencer marketing, when effectively executed, can translate into significant success and profit for businesses and brands. Unfortunately, said profitability has led to increased fraud and corruption within the industry. In a study about influencer fraud conducted by digital marketing expert Digiday, it was reported that a single day’s worth of posts on Instagram tagged #ad and/or #sponsored, contained more than 50 percent fake engagements. And out of 118,007 comments, only 20,942 were made by real people and not by bot accounts.

The issue of and concern over influencer fraud have become significant enough that various consumer and advertising watchdog groups and organizations have recently implemented a number of important rules and changes. One of the most significant, via the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), now requires influencers to disclose when a post is a sponsored ad in the first lines of their caption. This ensures that individuals don’t have to click the “read more” to know that the post is an ad since many people don’t read beyond the first lines of a caption.

The biggest challenge for many businesses is knowing how to spot and avoid fake influencers, i.e. individuals who falsely pad their follower count and misrepresent their social media presence. For the amount of money that can be made in the world of influencer marketing, it is very important that businesses do due diligence to ensure that they’re not throwing away thousands and potentially millions of dollars to fake influencers who will not positively impact their bottom line.  And in fact, may even end up causing damage to their brand reputation.

There are a number of ways for businesses to spot a potentially fake influencer. These are some of the most common and obvious red flags.

  • Sudden Significant Increase in Followers – This seems obvious enough right? If an individual had approximately 2,000 followers a week prior and always shown a steady increase of maybe two to three new followers a day and then out of the blue, their follower count increases to 10,000 or even 5,000 in a few days, that’s a red flag. Unless there was something significant that the individual did on their account, e.g. some type of popular promotion, a post that went viral, etc. it is simply not feasible that their follower count could increase that drastically. And that means they’ve likely purchased followers.


  • High Follower Count but Low Engagement Rate – An individual who has thousands and maybe even millions of followers but gets very low engagement for their posts, is not a very effective influencer. Now the likely explanation for this, of course, is that the individual has purchased followers and so most of their followers are really bot accounts. However, it is possible that an individual could have many followers but low engagement because maybe they were very popular at one time and gained a lot of followers but their influence had since waned, making their audience no longer engaged. Either way, this is not an influencer you would want to work with.


  • Type of Engagement – We all know that technology gets savvier and savvier every day and so there are sophisticated bot accounts that do comment on posts. However, the type and quality of the comments and engagement, in general, can be a red flag if businesses pay close enough attention. This includes repeatedly generic comments such as, “great post”, “awesome”, “looks great”, etc. If a potential influencer with millions of followers has 90 percent of generic comments in response to their posts, that’s a red flag. Also, if it is only generic comments, with no shares, retweets, etc., that is a major red flag.


  • New Account with Large Following – Unless an individual is some type of celebrity, e.g. actress, singer, etc. or related to a high profile individual, it is virtually impossible that they would have thousands of followers in less than a year. So look at the activation date of the potential influencer’s account. If their account is less than a year or even less than two years old but they already have thousands upon thousands of followers, that’s suspicious.


  • Credibility – Finally, the best way to avoid influencer fraud is to research the potential influencer and establish their credibility. For example, have they attempted in the past to mislead their followers by not fully disclosing that a post was an ad, have they lied about using certain products simply to get paid by the business or brand and mislead their followers, have they previously been caught buying followers, etc? As with every decision that affects your brand’s image and business profitability, it is imperative to thoroughly do your homework and research.

It is not impossible to spot fake influencers. However, as noted above, with technology getting more advanced every day, fake influencers are also getting savvier and savvier. In an industry that can net individuals thousands and even millions of dollars, unsurprisingly, corruption becomes a major issue.

It is up to businesses and brands to stay abreast of changes and be as savvy to all the tricks of the trade and of course, always do due diligence before trusting your product and brand to anyone. It is also important to remember that bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes businesses get too caught up in the numbers game – i.e. this individual has a million followers, so they must be a more influential influencer than the individual with 5,000. Not true. In fact, AdWeek reports that campaigns driven by micro-influencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those led by more influential counterparts.

Influencer marketing is a worthy investment for businesses that can afford it. It is important to ensure that it’s done the right way, with honest and credible influencers.



Twitter’s 280 Character Count – Is More Really Better?


It is almost six months (yes, already) since Twitter officially switched its character count total from 140 to 280 per tweet, which means enough time has passed to analyze whether or not this was a positive or negative step for the social media giant. Based on various industry conversation, literature and just my own personal observations, my conclusion is that it doesn’t appear that there’s been much of a result at all – good or bad. In other words, the response has mostly been indifference.

I have seen little evidence that the increased character count has had a positive effect on digital marketers and brands, as well as led to an increase in users and followers on Twitter in general. In truth, much as how I felt when the increased character count was first announced, I can’t help feeling like this change was pointless and unnecessary and hasn’t really added anything to the platform.

Twitter users have long been calling for certain changes to the platform – namely, an edit function (no really, when are we getting that one), a better handle on hateful trolling, etc. – but I cannot say I remember seeing a very vocal demand for a higher character count.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many users have had moments of frustration when the 140 characters limited a great idea, quote, expression, etc. they wanted to tweet. Trust me, I’ve been there. But, and this is just speaking for myself, that is exactly what I loved about Twitter. That it forced me to have to be creative with my tweets and work on being more concise.

A little personal backstory – one of the most common criticisms I always received about my writing in school, was that I had a tendency to be a bit long-winded. For years, I was guilty of the run-on sentence. It’s something I am still working on to this day. So I loved that Twitter forced me to have to go against my natural inclination to over-explain and be too wordy and just get to the point in a direct and simple manner.

As a content marketer, I also understood the frustration of wanting to post something about a product, the brand and being hindered by the character limit, especially as URL links were counted in the 140 characters, as well as hashtags. And of course, as digital marketers, we know how important keywords and SEO is to the lifeblood of our business. So yes, the 140 character count did present challenges for businesses. However, that challenge provided the opportunity for marketers to have to be more creative in getting their message across to as many customers and potential customers, as possible. And in my opinion, they were better for it.

Also, as has been discussed in a number of digital marketing literature, we all know that many individuals’ attention span is particularly brief online. In most cases, brands have a very brief window to gain their attention. A wordy tweet is not the way to do that. The challenges that the 140 character count presented, were often simply minimized through the use of strategically placed visuals, i.e. images or videos that your target audience was far more likely to remember, versus a wordy tweet.

So in conclusion – was more really better for Twitter? I’d say, no.

*Image courtesy Google Images*

Executing Successful Influencer Marketing in Small & Traditional Markets



It is irrefutable that in the last two or three years, influencer marketing has become a significant facet of digital marketing. Adweek reported that 75 percent of brands engage with some type of influencer as part of their marketing strategy. Mediakix also noted that “Marketers are discovering that one of the best ways to target audience groups, drive awareness and elicit engagement across social channels is by creating innovative advertising partnerships with select social media influencers.”

Influencer marketing is predominantly synonymous with social media. More specifically, it is often synonymous with celebrities and social media influencers with large, million-plus followers who charge steep prices to use their platform to promote one’s business or brand. As such, many view influencer marketing as a luxury option for well-known brands and billion dollar companies that can afford to pay significant amounts to promote their products and services.

But what about those businesses that don’t have million dollar budgets? Or businesses that exist in markets where the population is much smaller than that of global nations like the U.S.? Where large-scale social media presences are not as commonplace? Markets where the use of traditional media is still as, if not more important? Can one still effectively use influencer marketing? Is it a concept that is even relevant in these markets? The answer to both questions is yes. It simply requires a little creativity and thinking outside the box.

The above scenario was the challenge I faced as the Content Marketing Specialist for a company based in the Caribbean, representing a number of markets across the region, many of which have a population averaging 150,000 to 250,000 total (some even less than that). While internet penetration is fairly high and the use of social media commonplace, traditional media is still the predominant medium in many of these markets. In fact, the reality is that in many ways, digital marketing is still in its infancy in many of these markets. So how then were we going to make influencer marketing work within the scope and tradition of these markets? As noted above, it simply required a little creativity.

  1. Adjust Your Expectations – While it’s good to have lofty goals and dream big, sometimes the reality simply does not align with those huge expectations. In that case, it helps to adjust those expectations. Start by redefining what success for your influencer strategy within your specific scope will mean and look like. For example, what is considered successful for a business targeting a population of five million will be significantly different for one targeting a population of 200,000. Similarly, success for a million dollar brand will likely look much different from that of a small business. Like any communication strategy or campaign, it’s all about knowing exactly what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it and how you’re going to achieve it with the resources available, both internal and external. So while it is highly unlikely that your business will gain hundreds of thousands of new followers from your influencer marketing strategy in the space of a few months in a small and traditional market, that does not mean it was unsuccessful and not useful. It just means success within that market is different than a larger market.


  1. Keep It Simple – Piggybacking off the previous point, it is important to remember that sometimes simple is better. And in a market where the population is small and influencer marketing as a concept is still in its infancy, keeping it simple is definitely best. That may include having a goal that seeks only to increase your social media followers by just 5 percent or just increase your social media engagement by 10 percent. Or perhaps you’re having a one-off company event, such as an expo, and looking to spread awareness and increase attendance by using a local influencer or two to spread the word. Keeping things simple will likely increase your chance of success.


  1. Micro-Influencers Are Your Best Friends – As the concept of influencer marketing continues to dominate the industry, the term micro-influencers has also crept into the conversation. Micro-influencer has become a very important term as more and more businesses realize the power and potential need for influencer marketing but are concerned about not having the budget that larger brands do. The fact is, a small business owner is not going to have the budget to pay a social media star with 10 million Instagram followers, who will likely charge upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that is even less likely for a small business owner in a small market with a very small population. And that is where micro-influencers come in. Micro-influencers are essentially influencers with a number of followers within the range of 1,000 to 10,000. They might not be famous entertainers and social media stars but they have enough of an engaged following to positively impact a business and brand they choose to promote. Micro-influencers also work well within niches. As the saying goes, “you can’t be all things to everyone”. In keeping with the point of keeping things simple, sometimes your goal for a specific influencer marketing campaign is to attract a very specific audience. In that case, going to an influencer within that niche is a safe bet.


  1. Influencer Does Not Always Mean Social Media Influencer – It is true that the concept of influencer marketing in many ways was borne out of the rise of social media and more specifically, social media stars. As such, most only think of social media influencers when thinking about incorporating an influencer marketing campaign into their digital marketing strategy. But in a market where traditional marketing is still a dominant medium, the influencers you need for your influencer marketing campaign may not be on social media. In small, traditional markets, radio and television personalities, with or without large social media followers are still highly influential and can be significant assets to your campaign and overall influencer marketing strategy.


  1. Word of Mouth is Influencer Marketing – While the term influencer marketing seems to have been birthed only a few short years ago, the concept itself is not entirely new and didn’t start with digital marketing and specifically, social media. Much like when content marketing became the industry’s buzzword some years ago, despite the concept of using content to drive business success being around for decades, influencer marketing has existed for a long time. It was just called something else. Essentially influencer marketing leverages an individual or organization with the power to influence others’ purchasing decisions for their benefit. Word of Mouth marketing is grounded in the belief that people are more likely to purchase something based on hearing about it and getting positive feedback from people they know and trust. That includes family, friends, customers, etc. And it is a concept that it is still very effective. Hubspot reports that 90 percent of consumers believe brand recommendations from friends. So what does this mean for your influencer marketing strategy, particularly in a small and traditional market? It means consider customer testimonials as part of your strategy, rewarding loyal and influential customers to help make them organically become influencers for your brand. You can also run promotions asking customers and followers to say why they love your brand and business. It will get the word out to others and help you identify potential brand influencers you may not have previously recognized and known about.


  1. Strategic Alliances – Another method to have an effective influencer marketing strategy in small and traditional markets is to consider strategic alliances with other businesses that may have a strong local presence and in many ways are influential. The right partnership can not only help increase your own brand awareness but increase your credibility, open you up to a new audience, etc. And in reality, influencer marketing is a type of strategic alliance as the business is making a strategic partnership with a particular influencer often with the hope of increasing brand awareness, brand engagement, leads, etc. For example, if you have recently opened up a vegan restaurant, a strategic alliance with a very popular gym can reap significant rewards for both businesses. It is important to remember that payment for influencers does not always have to be in the form of monetary value. Offer special meal promotions that the gym can give to their members in exchange for their mentioning your restaurant across their promotional channels, including both digital and traditional. In this instance, the gym is your influencer.


  1. Be Your Own Influencer – Finally, your influencer marketing strategy does not always have to be focused solely on an outside, third-party influencer. Positioning your business and your brand as an expert can make you an influencer. A very common method businesses use to achieve this is by guest blogging for popular and influential blogs, websites, etc. In a traditional market leveraging the local media, including radio or television, is a very powerful way to increase brand awareness and position your business as an authority. When people start to view you as an expert, they are far more likely to trust you, at which point you can influence their purchasing decisions. This is also effective in small and traditional markets because there is often a communal type of culture. That is, that feeling of everyone knows everyone. And in such a culture, having a familiarity of being seen on important and popular television shows and heard on radio shows helps to foster a feeling among consumers of being someone important and an authority.


It must be acknowledged that certainly there are many businesses within these markets that cater to a more global target audience and therefore, naturally have a fairly robust social media presence. Particularly, businesses within the tourism industry, such as hotels, booking agencies, etc. And of course, the Internet and well, social media has made the world significantly smaller in many ways.

However, one of the challenges of working on a global scale is that you will work with markets where culturally, economically and socially, what works in one part of the world, simply will not work in that geographic space. At least not without some adjustments to the mindset of how it should always be done. That is definitely the current case with influencer marketing within many of the small and traditional islands of the Caribbean.

Originally published in PR News: Influencer Marketing Guidebook

Let’s Talk About That Green Hoodie (H&M P.R. Disaster)


By now we’ve all seen the image. An adorable little black boy, posing on the official H&M retail site, in a green hoodie, with the words, “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” scrawled across the front. If you’re one of the maybe few who somehow missed this story, I assure you that that is not a typo. Unsurprisingly, reactions were swift and the backlash very loud, with a number of celebrities, including music star The Weeknd and Grey’s Anatomy star, Jesse Williams speaking out against the retail giant.

Initially, I planned to approach this blog post the same way I have for other brands and companies that have had public relations missteps and that is to analyze how they handled the situation from a crisis communication perspective. And while I intend to focus on that aspect, I feel it necessary to share my immense disappointment and frustration in H&M, not just as a black woman but also as a strategic communicator.

Let’s face it, H&M is a global brand and that means, nothing is done in isolation at that company. There must be multiple chains of command and processes and various individuals and teams that either approve or veto various fashion items, campaigns, photo shoots, etc. My point is that this picture didn’t just end up on their website by complete accident or one person’s poor error in judgment.

Multiple people approved this child being fashioned in this hoodie, approved the images from the photographer, and approved the ad. So it is frustratingly mind-boggling to me that through that whole process there wasn’t one person who realized the racial implications and offensiveness of the image – really? It is 2018 and there is simply no excuse for someone to tell me that they are so ignorant to the racial history and undertones towards black people in the U.S. and around the world that you do not understand the connotations of using the word monkey with a black person’s image. And that a giant global retailer like H&M would make such a bubbling error is inexplicable. Again, because there is no way that this happened without multiple individuals seeing it and approving it.

An interesting irony of this incident is that it was only two short years ago that H&M was being praised for their brilliant “Close the Loop” campaign, which celebrated diversity. The campaign featured models of various shapes, gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. And yet, today we are here, where an entire creative team at H&M, including marketers, advertisers, photographers, and communicators, saw nothing wrong in an image of a black boy wearing a shirt with the words monkey in a jungle scrawled across its front.

What this incident has truly shown me and hopefully shows others is that while immense strides have been made in the world regarding the issues of race and diversity, we are not even close to where we should be. And more dialogue and conversation recognizing that we in many ways are still failing dramatically needs to happen. It needs to happen in all walks of life and it needs to happen in our industry. Because the fact is women and minorities are still underrepresented in top leadership positions around the globe.

I don’t think for a second that H&M intended to be offensive with this image. However, that’s what makes this issue even more telling and pressing. That so many really didn’t realize that it was and that is because there are still so many deep-rooted issues that we are not fully addressing as we should.

I was pleased to see that there seemed to some greater understanding of these deep-rooted issues from H&M in their second and more official statement, in which they stated, “Racism and bias in any shape or form, conscious or unconscious, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable and need to be eradicated from society. In this instance we have not been sensitive enough to this agenda.”

It was certainly a much better statement than their initial one which was pitiful at best, making the grave error of noting anyone that “may have been offended” by the image. One of the most important rules of crisis communication is to simply own your mistake and apologize without qualifiers. There was no may since it was clear many people were unquestionably offended. I also think H&M missed another significant step in crisis communication and that’s communicating with their audience what steps they would take to ensure that something like this never happens again. Hopefully, that plan is being implemented as we speak and they just forgot to let us, the public, know about it.

The greatest lesson I can say that we as public relations practitioners and communicators can take out of this incident is that we need to do more. Do more as individuals, as teams, as companies and as an industry to where hopefully, incidents like this don’t happen again.

Tips for Successfully Executing Influencer Marketing Strategy on a Budget


In previous articles, this blog has discussed the benefits of influencer marketing and tips for picking the right influencer for your influencer marketing strategy. However, while many companies and brands have embraced the importance of influencer marketing, there is still a pervasive misconception that it is a strategy for big businesses and global brands. Companies with million-dollar budgets. In truth, small businesses are more than capable of executing effective influencer marketing strategies. Like with all campaigns, it just takes having a clearly defined plan and strategy. Here are a few tips.

  • Use Micro-Influencers – According to HelloSociety (an agency that connects brands with the right influencer for their campaigns), micro-influencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with large followings (source: AdWeek). Micro-influencers are essentially influencers with a smaller audience as the regular influencer. However, smaller does not automatically mean less influential. As I noted in my post about picking the right influencer, it’s not always about big social media numbers. Yes, while an influencer having a large following is indicative of their reach, it does not always mean that their followers are engaged. Sometimes the individuals with 2,000 followers may have a far more engaged following than the individual with 2 million. Micro-influencers are typically cheaper than major influencers while achieving the same goals.


  • Contribute to their Content – Influencers do not always live on Instagram or Snapchat or the like. Many also have blogs and quite a few are willing to accept submissions from others, as long as it is in line with the theme and topic of their blog. Finding an influencer that allows guest posts for free is a very cost-effective way to utilize influencer marketing. It is also important to remember that influencers are not always individual people. Industry magazines, trade journals, news shows, television shows, brands, etc. can all be influencers. And a popular and influential magazine, for example, is a perfect avenue for submissions and guest articles that will be seen by a large and significant audience.


  • Offer Free Products/Services – One of the biggest hesitations that small businesses have regarding influencer marketing is that there is simply no budget for it. However, payment to an influencer does not always have to come in the form of money. Using resources that your business already has is a great way to save money while getting the most out of your influencer marketing strategy. For example, if are in the fitness business, e.g. own a gym or a vegan restaurant, etc. and you would like to work with a personal trainer or fitness expert with a large and engaged Instagram following, you can offer special discounts to the trainer and some of their most loyal customers in exchange for their posting about your gym or restaurant.


  • Activate Fans into Influencers – Here’s a little fact that some businesses are completely unaware of. Some of their potentially most effective influencers are already customers and fans of their brand. Many businesses assume that they need to look outward to find effective influencers, when the truth is, sometimes, someone with a fairly decent sized and active social media following is already using their product or service. Identifying those individuals and working with them can not only be a cost-effective way of executing a successful influencer marketing strategy but also an organic and credible way since the influencer was already a user and a fan of your product or service.


  • Become Your Own Influencer – I know what you’re thinking. It takes a long time to build enough of a following, credibility and influence to become an influencer. And yes, Rome was not built in a day. However, the potential benefits of establishing your business as an influencer are numerous, not least of all the costs saved by not having to constantly look elsewhere and pay others. Becoming an influencer largely involves establishing yourself as an expert and thought leader and there are many avenues to do so. Become a professor on websites like SkillShare, contribute to high-quality publications like Forbes and industry magazines, host free seminars, webinars and/or expos, etc. When people start to view your business as an expert and an authority, their trust in you will increase, which in turn will increase their willingness to buy whatever you’re selling.

Tips for Picking the Right Influencer for Your Influencer Marketing Strategy


It is no secret that influencer marketing has become one of the most popular go-to buzzwords in the industry, in the last few years. Mediakix has noted that “Marketers are discovering that one of the best ways to target audience groups, drive awareness and elicit engagement across social channels is by creating innovative advertising partnerships with select social media influencers.” Hubspot also noted that 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding – i.e. influencer marketing is big business and it works.

A few months ago, I wrote about the benefits of businesses and brands investing in influencer marketing. However, one of the most important factors in achieving a successful influencer marketing strategy is to have the right influencer. So with that said, here are a few tips for picking the right influencer for your influencer marketing strategy.

  1. Relevance – This is quite possibly the most obvious and most important factor in picking the right influencer for your business and/or brand’s influencer marketing strategy. And yet, many companies fail at it. Finding an influencer who is relevant to your business/brand means knowing and understanding what your goals and objectives are for your influencer marketing strategy in the first place, knowing and understanding your audience and knowing and understanding that it is not a one size fits all with influencers. There are many different types of influencers that all come with their own unique voice and influence.


  1. It’s Not Always about the Big Numbers – As noted in my previous blog post about the benefits of influencer marketing, while the number of followers a potential influencer has is important, it is not always the most important thing and sometimes is not an accurate indicator of their influence. An influencer’s follower count indicates the extent of the influencer’s reach. However, it doesn’t always indicate the level of engagement and that is key because engagement is a true indicator of an influencer’s power. It is of little use for a brand and business to have an influencer who has a million followers but they are inactive followers. That is, they do not comment, retweet the tweets, repost the images, engage with the influencer at all, versus someone who has 200,000 followers who actively engage with everything they post, i.e. sharing it, reposting it, commenting, etc.


  1. Credibility – Another one of the most important factors in picking the right influencer for your business and brand is the credibility of the influencer and/or influencers you pick. Just like the case of using spokespeople for your brand, it is important to vet any potential influencer to ensure that there has not been any questionable social media behavior by them in the past, e.g. attempts to mislead or defraud followers, etc.


  1. Past Relationships of Influencer – Piggybacking off the previous point, in researching any potential influencer for your business and/or brand, it is important to consider any past partnerships, relationships, etc. they have in the past that may conflict with your brand and your message. For example, have they been advocates for brands or businesses that do not align with the kind of message that your business stands for and represents? Were they loud advocates for one of your biggest competitors? Because if so, your audience will likely not trust their sudden change of heart in advocating for you. Not to mention that the influencer themselves may lose credibility with their audience and by that token, no longer be as effective.


  1. Know What Type of Content You Want to Create – Finally, tying back to your influencer marketing goals and strategies, it is important to know exactly what type of relationship you want with your potential influencer and/or influencers, before deciding on someone. For example, do you plan to hand over complete creative control to an influencer in advocating for your brand, or are you looking for someone to share content that you create or will it be a collaborative partnership where you and the influencer jointly decide on the content that will be shared? Knowing where you stand on these issues is key to picking the right influencer and avoiding a potentially negative experience and partnership.

Is Snapchat Right For Your Organization?

In just five short years, since its launch in 2011, Snapchat has quickly risen to one of the most popular social media platforms. Current data lists its average number of daily active users between 100 – 150 million, (second only to Facebook and far surpassing Twitter in daily usage). More people are aware of and use Snapchat than Pinterest and LinkedIn, which have both been around longer. However, despite this impressive growth, many organizations continue to be wary of the popular app as a social media channel for their business and their brand.

It is important to remember that it is not necessary for an organization to be on every social media channel. In fact, doing so can increase the risk of spreading your company resources too thin, resulting in not enough time and effort being allocated to any one channel. Also, every social media channel has its pros and cons, which means deciding to invest time and resources in any means deciding if that channel aligns with your organization. This is based on a number of factors including – your organization goals and objectives, your audience, the type of content you want to produce, your resources, etc.

So should your organization invest in Snapchat to promote your brand and help benefit your bottom line? Let us consider a few pros and cons of the popular app.


Works in Real Time – The key unique selling point of Snapchat is the time sensitive nature of the content created, i.e. posts and videos disappear after a few seconds. While the creators have since added the Story function that allows snaps to last up to 24-hours, the temporary nature of any content created continues to make Snapchat a tool that works best in real time and that can be a good thing for businesses. It allows organizations to communicate any important news about the company to their audience immediately and it can also increase engagement through promotions and discounts that require followers to act quickly because it will expire as quickly as it appeared.

One to One Engagement – Unlike many other social media channels, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat does not have a status update option and by that token a timeline of posts. Snaps are seen individually by those who follow the account and who cannot tell who the other recipients of the snaps are. As a result, this helps to foster something of an intimate, one on one feeling between an organization and its audience. This can be particularly appealing for small businesses with a very niche and close-knit customer base.

User-Generated Content & User Engagement – One of biggest appeals of Snapchat for users is the ability to create their own content they can have fun with and manipulate in different ways. Organizations can take advantage of this by encouraging their followers and audience to create videos or take pictures that demonstrate their use of the organization’s product(s), why they love said product, why they love the brand or the organization and much more. Having contests that award the most creative content will also appeal to followers. This increases not only audience engagement but user-generated content as well.

Can Influence Search and Drive Traffic – Organizations can influence search and drive traffic to their websites through the use of Snapchat, as long as they are smart about it. As is the case with most social media channels, it always helps to promote one via another. Cross promoting and cross-linking channels can help increase followers and engagement on all channels and also help solve some of the negatives of one channel. For example, using the short length of Snapchat videos, organizations can create a teaser using a 10-second snap that then encourages followers to view in its entirety on their YouTube account.

Helps Create Your Story – One of the most important goals of any organization is to tell its story. If an organization cannot really explain or show who they are, it makes it very hard for their audience to truly connect with them. Snapchat’s appropriately titled Story function helps users do exactly that – tell a story. If organizations are smart and strategic in their approach to using the tool, they can create some very interesting and compelling content that gives their audience good insight into who they are as a business and as a brand. The channel is particularly good for behind the scenes sneak peeks at organizations and brands, the organizational culture, employees and more. Fashion label Burberry did this brilliantly before debuting their 2016 Spring Collection at New York Fashion Week. In the days leading up to the show, the fashion house gave fans sneak peeks of the clothes that would be debuted, they showed the models gearing up for the show and featured Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour. The campaign worked to help build excitement and anticipation for the new collection.

Important Insights – One of the most commonly stated negatives of Snapchat is its limitations regarding measurement. While this is true, there are two important insights organizations can measure or at least gauge, based on the unique qualities of Snapchat. One is their audience on the channel. Snapchat makes it very difficult for individuals to lurk. While one can just search for an organization’s name on Facebook or Instagram and see their content without actually following them, with Snapchat, you have to follow an account to view its content. Therefore, organizations can know exactly who is following them, which can also tell them who is at least interested enough to want to see their content. Another unique aspect of Snapchat is individuals have to click on the content to view it, which also shows an interest level.


Limitations in Measurement – As stated above, there are some limitations in measuring the success of Snapchat. There is currently no defined data tracking attached to the app or an external online tool, which makes it challenging for organizations to accurately measure its success or failure to their bottom line. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat currently does not offer targeted and detailed analytics. And although organizations can measure impressions in terms of how many people opened the snaps, it is difficult to know how many actually watched it because individuals can fast-forward through the videos. Most importantly, because the content is time-sensitive, it is difficult for organizations to accurately measure how engaged individuals were with it, as is the case with Facebook posts or Instagram posts or Tweets which can be liked, re-tweeted, shared, etc. In terms of the sales process, Snapchat currently does not offer any type of user click or tracking that could direct an individual to a specific landing page so as to start them down the sales process and help establish prospects and/or leads.

Time-Sensitive – As the old adage goes, “it is both a gift and a curse”. The same element that makes Snapchat unique, is the same element that may be a downside for many organizations and brands trying to promote themselves using the app. While the element of communicating in real time has its appeal, many organizations may still not view the app as a worthwhile investment, when all the content they create will disappear, thus making it difficult to curate. There are ways to save snaps that can then be shared on other social media channels for a longer shelf life. However, that may beg the question of why not just simply use those channels instead?

Limited Two-Way Engagement – While it is true that one has to choose to see a snap, which at the least proves they were interested enough to click, there are still limitations for organizations to know just how truly engaged their audience was with the content. There are tips and ideas for encouraging engagement, such as asking viewers to take a screenshot of something in response to a snap but these options are significantly limited in comparison to other channels that offer the ability to share, like, retweet and repost the content. This limited two-way engagement also restricts interaction between an organization’s followers and non-followers, which makes it difficult to reach a new audience via sharing of content.

Niche Audience – Although Snapchat has significantly increased in active users in the past few years, its audience is still fairly niche, with an average of 70 percent female who are mostly between the ages of 18 to 34. This is great for an organization whose key target audience falls within that range but for an organization whose key audience may be males who are between the ages of 45-60, they understandably might wonder what benefit could there be for them in using Snapchat.

Competition, Thy Name Is Instagram Story – In August 2016, Instagram introduced a new feature to its popular channel, called stories. The new feature allows users to create videos and take pictures to build a slideshow that lasts for 24 hours. Sounds a lot like another channel, doesn’t it? Almost immediately, social media experts, influencers and, opinion leaders were wondering what the Instagram Stories feature would mean for Snapchat and its future. While it’s certainly far too early to tell if there has or will be any significant effect on Snapchat, it is hard to ignore that this move by Instagram throws a wrench in the former’s sail, particularly as it attacks the thing that makes Snapchat most unique. That is its short, quick and disappearing content.  While Snapchat’s growth has been incredibly impressive and exponential, Instagram still has 400 million users to the former’s 150 million. Given the choice to invest in another channel, many organizations may just decide to stick to the channel they’ve already established a presence on, had success with, especially since it now offers a feature similar to what Snapchat does.

Bottom line, should your organization add Snapchat as one of the channels in your social media marketing strategy? As previously stated, every channel has its pros and cons and it is up to you and your team to consider what your goals and objectives are, what audience you’re trying to reach, your brand identity and persona and more, and decide if what Snapchat offers aligns with those factors.

Originally published in PRNews: The Book of Social Media Strategies & Tactics  Vol. 2