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