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10 Essential Rules for Effective Snapchat Marketing

According to Statista, Snapchat reached 200 million active users in September 2016. The US user base can count on 37% of users in the 18-24 age group (as of February 2016), while daily popularity in India was 1% as of July 2015, compared to the 56% of WhatsApp and 51% for Facebook.

A social platform on the rise in terms of user base and even of marketing advantage since 2015, but still looked at with suspicion by marketers and bloggers everywhere in the world.

What is it that holds back most marketers from using SnapChat for their campaigns?

The Snapchat “Issue”, aka Content Volatility

Snapchat runs on a “disposable” messaging system, that means a message lasts about 10 seconds after a user reads it. This guarantees privacy, but how to use such an ecosystem for marketing?

You can do it with some creativity:

  • Use genuine messages instead of carefully constructed ones.
  • Take advantage of cross-promotion opportunities between all your social channels.

Since content is only temporary on Snapchat, your posts must be something users absolutely cannot afford to lose.

As an example, look at how Audi handled its social efforts with Snapchat:

Audi Snapchat on Super Bowl Sunday from Huge on Vimeo.

What Audi created is a real-time social campaign based on attractive, fun content that works within the limited timespan SnapChat allows for, and that was cross-promoted with other social networks. It got Audi 37 million total impressions.

In March 2016, Mark V. Schaefer wrote a “balanced view” on Snapchat marketing where he brings up the two biggest problems with Snapchat:

  1. The difficulty of “building a relevant and engaged audience.”
  2. “The challenge of creating continuous, credible, snap-worthy content that disappears can be significant.”

Schaefer brings Disney's effort to promote its own theme parks as an example, explaining how Disney hired celebrities and artists to work on the promotional content, but all that work “disappeared in a poof” – Snapchat-style.

Quoting from the article:

The Disney campaign could be judged as a success because through the help of the Snapchat celebrities, the account acquired 50,000 new followers in a day. But now what? What happens once those hired celebrity artists go away? Is this new audience going to be happy with 10-second videos of Disney princesses? Snapchat can’t be one and done. Compared to other social channels, the challenge to feed the beast with relevant, ephemeral content is daunting.

But all that volatility of content (and effort) also adds another ‘con' to Snapchat: no stats are available after 24 hours from publishing, and no access to permanent content history.

Indeed, these problems (that are part of Snapchat's ‘physiology') add limitations that make marketing appeal still low as of 2016. While definitely challenging in terms of budget, resources and patience, the low competition also makes for higher chances to get your message through without too much noise.

So, What Works on Snapchat?


Here are 10 essential rules for clever (and effective) Snapchat marketing. I asked marketers who use Snapchat for their marketing activities to share their tips and experiences, so that you could get as wide an overview of Snapchat marketing as possible.

1. Immediacy and Interaction Are Key

Ephemeral content makes it critical to put interaction before the beauty of your posts on Snapchat – their lifespan is so short that anything more elaborated would be a waste of resources (and you can't even remarket your content).

Interaction is where you can win – previews or teasers of a product, Q/A invitations, coupons, and contests are are all interaction-based marketing tasks that can bring you results on Snapchat.

Becca Booth, president at Trout Marketing, suggests that you “use [Snapchat as] a ‘business phone' that is specific to your organization vs. a personal account, and let staff capture fun stuff throughout the day. Snapchat is much less ‘refined' than other social outlets – be real and not overly edited.”

AJ Saleem is the owner of a start-up tutoring company, Suprex Tutors Houston, and he has used Snapchat to market his business to his current customers:

The key to effective marketing on Snapchat is finding something interesting yet short. While you should show parts of the business, only show parts that are relevant to the consumer.

It's vital to find your target and be extremely specific in the content you share, so that they are encouraged to act “right now”, with a very sharp, no-fluff CTA, and push on [the] target's main interests.

As an example, since statistics show that most of the Snapchat's users are teens and young adults aged 15-24, what you can do is analyze their needs and desires to craft a targeted, immediate marketing message that addresses them. Limited supply cheap college notebooks, discounts and freebies are all good examples of this approach.

Capture attention and offer a CTA that conveys a sense of urgency – it will trigger immediate action.

2. Go Reactive Instead of Proactive

Max Robinson from Ace Work Gear UK tells that the one thing he and his team “always tried to maintain with Snapchat is a reactive attitude, because that is what works best on the platform.”

Indeed, since content's lifespan is so short as to make it impossible to plan ahead like on the other social media, the priority on Snapchat is to stay available for interaction and respond swiftly to users' changing interests.

Robinson shares a few Snapchat planning tips:

We don't create a plan for the week in terms of what we're going to post and when – we prefer to focus our content around the events of the day to ensure that it remains as relevant as possible. Creating your own filters, especially if they include your branding, is essential and is the best way for business owners to incorporate their brand into their Snapchat content.

Finally, Robinson shares that, if you really want to develop brand identity on Snapchat, “Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to post a photo. Don't be afraid to post a video. If you push out great content and invest time into learning the channel, your brand will achieve success.”

3. Unforgettable Content

“Create memorable content,” says Timmy Griffin, SEO and marketing consultant for Fantastic Pest Control. “You have only a few seconds to get your point across. Don’t be afraid to stand out with positive. Tell the public who you are and what you stand for.”

First impressions count on Snapchat, because that's all users get, since your messages get deleted 24 hours after reception. That means you only get one chance to be memorable and trigger the user's action.

Griffin shares four keywords (actions) for creating engagement on Snapchat:

Engage: Use your existing social media accounts to generate awareness and interest.

[Be] Exclusive: Provide exclusive access and content for Snapchat friends.

Introduce: Introduce a new product/service, and follow it up with a launch date.

Follow Back: Conclude your story with a request to join you on other social networks.

These actions are all based on the key ‘compasses' of effective marketing on Snapchat: immediacy and interaction (see rules #1 and #2), but Griffin also shares three more actions you can take to boost content engagement:

1. Send personal snapchats: College students are more inclined to open a personal snapchat from a brand.

2. Provide a call to action: Offer a discount or promotion; studies show that 67% of college students would love to receive one.

3. Reward for engaging: Your target group is more likely to purchase a brand's product or service if they were sent a coupon on Snapchat.

You'll read more about using your other social networks to generate followers and interaction on your Snapchat channel in rules #8 and #9.

4. Collaborate With Influencers

Infographic: Where Snapchat's Users Come From | Statista
Snapchat's user growth since 2014. Source: Statista

Tieece Gordon from the marketing department at Kumo Digital agrees that Snapchat “isn't a place to plug your latest product”, but one where “users of the app want to be entertained”, so entertainment is what you should create if you want engagement on your Snapchat channel.

Gordon explains that “one of the most effective ways to do this (and one that is proven to work) is to collaborate with influencers. Think about your niche and whether you could incorporate this as part of a strategy. For example, let’s say that you sell make-up. There are a fair few bloggers and vloggers out there with a huge following.”

Once you have a few names, reach out to influencers and get talking. Gordon also shares a few ideas:

By inviting one of them to take over for a day or tour your location, their followers may recognize your brand as one they could potentially use, and engage with you in the future. Say your partner tweets to their followers with something like “I’m taking over this company’s Snapchat for the day. Come find us at [User name] to see what happens.” You’re likely going to pick up a fair few visitors before the activities even start. Have a clear strategy and content plan from there and the sky could really be the limit.

5. Build Brand Recognition And Appeal (With Geofilters)

Sean Martin, content marketing manager at Directive Consulting says that his company has been experimenting with different social media, analyzing the strengths of each, and that “where some social platform tactics are better for increasing your conversions and sales, Snapchat seems to be a better opportunity to develop your brand recognition and product intrigue. Use Snapchat as a top of the funnel resource to get mobile users excited about and interacting with your brand.”

Martin's company found that the best strategy in this sense “is to align your Snapchat campaigns with a local event or social issue.” Martin explains that companies can “customize and pay to sponsor different Snapchat geofilters, that you can designate a specific radius for.”

Using geofilters seems to work pretty well – the strategy brought Alex Kehr over 200k targeted views with just $15.33:

Kehr Snapchat Geofilters Results

As Martin explains,

Instead of paying thousands of dollars to sponsor an event, you can create a custom geofilter (which will have sponsored by [your_company_name] at the bottom), and set the radius for just around the event to get mobile users using your filter and associating your brand with their actual memories of the event instead of just the name only.

For Mike Koehler, president and chief strategist at Smirk New Media, Snapchat has become one of the most important platforms to manage for his clients. “The kind of content users are looking for there should be insightful,” Koehler says, “fun and (if possible) exclusive.”

Koehler suggests a precise strategy for brands: “showing behind-the-scenes videos with personality and tying that together as a story is vital for Snapchat success”.

Koehler goes in detail:

Have Snapchat takeovers, so your fans can see the personalities who are part of a company and what they do daily. Using the text tools on Snapchat can also push users to explore your content on other places or search for your site. Creating custom Snapchat filters, especially for brands that are related to live events, is vital now. You want users to engage with your brand and share it in their feeds – and the use of a Snapchat filter is one of the few quality metrics that Snapchat now provides.

6. Develop Brand Trust With Livestreaming

Digital marketing firm WebbMason Marketing‘s Isaac Hammelburger says that his team started with Snapchat, of all the platforms available, to give their clients as much exposure as possible, and that “Snapchat offers a way to show brand trust better than any other platform around.”

Hammelburger recommends a Snapchat strategy that involves livestreaming to develop trust in the brand, and that worked for their clients:

“Livestreaming mundane everyday work can actually show your customers how the magic works. In fact, for one of our locksmith clients, we recommended that they livestream their lock opening. Thanks to Snapchat, they've been able to avoid the trust issues that many locksmiths have, and have added an extra five calls per day on average.”

7. Offer Unbeatable Freebies And Giveaways

“Have Snapchat-only specials or giveaways. Use Snapchat to feature original material not seen on any of the other social outlets,” says Booth.

Well, she is right! The short message lifespan and even shorter attention span of Snapchat users only gives you a minute or less to get your message across.

But there's more to it: you have to make it appealing for a young audience!

“Your target audience is 18-24 years old,” says Timmy Griffin, “[and] this particular demographic group loves personal stories. Give your snaps personality and share them with your audience.”

Brands need to be young, too, if they want to open new doors for success on the platform.

Griffin mentions some helpful stats:

45% of college students would open from a brand they didn't know

73% of college students would open from a brand they did know

You can't collect data on Snapchat, so it's vital you do so on your website: assign an ID or code to each Snapchat campaign for your analytics suite to track and return as data that you can use, like the number of clicks and their distribution over times of the day.

8. Get Followers (They Are Valuable Marketing Data)

As one aspect that differentiates Snapchat from other social media platforms, users need a QR code or a username to follow a brand, so every follower is, in fact, intentional and not someone who decided to follow casually, or a spambot (spammers definitely don't put in the effort to scan a QR code or manually add usernames, right?).

That means that follower count is not something to underestimate on Snapchat, but valuable marketing data to take into consideration when evaluating brand performance on the platform.

On that note, Jason Parks, president at The Media Captain, recommends that you generate followers as a first step toward a successful Snapchat strategy, and to do that, “you need to tell great stories. If you are a brand, timeliness is key. If there are major events taking place, partake in the event with geofilters and witty photos and videos.”

Another way to attract followers includes using your other social channels and your blog to massively promote your Snapchat account as the go-to place to get exclusive offers and interactions, something they can't afford to lose and that you won't make available elsewhere. Again, creating scarcity is a winning strategy to convince “fans” to join your community.

9. Use Your Other Social Channels To Boost Engagement

You can generate followers as per rule #8, but why limit your efforts at the Snapchat platform alone? By now you learned that Snapchat won't hold your content marketing efforts for a long time, and in rule #3 Griffin suggested that you use your other social channels to give Snapchat a bigger push – so it's time to focus on that marketing option.

Jason Parks suggests that you “cross promote your Snapchat account across all of your other channels, especially Instagram Stories,” a Snapchat-like Instagram feature that allows users to post photos and videos that expire after 24 hours.

Also, Becca Booth recommends that you “use the Snapchat logo and your direct link in your Facebook description, Instagram bio and LinkedIn profile.” This will give your Snapchat account more visibility across multiple channels.

Booth goes a bit more into detail on that:

Share examples of what people can expect through these mediums as well, and create a daily or at minimum weekly feature that followers can expect and want to see like an OOTD (outfit of the day) for a clothing store, Tuesday Tip, product feature, etc.

As per rule #7, it would be an extremely powerful tactic to have Snapchat-only content (like timed offers) that your readers or clients can only access through the platform by following your updates – that will force interested users to meet you on Snapchat to get those offers, and you can use your other social media to let your followers know about any upcoming content you'll be sharing on Snapchat.

10. When Unsure, Go Ads

Perhaps the previous 9 rules sound too time-consuming for your resources and you would rather pick a simpler solution to generate sales and traffic from Snapchat, but not all is lost – while Snapchat is a different kind of social platform and you can definitely implement some of the rules without weighing too much on your available resources, you can still go ads.

Buy advertising from Snapchat and let the platform do the rest. Snapchat ads aren't cheap, but if you can afford it and your content is designed to allure teen users to use it, the effort may be worth the money.

Mediakix features 10 Snapchat statistics (2016) you may find helpful to keep handy for your campaigns, as well as the Snapchat summary Statista provides.

To Sum It Up…

Snapchat is definitely a tough nut to crack for social media marketing. Content is never permanent, and your efforts can look more like a hit-and-miss endeavor.

However, you can still reach the growing Snapchat audience by keeping in mind these key marketing rules:

  • Snapchat content is ephemeral, but immediate – use that to your advantage with strong CTAs, emotion-based, impactful content, and fun livestreaming sessions that show the human, young face of your brand.
  • The best way to convince users to care for your content is to put a limit to it – create scarcity to trigger interest
  • Put interaction before data collection, always mindful that your target is teens and young adults; in other words, be reactive instead of proactive.
  • Use geofilters and advertising.
  • Cross-promote your content between your social channels.
  • Take care of your followers, because they have to do some work to follow you, and they wouldn't without a real interest.

As Timmy Griffin says,

Be authentic. Brands that share authentic stories fare best on Snapchat. Be yourself, and share your core brand values. Too much scripting ruins the spontaneity of Snapchat and makes your presence feel too much like advertising.

Photo of author

Article by Luana Spinetti

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