How Snapchat Has Become a Force for Marketing

By Alice Lee

In September 2011, Evan Spiegel released Snapchat, a revolutionary new social media platform that allows users to take photos or videos to share with friends. One of the more unique functions of Snapchat, as compared with similar social media platforms, is that the “Snaps” as they are called, are only visible to recipients for a few seconds. The app also includes a doodle and text function where users can draw or add text on top of their Snapchat messages, adding a creative component to customize messages.

The messaging application was the fastest growing messaging app in 2014, and today, it has more than 100 million users. With 45 percent of its users between 18 and 24 years old, it is the most youth-oriented social media app and marketers are taking notice. It’s no longer just a selfie-plagued app or untraceable medium for private content; brands are now using Snapchat to add a personalized touch to how they engage with fans and followers.
For example, Snapchat recently added a feature called Geofilters, allowing users to place location-based overlays on their message. Since people (and companies) can create and submit Geofilters to Snapchat, many brands are taking advantage of this option for very location-based targeting.
Here are some other examples of how top companies are using Snapchat to market their brands:
Earlier this year, Snapchat launched its Discover page that displays stories from different editorial teams, including include media partners like Buzzfeed, Vice and CNN. The branded content is refreshed every 24 hours with photos, videos and advertising to provide followers with updated stories. Marketers see this as an opportunity to reach Snapchat’s primary demographic who may not get a lot of news and content from more traditional sources.
Exclusive content
Companies are using Snapchat as a medium to push out exclusive content before it’s revealed to the public through sneak peeks, behind the scenes footage, coupons and more. These snap stories establish personal connections with followers because being the first to preview content helps consumers feel empowered and connected to the brand.
Some examples of brands that have used this tactic:

  • Free People’s Snapchat followers got an exclusive look at their 2014 Intimately Free People collection before it hit retail stores.
  • In 2013, clothing e-tailer Karmaloop’s Snapchat followers received product shots for new clothing lines, behind the scenes videos, flash sales and model pictures.
  • 16 Handles, an innovative frozen yogurt brand, had its followers send in images of themselves tasting the yogurt to receive coupons between 16 percent and 100 percent off their purchases.
  • The New Orleans Saints created its Snapchat account to release behind the scenes footage, new merchandise and video shout outs from players.
  • Buzzfeed shares its workplace culture through snaps of its employees and their office pets, allowing viewers to get a different perspective of the company.

Companies are building their Snapchat presence among followers through innovative contests that allow users to engage with the brand.
Some examples of brands that have used this tactic:

  • As a way to launch its account in 2013, Acura gave its first 100 Snapchat followers privileged access to footage of its new NSX prototype.
  • Sephora had its followers take a picture of themselves and draw on fake eyebrows using Snapchat’s doodle feature with the winner receiving a $500 gift card. 

Companies have been utilizing Snapchat to promote a variety of product launches and special deals. By following these brands on Snapchat, users are able to access the latest updates before the general public.
Some examples of brands that have used this tactic:

  • Taco Bell promoted the reintroduction of its Beefy Crunch Burrito by sending pictures of the burrito to fans’ Snapchat accounts.
  • Groupon promoted the launch of its Snapchat account by offering its first viewer a deal to meet Wiz Khalifa and attend his concert for only $4.20.
  • MTV sent its Snapchat followers teasers of Geordie Shore, the UK equivalent of Jersey Shore, to followers as a way to vamp up its sixth season premiere.