Mike Essex

How To Use Snapchat For Marketing Your Business

25th Nov 2013 Social Media 6 minutes to read

Snapchat GhostSnapchat has been in and out of the news a lot in the last two weeks, most recently for the rejection of a $3 billion offer to take over the app. To turn down an offer of this nature, the creators clearly feel that their app is here to stay. Which begs the question, if Snapchat is really in it for the long term, what can we as marketers do to reach their audience?

Quite a lot it turns out.

What’s The Opportunity?

Snapchat is on a quarter of all UK smartphones and in total their users receive 400 million photos / videos each day. Not to mention that it’s heavily used by under 25’s who are in some cases migrating away from other channels as well. This represents a huge opportunity, but frankly it’s one that’s currently underused.

I spent last week looking for examples of brands who have used Snapchat well and in total found about 15 cases. Almost every article I read had about five brands that popped up over and over. Compare that to any other popular social platform and you’ll find millions of articles and countless examples.

As of right now, Snapchat is the biggest untapped opportunity in social media.

Why Aren’t Brands Using Snapchat?

One of the reasons brands may not have taken to Snapchat is that it’s not designed to be friendly for them. As of yet there’s no business profile option, however that certainly hasn’t stopped others from trying (Ford did a similar thing with Google+ before branded accounts were available, so this is no reason not to try). Likewise there’s no advertising at the moment or announced plans for advertising, which leads to a big question mark.

However, adverts on Snapchat are not necessarily an impossibility. Snapchat has already trialed showing adverts to users after they view 20-30 snaps. This seems like the most likely way they’d use adverts in the future, as watching one advert just to see a single photo seems likely to frustrate users.

Snapchat have also tried sending out adverts through their “teamsnapchat” account, which every single Snapchat user follows by default. This is the equivalent of a promoted tweet that everyone sees on Twitter regardless of who they follow. So far they haven’t done this for actual brands, instead opting to promote LA artists they like the sound of, but again it’s plausible this could be opened up slowly for some brands or key events.

So How Can I Get Started?

Signing up for Snapchat is as simple as downloading their app to a smartphone or tablet. You can then register quickly and easily with a unique username. There’s nothing right now from stopping you registering your name and at the very least protecting it for the future.

As for how you can use it, here’s five ideas that have worked well for other brands that you can use for inspiration.

Idea 1: Send Coupons

This is pretty much the most discussed example of Snapchat marketing on the web and with good reason. 16Handles were the first known brand to use Snapchat for marketing as of January 2013 and their usage of it was really clever. They asked people to send them photos when they were in the store. In return 16Handles would reply with a voucher.

Snapchat 16Handles

The co-operative also used this method to send out coupons, although they sent them to every follower. If you want to go down this route you need to bear in mind two things. The first is that 16Handles’ approach required them to reach quickly and wouldn’t really scale if you had hundreds of stores. The other factor is that vouchers would delete after 10 seconds and couldn’t be seen again. So if someone saw the voucher then tried to use it later, they couldn’t – unless they managed to take a screenshot of it when it appeared on their device.

Idea 2: Exclusives For Followers

Taco Bell have always been great at testing out new social media platforms and they did the same thing for Snapchat. They used their existing Twitter account (which had a strong following already) to tell people to follow them on Snapchat for a “secret announcement.” They then later revealed their new Beefy Crunch Burrito exclusively to those fans.


If you are going down this route the one thing you need to consider is that Snapchat’s official terms say that you can’t send any “promotional materials”, making this a grey area, although one that brands have already used without negative impact. You’ll also find similar terms on most social media sites but it’s worth bearing in mind that whatever you send should be as little on hard-sell as possible (e.g Taco Bell simply sent a photo of their product, rather than a big BUY NOW style message).

Idea 3: Friend Referrals

If you want Snapchat to be a long term channel for you then you’ll want to get as many followers as possible so it’s worth the investment. What better way to get new followers than by asking your existing ones to do the hard work for you? Chat Sports asked followers to encourage their friends to follow the brand for their chance to win tickets to a baseball game. They got 150 new fans, and repeated the competition.

One thing you’ll need to consider as your following grows is that anyone you become friends with can then send you photos. Lynx experimented with Snapchat but found the admin of keeping up with received messages and responding to them was incredibly time consuming. Whilst you could ignore fans, there’s always the issue of this damaging your brand image. If you want to work with Snapchat properly you have to put a team in place to be ready to deal with the responses, as you would for any other channel.

Idea 4: Take Risks You Wouldn’t On Other Social Media

One of the reasons brands have stayed away from Snapchat is its reputation for “sexting” and that they don’t want to be associated with those types of images. This is definitely a valid concern, although Snapchat say that represents only a small percentage of the photos shared, it’s impossible for them to know for sure.

If however you have a brand that can do something a little more out there, then you can actively embrace this. For example, Karmaloop, a clothing brand, used Snapchat to send their followers provocative photos of models wearing their clothes. This fitted in with their brand image really well and was right for their audience, however this clearly wouldn’t suit every brand.

Idea 5: Repurpose Existing Media Into Shorter Variations

Much in the same way that Vine has allowed marketers to think creatively about how they can get their message across in a short time frame, Snapchat has done the same. Nowthisnews for example turn news stories into short videos for Snapchat, giving them an edge over other media sites.

The only downside of this, and all the above ideas, is that Snapchat currently won’t let you make a single public status that everyone can see. This means for now you have to look at your entire friendlist and send them the message in bulk batches. However, this functionality is apparently coming in the future.

Get Snapping

As with any new social media platform it would be foolish to try Snapchat unless you already have a strong following on other sites. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ should still be your priority, along with other channels like Pinterest.

Currently, Snapchat is a good way for known brands to have that extra edge, but for everyone else I’d still recommend sticking with your current profiles until you feel they are performing well enough to be able to devote time to something new.

That’s not to say I’d write off Snapchat completely. I still feel that in a few months time we’ll see more brands using it in really clever ways and that hopefully Snapchat will make it easier to have a business account. If you do nothing else I recommend securing your brand name and also keeping an eye on what other brands are doing so when the time comes you are ready.

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