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You’ve heard of Snapchat. Possibly in the context of all the sexting teens are doing. Or maybe because they turned down $3 billion from Facebook.

The salacious sides of Snapchat have certainly been well documented (and probably blown a bit out of proportion.) Who cares! It’s one of the fastest growing social platforms, spreading beyond early-adopter teens to a wider audience. And it’s awesome.

Sexting aside, you MUST pay attention, because the noise from Snapchat is only getting louder.

The Basics

Snapchat is a real-time, visual conversation platform, like texting but much richer. Users send snaps, which are photos and video (up to 10 seconds) to individuals or groups. Snap senders can use filters, text overlays and a colorful pen tool to personalize the messages.

But here’s what makes Snapchat truly unique—and adds the possibility of indecent content: After a few seconds, the snaps disappear forever, never to be seen again (and deleted off of the Snapchat servers.)

So you’re probably thinking: Screen shots or it didn’t happen right? Nope. Taking a screen shot and sharing salacious snaps may be tempting, but be warned: if you do, the sender is notified. This open notification helps keep the privacy element of the network viable by letting users keep each other in check.

The secrecy element of Snappchat makes it deeply personal, but the group messages and colorful photo editing options add an undeniable element of whimsy.The snaps are transient, but the connection with another human is not.

You can also add snaps to your ‘story;’ a set of public snaps visible an unlimited number of times for 24 hours. Stories let users create a longer narrative, which appears at the top of your friend feed as it is updated.

How brands are using Snapchat

The platform is still in its early days as a marketing method, and only a handful of brands are dipping their toes in enough to make any waves at all. (Read: OPPORTUNITY!)

  • The NBA has a history of success on social media, and is the clear early leader using Snapchat to connect with fans. Several teams compile regular stories’ about players and games; from the bus ride to the final buzzer fans get an inside look at their favorite teams as if they were close friends.
  • In the fashion industry, Wet Seal ( wetseal) delivers near daily specials and interesting snippets from photo shoots. They connect without being too sales oriented, which could turn users away.
  • Karmaloop ( karmaloop.com) keeps their users fresh with cheeky deals (and a little bit of skin,) although not on a regular basis.
  • GrubHub ( grubhub) shares coupon codes with its users for use across their site (see image above.)
  • San Francisco based Chat Sports ( chatsports) has used it for a ticket giveaway, and most recently to tease their new app.

Why brands aren’t using Snapchat (yet)

Even with small successes, brands have struggled to find footing on the still-new service. Audi ( audi) generated buzz around their Super Bowl Snapchat campaign, but failed to put any noticeable call to action or reward within the snap for users who viewed it. The WWE( wwe) creates perplexing online casino snaps on an irregular basis, which indicates their willingness to experiment.

Advertising budgets get thin when it comes to entertainment without discernible ROI, andbrands seem to be staying away until someone ‘cracks the code’ and figures out how to turn snaps into dollars.

Best practices for brands

The personal nature of Snapchat will soon entice advertisers though because it forges a bought-in mentality to the brand. Here’s how you can start using Snapchat for your business.

  • Know your base. This should be obvious: When you understand who is actually tuning in, you can tailor content to that audience.
  • Keep stories reasonable. A 120-second compilation will turn away users unless there is a carefully planned narrative. The NBA is making the best use of this at the moment.
  • Give back. Inside information is the biggest draw; users want to see your brand through rose-colored glasses. Show them the story they have come to expect from your brand, then tell them how they can be involved.
  • Streamline promotions. Contests on Snapchat are still very clunky, often asking users to screen shot a snap and then email it somewhere else. The barrier to entry is still to high in that case, so be cautious about complicated campaigns.
  • Be active. Snapchat moves FAST. Brands with a consistent presence have the ability to capitalize on the lack of advertisers on the platform. First movers will have the biggest impact and set the trend for the inevitable flow of brands to come.
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About the Author

Lou Perseghin

A listener first, Lou is highly organized and focused on the processes and strategies that keep our accounts (and clients) happy. He is currently ChatterBlast’s Account Director, with assistance from his pit bull Daisy, who is often found snoozing in sunspots around the office.

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