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How to Succeed with Snapchat Marketing

The number of brands on Snapchat is growing daily, but people are scratching their heads wondering how to conquer this elusive new channel. There isn’t much help for brands out there when it comes to marketing strategy except a few case studies. It’s time to talk about scalable goals, objectives (how to measure), strategies, and tactics for using Snapchat as a marketing tool. But let’s take a look at a few basics first.

A Snapshot of Snapchat

1. Snapchat is a channel to reach a young demographic. This means if you’re selling high end luxury vehicles or life insurance, Snapchat is probably a waste of your time. As the channel becomes more mainstream, expect a wider demographic to get on board, but it hasn’t happened as of this writing. The basic audience demographic is 15-29 year-olds.

2. Snapchat has some negative PR to overcome. Just as Facebook started as a controversial site rating the attractiveness or ugliness of male and female students at Harvard, Snapchat has had a rough beginning as a place to get into trouble. Truth is, according to a recent survey by Sumpto, a marketing firm that does influence campaigns with college students, only two percent of college students use Snapchat for sexting. One explanation for this small number might be that savvy users recognize that snaps don’t necessarily disappear anymore. With the increasing number of apps that save snaps (SnapSave, SnapBox), students know that Snapchat is not a place to hide indiscretions. Snapchat is well aware that brands would like to get on board and they are continuing to develop a number of features, such as Stories (October 2013) to encourage brands to use the channel.

3. Snapchat isn’t for everybody, and if you decide to use it, be strategic. According to Alex Restrepo, Social Media Manager for the New Orleans Saints (saints), Snapchat is not a typical social media channel, so it should not be treated it that way . We’ll hear more about how to decide if Snapchat is for your brand throughout the paper.

4. Snapchat is a mobile-only application.  Snapchat is limited to smartphone use. Also, another limiting function is its inability to search for users (as of this writing). Snapchat growth relies on word-of-mouth and cross-channel promotion, as do all social media channels.  All the brands interviewed for this paper use multiple social media channels plus their websites to create a promotional loop for their fans.

Numbers Never Lie…Or Do They?

Before you put together a Snapchat campaign, you’ll want to do some basic research about your audience and who is actually using Snapchat (remember the why).  So what are some of the recent numbers on Snapchat? There is a genuine lack of universal data available on Snapchat, but here is some of what we have so far:

1. Let’s start with Pew Internet’s latest data. The survey was done in October 2013 and measured responses from adults 18 and over:

  • 64% of respondents used a smart phone to access the internet
  • Of those, 26% of the 18-29 year old respondents use Snapchat. Of this group, the majority used it “several times a day.”
  • In contrast, 43% of the same age group uses Instagram and 31% of the age group uses Twitter.

2. Hart Research Associates conducted a survey on behalf of the Family Online Safety Institute in November, 2013 of teens age 13-17 and found the following:

  • 32% of the respondents used Snapchat. Snapchat did not exist when their 2012 survey was done. On this same survey, Instagram was used by 42% of the group, up from 30% in 2012. Twitter users were at 35%, down from 42% the year before.

2. This Sumpto survey is a good example of a marketing company using data to highlight its product. They are a marketing company that basically gives free products to college students who are tagged as influencers in the social media space. They are assigned a score, similar to a Klout score, and can win rewards based on online actions. The survey, published in late February 2014, raised a lot of eyebrows about Snapchat use among college kids. They claimed:

  • 77% of their “influencers” use Snapchat at least once per day. The sample number was 1,650 students. The high percentage jump would make sense for a group of influential social media users.
  • Only 2% of respondents had used Snapchat for sexting.
  • 45% of respondents said they would open a snap from a brand they did not know and 73% said they would open a snap from a brand they did know.
  • 58% of the respondents said they were likely to buy a product if they received a discount via a snap.  

 Marketing With Snapchat Using The GOST Strategy: Goals First

Some social media managers believe Snapchat does not necessarily require a marketing plan. However, if you fail to attach a measurement to a goal, even in a broad context, you will never know if your marketing efforts are producing a result other than “having fun” or “taking it for a spin.” Using a strategic template such as GOST (Goals-Objectives-Strategies-Tactics) will guarantee that you’ll know if you hit the mark.

Whether you actually write out the process or do it in your head, becoming familiar with how to design measurable objectives will help you most with a channel like Snapchat where metrics are few. Marketers learn to rely on tools like Facebook Insights and social media management system (SMMS) dashboards so much that we lose the knack of how to set objectives for channels that don’t provide them. Learning to measure actions is critical in marketing. Every channel has measurable actions. We just have to learn how to plug them into our goals. Goals do not have to be elaborate, but they should be measurable for maximum success.

 Step One: Understand The Channel And How Fans Use It

Before we dig too deep into setting goals for Snapchat, we need to understand what is unique about the platform and why people are using it. This will dictate what kind of goals you set for the channel. In a recent interview with CKSyme Media Group, Alex Restrepo, Social Media Manager for the New Orleans Saints (Saints), addressed what makes Snapchat stand out from other channels:

The last day of the season (2014), we did a thank you video on Snapchat right from the locker room after the game—four or five players gave thank you messages to the fans ending with Drew Brees. We were hearing about that on Twitter still two to three days after the story had disappeared (on Snapchat). 

The high reaction we get from those kind of messages I think is mainly because of the audience and what they’re using Snapchat for—they’re using it for messaging. Snapchat isn’t a regular social media outlet. When you send a snap, it’s perceived as a direct message from the brand or team. When you watch what people say on other social media channels, they say something like “The Saints just Snapchatted me,” or “McDonald’s just Snapchatted me”—they perceive it as a personal message because it’s on their phone to them, not on a newsfeed or a timeline. It comes up as a message on your phone, not as, “I just happened to be scrolling through my timeline and I see something from the Saints.”  Obviously a message from Drew Brees would do well anywhere, but if it’s a snap, they see it as more of a personal touch. (see the winner of the Saints Snapchat contest below asking followers to draw their version of Kenny Stills' famous "catch" against New England.)

New Orleans Saints Kenny Stills "Catch" contest winner

Social media managers currently using Snapchat stress the importance of the channel’s real-time culture. Because fans think of it as a messaging app, managers emphasized the need to operate “in the now.” Snapchat fans respond to snaps in the same real-time fashion they would a text message.

Step Two: What Do You Want To Accomplish?

Goals for using a channel like Snapchat will vary depending on what you want to accomplish. The most common goal I have heard from social media managers (that is measurable) is:

Increase brand engagement with the 15-29 year old age group through Snapchat.

Does your brand already connect with this age group in social media? Do your products or services resonate with this age group? If your answer is yes, then some version of this goal could work for you. We’ll talk about how to measure this in the next section.

While doing social media audience research, Eastern Washington University Athletics (ewuathletics) found a deficit of brand and event engagement with their institution’s student population. EWU has a tradition of being a commuter school and in past years has worked hard to get students to athletic events on campus. They saw Snapchat as a way to highlight the student fan experience at their games and widen the reach of their other social media channels in an integrated campaign to get more students to come to events.  This is a good example of how to make goals that fit your needs.

Marketing With Snapchat Using The GOST Strategy: Measure Goals With Objectives

After you have a goal, the next step is coming up with objectives that will help you measure whether or not you have reached your goal. This is a step that some marketers either skip intentionally because their goals are somewhat nebulous, or just fail to define because they don’t desire any social proof that their campaign was successful. Lack of measureable objectives is the most common missing element in social media campaigns, especially as it relates to Snapchat. The newness of the channel and lack of traditional metrics makes social proof more difficult—but not impossible.

Before we talk about specific objectives you can accomplish around goals, there needs to be a discussion of how to establish metrics. These principles apply to all social media marketing channels, but it is important not to assign a set of blank metrics to every social media channel. For instance, the meaning of impressions on Facebook does not equate to impressions on Snapchat.  Restrepo gives his take on this tricky difference and talks about which actions he measures:

 The amount of followers that we have on Snapchat is growing all the time. And the fact that it’s only on a mobile phone and our fan numbers are still growing, that’s huge because it’s a sign that word-of-mouth is working. I believe our numbers would not be growing if fans didn’t like what they were seeing.

Screenshots and number of views each snap is getting are staying at a steady percentage of the increasing follower number.  Snapchat is like every other social media outlet—there are more numbers I wish I had. But, the fact that I know exactly how many people saw each snap is huge.  Even though Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can tell me how many followers I have, there is no way anymore of knowing exactly how many people saw a post unless they take action. We have 3.5 million followers on Facebook but I’m not sure how many people actually see any post in their newsfeed even though Facebook gives me an impressions percentage. Just because it runs through their Facebook newsfeed or Twitter feed doesn’t mean they saw it.  But I know for a fact that in order to see a snap they have to open it.

Another common misunderstanding is the concept of engagement. Some marketers assume that engagement is not measurable on Snapchat because it cannot be defined by actions such as conversations, comments, likes, retweets, and the like. But some managers disagree. Restrepo says:

Another big number to us is screenshots taken because we know that means people are going to share it with friends or another social media outlet. A share of something from Snapchat to Twitter or from Instagram to Facebook is still a share. People are constantly sharing content across channels.

Engagement is any interaction. It’s hard to differentiate it in a level-type system, but a screenshot is an action—it is engagement. If your numbers are growing and people are sharing your stuff, that’s engagement. It’s not responsive in the sense that they can comment, however, unless you are accepting snaps from your fans. We only do that for contests. The sheer number of snaps we would receive on a daily basis is not manageable because the majority of people send the same snaps to all their followers.

I don’t limit engagement to just a Klout score, or number of retweets or replies or likes. We’re measuring direct engagement with fans one-on-one because that’s what we do with it—connect one-on-one. Engagement can be anything that gets your fan to interact with you or promote your brand.

Nikki Sunstrum, Director of Social Media at the University of Michigan (uofmichigan) talks about how they measure engagement on Snapchat. According to Sunstrum, they follow all their fans back on Snapchat and accept snaps to see what kind of content their fans use to engage them back.

We track the traditional demographics of any social network, audience size, content submission (snaps from fans). More important to us however is the level of engagement. The visual nature and ability to tell “stories” with this network means we have the ability to showcase not only our campus, but also our culture. As long as those that follow us do the same in return, we see that as successful. (see the U of Michigan's creative Easter greeting below).

Is Snapchat For You?

Snapchat has emerged as a channel that many brands are using to engage a younger demographic. The first brands on Snapchat have been there less than a year and some are already realizing fan growth that exceeds other platforms.  If you’re interested in seeing the full 15-page report which includes advice from the social media managers and screenshots of some effective Snapchat campaigns, you can download the complete report at this link. The report was compiled by the CKSyme Media Group. 

Join The Conversation

  • ChrisSyme's picture
    Apr 25 Posted 3 years ago ChrisSyme

    That was a great article, Alan. Thanks for sharing that link. We are seeing more and more good case studies now that more brands are getting on Snapchat. Just remember to have a plan before you make that dive. :)

  • Alan Cassinelli's picture
    Apr 25 Posted 3 years ago Alan Cassinelli

    Before social marketers dive into marketing on Snapchat, they really should reseach the best Snapchat campaigns out there that have been proven succesful

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