Engaging customers and prospects on an emerging social media platform can be a bit of a gamble not unlike prospecting. Brand participation requires a commitment of time and resources with an uncertain return. Take Second Life, for example, a virtual reality world launched in 2003 that got brand participation from household names like General Motors, Warner Brothers, and Adidas in 2005 and 2006 with promising engagement and no real return. Although if Facebook's recent acquisition of Oculus for $2 billion is any indication, Second Life may get some renewed interest as a social network for virtual reality.
Like striking oil, having a social campaign or community effort go viral can have a huge payout and requires both luck and skill. Oil drillers are not buying a lottery ticket with every new well they dig, they are making an informed decision based on what they know of the terrain and previous experience.
Another example of a new social media platform is Facebook. In 2007, the company launched Facebook Pages and seeded 100,000 businesses. The businesses that were chosen had no way of knowing for sure that the pages platform would be successful. The platform wasn't rolled out for everyone until 2009, so for about two years, those fan pages got all the attention with none of the competition. By November of 2013, there were 25 million small business pages. Today, having a Facebook fan page is considered one of the cornerstones of a social media marketing mix.
The companies that got in on the ground floor and gambled that it would pay off were the ones that reaped the benefits of early success with more followers and less competition. These kinds of opportunities are still around. I agree with the sentiment that you are not late! Remember the early days of the Internet when any dotcom name was available? Many people think back to 1994 nostalgically and fantasize, "if only I had started marketing on Internet platforms then." Someday, people are going to think the same thing of the year 2014, when things like ephemeral messaging and mobile app marketing were still relatively new.
Can you afford not to place a bet?
Batter Up: Ephemeral Messaging
Ephemeral messaging, with Snapchat as its poster child, is a new social media platform that is rapidly growing and just starting to get attention. In December 2013, when Snapchat turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook to buy it out, there were 30 million Snapchat users. As of April 2014, there were closer to 70 million users. Snapchat took a calculated risk in turning down that offer and it seems to be paying off, with the user growth continuing to accelerate. From the last quarter of 2013 to through the first quarter of 2014, Snapchat's user base grew 67 percent, while Facebook's increased by 9 percent on its mobile app.
Snapchat users like it because it is informal, easy, and fun. Brands can interact with those customers and prospects in the same manner. Snapchat users sign up to receive messages from a brand. This is a fundamentally different type of interaction versus passively seeing an ad or promotion based on demographics and a social graph.
How 16 Handles Handled Snapchat
One of the first companies to use Snapchat for a campaign was New York-based yogurt shop 16 Handles. The company initially announced the campaign on Twitter and explained the rules. First, a customer sends a picture of him or herself tasting the yogurt at a 16 Handles location. Then 16 Handles responds with a coupon on Snapchat for anywhere from 16 to 100 percent off. The customer opens the coupon at the register with 10 seconds to use it, only then finding out the amount. After the campaign, 16 Handles reported receiving 1,400 new interactions from customers.
Audi Focuses on Millennials
Audi is another company that created a successful Snapchat campaign. Audi has always been pretty vocal about trying to reach a younger demographic in order to keep growing its consumer base. The company has done everything from creating young, hip parties with craft beer and electronic music, to partnering with Justin Timberlake for a series of Internet movies. With its goal of becoming the status symbol car for young, hip urban dwellers, Audi turned to Snapchat, which boasts a demographic of 70 percent of users under age 25.
Audi used Superbowl Sunday to gain an audience. During the game, the company sent out photos with clever captions, commenting on parts of the game and welcoming its followers to participate. This helped it stand out from the companies using standard real-time Twitter campaigns. As a result, Audi saw an increase in engagement across all its platforms. Many fans shared their private Snaps publicly on Facebook and Twitter. Some went as far as to mention that Audi's Snaps were the best part of the game. As a result, Audi's Twitter fan base grew by 2,500 and the company gained 9,000 new fans for its Facebook pages.
Ephemeral messaging can be an important part of your social media mix, driving engagement across multiple social networks. 16 Handles announced its ephemeral messaging campaign on Facebook and Twitter and then used Snapchat to run it. Audi encouraged fans to share their Snaps on Twitter and Facebook, which they did, amplifying the company's message.
Why Getting in on the Ground Floor Works
When Facebook started with business pages, the companies who participated first got the largest followings and value. Seven years later, having a similar impact is much harder and more costly. Today, Facebook is a mature market, like any other, ruled by supply and demand. The supply of content has exploded as this platform has matured, but people's attention hasn't, so Facebook tweaks the algorithm to provide the best experience for its customers.
Brands have to continue to work get their message in front of prospects and customers even after they become followers. Facebook has stated it expects organic distribution of an individual page's posts to gradually decline over time and for fan acquisition to provide value as a way to improve advertising effectiveness.
Although working with a new social platform is a gamble, it's a calculated one when you're dealing with platforms like Snapchat. Ephemeral messaging is full of active users and little brand presence. It's important for brands to start participating now and working it into to their social marketing mix to capture the attention of this new audience.
This post originally appeared on the Adobe Digital Marketing blog.