Snapchat blew onto the stage as the newest hot spot for brands to reach the 16-24 age group in October 2013 with the introduction of their Stories feature. Designed to woo brands to the popular picture messaging platform, Stories allowed users to string together a series of ten-second (max) snaps or videos into a story that disappears snap by snap as each piece of the story reaches the 24-hour mark-a much improved duration for brands over the present ten seconds per picture.
Brands started jumping on the platform with Stories. Some of the earliest were pro and college sports teams, consumer brands like Taco Bell, and Mashable. The content has been a mixed bag and has ranged from contests to creative movies to just showing teams warming up on a basketball floor. The lure of "shiny new toy" syndrome drew brands like Audi whose much-hyped Super Bowl campaign was a one-off, driving the most mentions of any car company on social media that day (mostly thanks to Twitter).
Even though there is nothing wrong with jumping on something new just because it is new, brands without clear long range strategies for creative content are starting to wane. The brands that fall short most often are ones that are just using Snapchat as another channel to broadcast the same old same old; talking at people rather than with them.
The key goals for successful social media content are the same no matter what the channel. Jeff Bullas defines them as entertain, inform, educate, and inspire. The only thing that changes because of the channel is delivery method. It needs to fit the culture of the platform. If you're looking to be successful with Snapchat, your content has to have the same attention to detail and strategic story telling as the rest of your channels. How are successful brands doing that?
Snapchat Is A Messaging Platform
This is part of what makes Snapchat a conundrum for brands. Many of them have never used messages for marketing to fans before. What makes a good text or picturemessage? According to Exact Target, fans respond well to several types of push notifications including timely reminders, special offers, and critical/exclusive information. In addition, Entrepreneur recommends these tips for writing effective marketing texts: be brief and focused, offer something of immediate value, and make consumers feel special. How can you apply that advice to Snapchat?
- Talk to fans face-to-face. Rather than sending snaps of teams warming up on the basketball court, how about grabbing a player right before warm-ups for a personal message directed just at Snapchat fans reminding them to watch or asking for a snap back in their fan gear? The New Orleans Saints are consistently good at using players to give personal messages to fans on Snapchat. You can follow them at "saints."
- Embrace the culture of scribbling, doodling and emojis strategically. The younger audience on Snapchat is more sophisticated than some marketers think. They value creativity, not a string of meaningless emojis on the screen. Follow some of the artists on Snapchat doing it well and learn. Two of my favorites are "shonduras"(Disney) and "dabttll" (Mashable).
- Solicit feedback. Whether it's a contest, a question, or an invite to send a snap back, interact. The Washington Wizards recently ran a contest for tickets to a playoff game by asking fans to document a five-task scavenger hunt with snaps and then show up at a designated location to get the free tickets. Some snaps from the story are shown below.
The New Orleans Saints have also used contests effectively to solicit fan interaction. One of their more popular contests asked fans to draw a screen snap commemorating a game-winning catch by Kenny Stills. The winner is shown below. Remember, these pictures are drawn by fingertip on a phone screen. Try it sometime-it's not as easy as it looks.
- Be creative. Learn how to use your finger or stylus to doodle on pictures and make images come alive with animation. Become familiar with filters. Plan a movie with a storyboard like Mashable's promotion of the Blue Ray release of the latest Hobbit movie. The "half picture, half doodling" adventure turned three employees who wanted to buy the DVD into Hobbits and sent them on a quest in Central Park. A sample of their multi-snap adventure is shown below.
Taco Bell made a splash with the first highly produced short movie on Snapchat. The feature chronicled the elusive search for a new Taco Bell taco on the night of the MTV Awards. It was spectacularly creative and the first of its kind on Snapchat-a project that took much more work than a regular video commercial because of the need to shoot and edit in real-time and use just a phone camera.
McDonald's used Snapchat to preview the commercial for its new Clubhouse Sandwich complete with high profile sports figures LeBron James, Johnny Manziel, and Richard Sherman. They also used it to unveil their new international french fry box design promoting the World Cup.
Even though you might not have access to LeBron James to do your promotion on Snapchat, the message is the same for success: the quality of content has to be good. The McDonald's piece on Snapchat was well written and had the same high quality McDonald's would devote to any commercial. Successful Snapchat content should not be an afterthought or a leftover.
- Make it spontaneous and fun. That is what good text messages are about. How about an Easter egg hunt at a baseball game? Or a challenge from an ESPN sports commentator?
Entertainment is one of the key goals of successful social media content. People don't need to be sold at every turn. Sometimes we just need to provide them with some spontaneous fun like this adventure of three toy soldiers who crash landed in a kitchen and went on a mission to escape. This creative masterpiece was done by "shonduras," whose talent as a doodler got him a gig as the brains behind the new Disney Snapchat account.
The key goals for successful social media content are the same no matter what the channel. The honeymoon on Snapchat for brands is over. If brands want to succeed there until the run is over, they'll need to put as much work into good Snapchat content as they do on every other channel.