Snapchat isn't a fad: here's what marketers need to know about it.
Snapchat has been dismissed as a "fad," an app "only for the youth," and a nightmare for parents afraid of teen "sexting." But Snapchat is much more than a casual, lighthearted way to share silly selfies with one's friends. And as new developments such as Discover bring Snapchat to the next level of popularity, marketers and brands need to jump on board.
Discover was launched in late January of this year. On top of Snapchat's already popular "photo stories," Discover adds new channels that are updated every 24 hours from brands such as Vice Media , CNN, and ESPN. The Discover "stories" act almost like little digital magazines, augmented by music, video, and GIFs appealing to the Internet generation. These microstories provide just enough content to satisfy the short attention spans of Millennials and Generation Z, but are backed by brands that older generations know and are comfortable with.
The Discovery update, frankly, is genius. As users move more towards "dark social" and messaging apps, Snapchat is coming out on top as a network that doesn't require the same level of commitment as Facebook or Twitter, but supplies an experience that's extremely addicting. Snapchat's interactive (albeit occasionally confusing) interface and lack of a "feed" is refreshing. No longer is one exposed to suggested groups, pages, and daily "quotes of the days" that we've all grown pretty sick of on other networks. Instead, like television (I know, vintage), users get to choose who and what they follow without pressure or remote controls. Instead, Snapchat users employ the tactile and satisfying "swipe" motion (popularized by the likes of Tinder). Plus, their closest friends are also right there, broadcasting what they're up to or privately chatting (the two polarizing but complementary desires of social networking that our varying generations have come to disagree on).
Snapchat's "pick-and-choose" layout builds loyal and engaged followings, and all of the action is confined within one app. No more Facebook plus Facebook Messenger plus Foursquare plus Twitter plus Skype taking up room on your phone! No more haunting photos or tweets from last night, because they eventually go away! No more obligatory friend requests from someone in high school that you didn't like.
So, where do brands come in? Well, to reach this highly engaged audience, brands need to produce visual/comedic/and "special" content. Take MTV, for example. Recently, the network used Snapchat to announce the nominees for the Video Music Awards. MTV also routinely has stars and musicians "take over" its Snapchat story for a day. Taco Bell used a Snapchat to announce the return of its Beefy Crunch Burrito. Snapchat-broadcast stories have also been for music festivals, such as EDC 2014, which allowed users in the general geographic vicinity to upload their own snaps to a massive story about the event. Even the Northeast got in on the geo-story action as "Juno" became a "live" broadcast while the snowstorm raged on. Think of these "stories" as a new kind of crowdsourced content that may be perfect for brands seeking to reach massive numbers by flaunting their fans, creative personalities, and humor.
Snapchat is important because it's the perfect app for the mobile crowd. It's for those of us who are on the go and on our smartphones -- an ever-growing percentage of internet users. While this untethered demographic mostly consists of the under-30 age group bracket right now, Snapchat's innovative appeal will likely extend to a more diversified age cohort in the future.