Before jumping on the bandwagon, marketers should consider if it’s right for their audience and suited to their brand
Following its much-hyped IPO, you can’t help but be impressed by Snapchat’s growth story. And while investors may debate whether this amount of growth is sustainable, its rivals are taking no chances. Instagram Stories has been called a Snapchat clone while WhatsApp’s new features appear to be heavily inspired by the platform, to say the least. But while imitation may be the surest form of flattery, does this mean that marketers should be investing in Snapchat now, or wait to see who comes out on top?
There's a strong argument to be made that Snapchat is an innovative market leader that’s pulling in the user numbers, while the competition is trying to keep up. The fact that major brands like The Economist, General Electric, Grub Hub, the New York Times and Domino's UK are all active on the platform is also a big vote of confidence. The attraction is easy to understand: Snapchat has a young, highly engaged audience and these names are using their content expertise to impress these people and earn their next generation of subscribers or customers.
There's also something about Snapchat’s in-built use of video messaging that seems to connect with users. It’s very much like a personal, pocket-sized TV. It has the intimacy of a mobile device and can be as striking as any movie trailer. For example, The Economist has developed content specifically for the platform that looked at the world's oceans, related pollution issues, businesses and inventions active in the area. If Snapchat is personalised TV then The Economist offers up documentary style content for it.
The fact that content vanishes from it after just a short while also encourages people to post even more personal content. At the same time, it allows marketers to experiment and flex their creative muscles because if a piece of content doesn't quite hit the right note, it will at least self-destruct.
But marketers who aren't automatically attracted to Snapchat might, quite rightly, ask themselves if their target audience is on the platform and whether it’s the best way of reaching them. The trouble is, it can be tricky trying to determine the precise demographics and interests of Snapchat’s users because of its strong commitment to privacy. What we do know is that Snapchat's user base tends to be young and disproportionately female. Snapchat itself hasn't reported on the gender breakdown yet but interview comments from CEO Evan Spiegel have confirmed that these long held assumptions are true. However, its advertising features have not been generous endowed with targeting options. And although the door is beginning to crack open, it isn’t yet able to offer the same targeting precision as Facebook.
It’s also important to consider if your brand is capable of producing the sort of content people under the age of 35 expect to see on Snapchat or if there’s another platform that’s better suited to your brand and audience profile. For example, a recent Meaningful Brands study from Havas, the advertising agency, suggested that up to 60% of content from brands is little more than digital clutter. You don’t want to be one of the 60%. So while a recruitment company may find Snapchat useful for reaching a certain candidate who tends to be an early adopter, they should first consider what they have to say and if their video creation capability is up to the job. It may be that a less video-reliant platform like LinkedIn, where people expect to find career-related content, might be more suitable. On the other hand, a gaming company looking to target women will find that their barrier to entry on Snapchat is lower, since they already have video content at the ready and in-house editors who can easily tweak it for Snapchat.
That's not to say that you need to have a full production crew to be able to create video content for Snapchat, though. Sometimes all it takes is a member of the team who can speak confidently in front of a smartphone. It’s actually less resource intensive that you might think and even using a simple backdrop can make all the difference.
Snapchat is already bigger than Pinterest and if it’s able to hold a steady course then the pressure on brands to compete with it for people's attention will only grow. There are clearly benefits to joining the party but only if it’s the right fit for your audience and you’re able to craft the playful, visual content that Snapchat users have come to expect.