Article by Hannah Gatens
Snap back to late 2012 when Evan Spiegel was a student at Stanford University — the prestigious university near Palo Alto, California. The very campus that housed the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, business moguls Doris Fisher (the co-founder of Gap) and Reed Hastings (the co-founder of Netflix). Sports professionals like John Elway and Tiger Woods passed through Stanford. As did sought-after faces in pop culture like Reese Witherspoon and Sigourney Weaver.
No, that was not an excuse to name all of those folks in a blog post. Rather, it’s meant to set you up to understand that Spiegel will likely go down in history as being among that elite group of achievers who came from Stanford.
Spiegel is the 23-year-old co-founder of Snapchat, one of the most popular (among younger demographics) and booming social apps for sharing photos and videos with friends.
Just like every other form of photo-sharing social media out there, right? Not quite. Snapchat shares photos privately. Yes…privately.
Is there such a thing as privacy when it comes to social media? Well, kind of.
Sure, nothing is completely private, but Snapchat has accomplished some degree of privacy, at least much more so than any other form of social media to date. Previously called “Picaboo,” Snapchat has taken the social media world by storm, but in surprisingly different ways than people have come to expect from social media.
What’s all this matter for a Consociate blog post?
Sidebar: When Stephanie Heinatz hired Hannah Gatens, she did some social snooping to learn more about the Christopher Newport University grad. There wasn’t much on Facebook, Steph said, because she would learn that Hannah, like her 20-something peers, uses Snapchat.
Snapchat has us wondering if it can be used as a marketing platform in the same way that we use other social media outlets — like Facebook or Twitter, Instagram or Google+, and Pinterest — to share information and connect with the community.
What exactly is Snapchat?
Snapchat. Identify it by its yellow, white and black ghost-themed logo.
How does it work? Snapchat is a totally mobile social application (as opposed to Facebook, which you can use on your desk and laptops, too) stands out as different because when a user sends a photo, the receiver has anywhere between one and 10 seconds to view the photo before it is permanently deleted by the app. More on that later.
It also offers the ability to draw on photos, choose different filters, and include the time, the temperature and even how many miles per hour you’re moving. Have you seen Facebook do that?
Who’s using Snapchat?
Young people. Snapchat began recognizing a pattern — the app’s usage starting peaking between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. — just about the time students roll into school and then leave. Snapchat basically created visual notes that students could “pass” back and forth discretely and quietly, and the best part for students (not parents and teachers)? No proof of any Snapchat exchanges, considering the photos terminate themselves in a matter of seconds.
Facebook, admittedly, has seen a decline in teenage users. Today, the average Facebook user is closer to 40, while Snapchat has seen a drastic increase in the number of younger users.
Compared to its beginnings, Snapchat has grown exponentially. As of June 2014, Snapchat has 30 million monthly active users on the app valued at $2 billion and growing.
What makes Snapchat different?
First of all, Snapchat claims to be a more intimate and exclusive social media platform. It’s harder to add users — you have to know someone’s username if you want any luck in “snapping” the right person. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, you don’t become Snapchat friends with just anyone. Let me guess, you’re Facebook friends with your grandma, maybe some long-lost elementary school friends, former professors, your yoga instructor at the gym, fellow PTA members, and the list goes on. But Snapchat offers a more intimate social media experience. Most often, users are only “friends” with people they actually talk to — as in, real life talking.
Second, Snapchat is distinguished as young, “hip” and “cool” — I think it’s drawn popularity, in part, because its main demographic is teenagers who can use it privately and away from the hovering eyes of parents or teachers, or their hundreds of Facebook friends with something to say. There is an appeal for younger people to be able to participate in an exchange without having “prying parents or future employers” watching — it’s nice to feel “unreachable” at times. Or so I hear.
Because photos “self destruct” after opening, Snapchat claims to allow people to use digital communication in the same way one used to use the telephone — “a way to communicate with little risk it will come back to bite you.” Right or wrong, it’s one of the reasons it’s become incredibly appealing for high school students looking for jobs or prospective colleges, and especially college graduates and twenty-something’s who are advised to be extra particular with what they share in an online sphere.
That’s not to say that the little risk isn’t there. Because it’s most popular among teenagers, it’s being used in some context to send and receive sexually explicit photos, an exchange that Snapchat is adamantly against.
While Snapchat does understand that there are ways to save the photos transmitted through the app via screenshot or by taking a picture with another camera, Snapchat has made it trickier—and more fun — to save or copy a picture by requiring users to hold a finger on their phone screens to view the image.
Exploding Coupons! Yikes!
In the case of Consociate, we’ve continued to play with Snapchat as a marketing tool. As are other marketing firms out there.
One frozen yogurt company, 16 Handles in New York City, has been dubbed the guinea pig for Snapchat marketing.
Here’s what they did. Their campaign came in three steps. First customers had to “snap” a photo of themselves trying out the yogurt at 16 Handles and send it to the Snapchat company account.
Second, 16 Handles sent a coupon back via their own Snapchat account.
And then? The user would have to wait to open the Snapchat until they were at the 16 Handles cash register and ready to redeem it because — typical Snapchat — you could only see the image for 10 seconds before it self-destructed and automatically deleted.
This particular marketing strategy offered coupons anywhere between 16 to 100 percent off the frozen yogurt purchase.
This practice, to some, has been coined as “exploding coupons.”
What does Snapchat cost companies?
Though Snapchat is a free app to users, like Facebook, Snapchat can charge businesses when they set up branded accounts. The New Orleans Saints, Acura and Taco Bell are a couple of companies using Snapchat to leverage their brand to their widest audience. The Saints use the app to show behind-the-scenes footage of the professional football team. Taco Bell and Acura debut new products and share information with their most loyal followers first.
Snapchat’s specific design — the privacy protection and disappearing images — are its core strength, and undoubtedly its strongest advertising flaw. Its ability to advertise is basically crippled because it doesn’t possess the target advertising functions that social media relies on.
Although, forget those aspects for just a moment, and recall that Snapchat has a major advantage over other social media outlets. Users have to keep their finger on a photo or video in order to view it, meaning that Snapchat is able to tell advertisers who do use Snapchat as a means to market, with “absolute certainty” whether their ads were viewed — “a useful data point in the metric-driven world of digital advertising.”
While Consociate hasn’t integrated Snapchat with any clients at this point, we’re testing out some ideas and will be back soon to report on our beta tests!
Learn more about Snapchat by visiting the app online at https://www.snapchat.com.