With more than 100 million active daily users, Snapchat is today’s red-hot social media darling, especially among millennials and Gen Z.
Until recently, I didn’t get it. Being a Gen Xer, my knowledge about the mobile-first network was limited to self-destructing messages.
But then I started playing around with it a couple weeks ago, and now I get what all the fuss is about. I’ll sum it up in 6 simple words.
It’s real. It’s raw. It’s now.
Much like our interactions in the physical world, everything is in the moment. There are no photos with pretty filters. No touched-up videos. And just like our real-life interactions, it’s ephemeral. The interactions happen, and then they disappear.
A simple snap is only available for up to 10 seconds once a user opens it. However, the more popular Snapchat story – which lets your friends live your day with you via a series of photos and 5-second videos – is available for 24 hours before it automatically vanishes.
What piqued my interest in this nascent social network is the fact that Snapchat trends young. In fact, 71% of its daily active users are under 25 years old. (Check out 60 amazing Snapchat stats.)
As an integrated marketing communications director at a children’s hospital, the young demographic appeals to me since millennials make up 40% of U.S. parents. Could Snapchat be the social network that will allow us to create a more intimate and personal brand relationship with our patient families?
Yes, I think so, even though the opportunities of the somewhat obscure network also present specific challenges.
The content shared on Snapchat is exclusive, highly engaging and very personal.
So unlike other social media channels, Snapchat is not the place to repurpose content. Snaps and stories aren’t nice and neat either, which is what makes them more relatable and fun for a younger audience but a bit jarring for older adults.
“You can’t control what it looks like and feels like as much,” said Tony Dobies, social media strategist for West Virginia University. “You can’t really upload your own content – make a graphic in Photoshop and put it up. You have to live and work within Snapchat’s interface.”
Tony, who oversees all of the university’s social channels, said they started using Snapchat in August 2014 to focus on admissions and high school students. They’ve also found that it helps keep current WVU students and young alumni connected to the university.
Since I’m looking into adding Snapchat to the list of social networks we use for Akron Children’s Hospital, I wanted to get his advice on how a Snapchat newbie like me should get started.
Tony recommended these 4 tips:
1. Plan specific campaigns that are easy to execute.
For WVU, one such campaign includes Campus Gems, which gives prospective students a behind-the-scenes look at buildings and sites around the university. They promote their Snapchat campaigns via Twitter, which also skews to a younger demographic.
Another campaign targeting high school students is #AskWVU. Teens are able to ask questions to the university account and get answers in real-time. So far, this campaign has been the most successful with 7,000 views vs. the average 6,000 views.
2. Find other people to help.
At WVU, Tony and his team rely on students to help communicate their messages. As part of their Takeover Tuesday series, a different student takes over the university’s Snapchat account for that day. The goal is to show campus life through the lens of a current student.
I’ve come to look forward to these Snapchat stories. There’s an engaging diversity in the stories since every Tuesday a different student shares his or her own experience in a way that’s unique and personal.
3. Don’t force content.
“Don’t worry if you haven’t snapped in a couple days,” he said. “Twice a week is fine.”
This is a plus in my book since the other social channels require posting at least twice a day to optimize your content’s reach.
4. Get on there and use it yourself.
“That’s the best thing I ever did,” Tony said. “Find out how to use it and use it creatively. There are a lot of gems, such as the way you can draw on snaps and use face filters. Snapchat is always adding new things and keeping it fresh.”
Examples include funky face filters, speed modifiers that let you add slow motion, fast-forward or rewind effects to your video, and text and drawing features for snaps. For brands looking to tap into this social network, the Snapchat geofilters offer a great opportunity. Here’s an example of a geofilter.
Tony cautioned, however, that getting filters accepted can be somewhat of a nightmare. “We’ve gotten denied a whole lot,” he said. “You have to be very specific and follow their guidelines. Whenever you create a geofence, make sure it’s very specific.”
So just get on there and have some fun, like these adults who tried Snapchat for the first time.
The other Snapchat challenge for marketers is its rudimentary analytics. “There’s no way to know how many followers you have,” Tony said. “The only thing it gives you is a score (total number of snaps sent and received) and number of views and screenshots.”
Perhaps that’s enough. Much like our other social networks, it’s really more about engagement than it is the number of followers.
For more about Snapchat, check out these articles:
- 5 things everyone should know about Snapchat
- Snapchat for business: How your marketing can benefit from photo messaging
- What’s the point of Snapchat, and how does it work?
- How to post a story, delete story, view stories & number of views of story on Snapchat