ThinkstockPhotos-503712028-742067-edited.jpg Whether or not you use it, we’ve all heard of Snapchat. And regardless of your preconceived notions about it, this photo/video sharing app has quickly become popular with adults over the last year, making it a serious contender in the social media world. Snapchat is no longer just for teens, but for moms too! So how can marketers take advantage of this increasingly mainstream tool?

The Scoop on Snapchat

When it was initially released in 2011, Snapchat was an instant favorite among teenagers, largely due to the fact that content would disappear after being viewable for only a brief amount of time.

Basically, you communicate in real time by taking a picture or short video (called a “snap”), adding a quick caption, and sending it to people who are connected to your Snapchat account. The snap is available for viewing for only a few seconds after it is opened and then it disappears.

You can also create a “story”, which strings all your snaps together and allows them to be viewed by any of your Snapchat connections for 24 hours. To connect with someone on Snapchat outside of your phone contacts, you have to look them up by their username, Snapcode or QR code.

Snapchat Doesn’t Keep Score

Snapchat is stripped down social media and is all about living in the moment and sharing authentic experiences.Their photo effects aren’t made to give a “professional” look to your images, like on Instagram. There’s no editing, like on Facebook. There’s no popularity contest for who has the most Snapchat friends. There’s no keeping score. Period.

Life on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, for example, tends to be more about the rush of scoring likes and comments. Many Instagram and Facebook users even view these things as a barometer of popularity and self-worth. Many users will create content designed for the sole purpose of collecting “likes”, and delete posts that haven’t drawn enough attention.

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Those who follow you on Snapchat can view your snaps and stories, but there’s no option to “like”, comment, or share them. That takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of users to create content that will receive a lot of “likes” versus creating content that is authentic. Society in general could take a cue from Snapchat’s stripped down approach. Marketers should follow this same philosophy in creating authentic content and not just focusing on the popular vote.

Discover – Marketing on Snapchat

Unlike Facebook, you can’t pay for ads to pop up on a news feed in Snapchat, because there is no news feed. If you want to see what someone is up to, you have to follow them. Which means that anyone following you actually cares about what you have to say.

Snapchat’s current large scale marketing opportunities appear in the form of an online magazine layout in the Discover channel feature. Discover channels allow select publishers to have a permanent place on Snapchat where they can post content from various sources, use a mix of text and photos, and long or short form videos. These publishers can then include some advertising snaps in the middle of their stories.

When this feature launched a year ago, there were only eleven channel partners (CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News and Warner Music). That number has now more than doubled to twenty-one channels, and will no doubt continue to grow.

While Discover partners is an exclusive club limited to high-traffic media companies, all marketers should take note on the creative concepts being used on these channels. Any person or business can create a SnapChat account (like Audi, GrubHub< and even the White House), but you need to generate creative and interesting content in order to gain more followers. Your audience may not yet be as broad as it is on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, but you will know they are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

How Do You Get Started on Snapchat?

Signing-up for a Snapchat account is not much different from setting up any other social media account. You’ll need to provide an email address and birthdate for your company (make it over 18 so you don’t end up classified as a child). You’ll be asked for a phone number, but you can skip over that.

Be sure to keep all of your social media branding in sync so that users can easily find you across all of the social channels. 20th Century Fox is an example of what NOT to do when setting up your SnapChat account. If you went to look them up on Snapchat as “20thcenturyfox”, which is how they are listed on Twitter, you wouldn’t get a match. No suggestions will appear at all. That’s because their Snapchat account is FoxMovies. So if your business is already listed as ClearPivot on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then it’s wise to also use the ClearPivot name on Snapchat.

What Should You Post?

After you setup your Snapchat account, practice posting some snaps to get used to capturing experiences while you’re in the moment. Remember, Snapchat users like authentic content and the interaction is all about sharing experiences. Also, be sure to post often since content disappears after a brief amount of time.

If you really want to increase the human connection between the company and its audience, have one employee take over the company Snapchat account every day and make a story about their day. Having a different employee do this every day will show the personalities of the people behind the company, and further strengthen your relationship with your Snapchat connections.

Tidbits for Specific Industries

Cosmetic Companies

Snapchat has a very useful timelapse and fast forward feature, which would be great for how-to stories. This would be a very effective way to showcase a new product and how to best use it. Also, every makeup wearing woman loves tips on how to apply makeup like the pros. You could have a different story everyday on how to properly apply lip liner, mascara, brow liner, eye shadow etc. Stories on how best to store, care for, and replace makeup would a hit as well.

Hardware or Craft Stores

Customers of these businesses tend to be do-it-yourselfers, so what better way to connect with these users than with a DIY story. Home improvement stories can range from large construction projects, like building a deck, landscaping, or finishing your basement, to smaller projects such as replacing a light switch, installing cabinet hardware, or which light bulbs are the most energy efficient. Craft DIY stories can also have a variety ranging from quilting to scrapbooking, or anything in between. The sky’s the limit with DIY stories.

Local Coffee Shops/Bars/Boutiques

These types of businesses tend to host frequent events that appeal to those within their community. Wouldn’t it be great to post live snaps from the event to draw more interest from those who perhaps didn’t know about it or forgot to mark the event on their calendar? Since these businesses are local, a user could see your snap from the event and drop in to check it out before the fun ends.

Don’t Miss Out on the Next “Big One”

The full marketing potential of Snapchat remains widely untapped. That could change very quickly this year. Gary Vaynerchuk declared that 2016 is the year for Snapchat:

“…if you’re running a business in 2016, you need to be thinking about Snapchat as a channel to grow your customer base. Period… I haven’t seen this much consumer attention on one social platform since early 2007 and 2008 with Twitter.”

The millennial generation makes up the majority of the workforce in America and are quickly taking over the world of business. They are increasingly not tuning in to traditional media like broadcast TV and print newspapers.. The most effective resource to reach this prime target audience is through social media, and more importantly right now – Snapchat!

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