Snapchat: Why Should Advertisers Pay Attention?

Jack Myers TomorrowToday Economics

In a technology-saturated world where Vine and Myspace have all but bitten the dust and some 1,000 new apps join the Apple store every day, why in the world should anyone care about Snapchat? Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer of GroupM Worldwide believes those in the advertising business should care, but cautiously. In my recent exclusive interview with Rob, he suggested that if there's one company that can break through the Google/Facebook duopolistic situation, it's Snapchat. "I love Snapchat," he effused. "I think it's a genius business. It almost feels like a generational shift from an interface point of view. I watch people who are much younger than I am intuitively getting it much more quickly than I did, which means it's probably very good. But if you're going to, as a brand, decide to participate in Snapchat stories, then you've got to do so in a way that doesn't make it look like your parents dancing at a disco!"

The Unprecedented Growth of Snapchat

When Snapchat first debuted, it was a peripheral app used by teenagers and maybe the Kardashians. Nothing seemed to phase the juggernaut that is Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram seemed similarly uninterested in the newest competitor. Then brands started seeing that Snapchat offered something different – two things, really: better storytelling and immediacy.

As a result, Snapchat started growing remarkably quickly. In mid to late 2015, Snapchat was recording about 2 billion video views each day. By March 2016, daily views had risen to 8 billion and by May, Snapchat had surpassed long-time leader Facebook with a whopping 10 billion video views daily. As reported in Variety, a disgruntled former employee, who joined Snapchat from Facebook for only three-weeks before being terminated, has filed a lawsuit claiming Snapchat has misrepresented selected growth data. Marketers, however, have been embracing the platform as much for the unique creative applications as for the number of active users.

Much of Snapchat's surge in usage has been attributed to the app's Stories and Discover features. People are able to connect with new brands and influencers that might have previously been outside their normal spheres of interaction and the stories the people behind those accounts create – visual tales like behind-the-scenes footage or brand messaging, for instance – build instant connections between companies and consumers.

Why Advertisers Have to Care About Snapchat

So, to answer the question posed earlier, why should marketers care about Snapchat? In short, because they can't afford not to.

Snapchat has more than 60 million users in the U.S. and Canada alone. That's not as many as Facebook or Instagram but it's more than Twitter and Pinterest, and Snapchat's not done growing. That's true for the app's advertising revenue, too. Snapchat was set to rake in about $366.7 million in ad money in 2016 and they're poised to break the $1 billion-mark next year. A lot of that money is coming from the full-screen ads strewn across those Stories and Discover sections.

The Exciting Potential of Snapchat Advertising

Marketers for brands both big and small are jumping on Snapchat in a major way. They're drawn to the app for a lot of reasons:

  • Immediacy: When a brand's snap is only visible for 10 seconds at a time, people feel the need to pay attention
  • Frequency: Once a snap disappears it's time to put up another one – that steady stream of content helps build rapport and frames the brand as reliable and communicative
  • Approachability: Many brands and personalities have found success posting raw footage that gives audiences a glimpse behind the curtain – from pre-concert footage from musical acts to touring a new pop-up store with a fashion designer, these sneak peeks build interest
  • Story-First Focus: Most social platforms run off of "likes" or favorites that advertisers feel driven to accumulate. Snapchat advertising ditches that kind of approval pandering in favor of more organic storytelling that feels more authentic (whether it is or not).

Snapchat is a different kind of app that requires a modified approach to marketing, but there are some brands that are getting it right. The World Wildlife fund played off Snapchat's disappearing content by launching a "disappearing wildlife" campaign meant to inspire awareness. Faux news outlet The Onion partnered with Audi to Snapchat the Super Bowl live, leading to a huge surge in followers for the car company. Then there's the popular makeup brand NARS, which used Snapchat to preview their new line and offer a limited-time only personalization option to VIP followers.

A Look to the Future

In November 2016, Snap Inc. took the first steps towards an initial public offering sources say could happen as early as March 2017. The platform is valued at an estimated $25 billion. While the app seems to have a bright – and financially promising – future, competitors aren't content with being overshadowed.

Facebook is fighting back with live video streaming (you've probably already seen it taking over your feed and peppering your phone with notifications) and Zuckerberg and Co. are already working on features like Facebook image masks and disappearing direct messaging, both of which are riffs on existing Snapchat functionalities.

Which app will come out ahead? It's hard to tell, but marketers and consumers are winning heavily as the battle for social supremacy rages on.

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