What 30 Days on Snapchat Can Teach a 40-Something

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“I snapped you, and you didn’t open it!” That was the admonishment I got from a co-worker on a Monday morning just one month ago. Truth is, I started using Snapchat to fulfill a promise to that very Millennial after she literally snapped at me for not having seen the photo of her sparkly new engagement ring before she could show me in person. But it wasn’t without hemming and hawing. I asked why I needed another social profile to monitor, especially one where messages and photos disappear. Wouldn’t I just text someone or just use Instagram? I’m beyond my 30s; aren’t I too old to use Snapchat? After just one day actively exploring Snapchat, however, I quickly snapped out of my skepticism.

Simply put, Snapchat is so much more than I thought. I barely remember that snaps and chats “disappear” anymore. Instead, I see storytelling made simple. Over the last 30 days, I’ve paid attention to how brands are sequencing Snapchat into their narrative strategy. What I’ve realized is that it is truly an engagement platform -- one that is predicted to draw in more than 60 million users by the end of this year. (Fact: 9,000 snaps are shared per second; which means since you’ve been reading this approximately 350,000 snaps have been sent.)

Here’s my take on how other skeptics can start to re-think Snapchat.

Think Chapter vs. Novel

At first, the notion of ephemeral messaging may seem silly. What’s the point of self-destructing messages? Isn’t the beauty of the digital era that a brand can package and archive content so it can be seen and shared forever? Snapchat is thriving because it took what we all knew about social networking (a “to my entire network” model) and flipped it on its head (to “only those I choose in my network” model).

Consider this: Your entire story doesn’t need to be told in just one snap. For example, Dr. Pepper strategically used Snapchat to re-introduce Larry Culpepper, the brand’s iconic character, to a new Millennial audience. The brand created a Snapchat handle for Larry and posted short videos that re-directed followers to a Dr. Pepper-branded microsite that told a more complete story.

Deliver More than What’s Expected

What users love most about engaging with brands on Snapchat is that they get access to content that feels as if it’s created exclusively for them. Because you don’t like a snap, and you can’t share Snapchat content, it all feels like one big, proprietary, behind-the-scenes sneak peek.

Consider this: Create content with your curator’s cap on. Develop teasers, sneak peeks, clues and tips and serve them up in ways that allow your target to feel as if they can uncover something about your brand only by following it on Snapchat. Benefit Cosmetics has done a great job of taking the “unboxing” concept made popular by YouTube and packaging influencer mailers to make them instantly snappable.

Ask “What Have You Done for Them Lately?”

The disappearing nature of Snapchat content makes a brand only as relevant as its last snap. Snapchat is one of few channels on which you can post multiple times per day -- sometimes even multiple times per hour if your brand is tied to pop culture -- and not have to worry about inundation.

Consider this: Offer something valuable with each snap. For example, this year at Coachella, our client, Heineken, used cropped snaps as clues to surprise shows taking place throughout the festival. Users who identified the right band or artist got early confirmation of the act scheduled to play at the Heineken House.

Rethink Your Product Launch Strategy

Somewhere along the way we learned that product launches need to be perfectly choreographed. Snapchat, however, is changing all of that. Many brands today are leveraging both the immediacy and the non-permanence of Snapchat to launch or offer several second sneak peaks into new innovations and line extensions.

Consider this: Unless it’s something sensitive like earnings, rethink how you embargo your announcements and engage your user base by giving them the inside scoop via Snapchat. It’s how brands from Taco Bell and Warby Parker to high-end fashion houses like Rebecca Minkoff and Valentino have successfully launched new products and collections.

Flirt with #Nofilter

The hashtag #nofilter was created because contributors of all types wanted their network to know they captured something remarkable without having to rely on a filter. Snapchat takes a different approach to filters. Snaps don’t have to be aesthetically perfect to be authentic.

Consider this: Snapchat delivers real insight into a brand and what it’s doing in front of the camera and behind the scenes. That means there is an element of surprise with each and every snap. Instead of hiring a stylist for your post, get going and have fun. Don’t drag your feet and worry about creating the perfect piece of content. It won’t look authentic on Snapchat, and in a matter of seconds it will be gone.

I guess the main thing I learned by stepping outside of my social comfort zone is that, in the end, Snapchat makes social sharing fun again. Snapchat’s founder, Evan Spiegel, summed it up best when he said, “Somewhere along the way, when we were building social media products, we forgot the reason we like to communicate with our friends is because it’s fun.”

Even within my own Snapchat network, it took me one day to figure out that engagement and fun is simply stronger on Snapchat. I posted one photo to My Story, and more than half of my Snapchat friends viewed it (some more than once!).

So, in summary, that’s what a month of Snapchat taught me. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Instagram remains my social app of choice. But, no doubt, I’ll keep on snapping on; especially if I want to stay relevant with my Millennial co-workers.

You can snap me @jarwalps.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers. 



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