Two cents blog

Gone in ten seconds

by Jo Stone on 6 February 2014

Got a teenager in your house? Well if you do, chances are that their social media channel of choice is not Facebook or Twitter – it is probably Snapchat. Why do they love it? Well firstly and most importantly, there is no chance for Mum or Dad to invade your privacy by checking up on your conversations. And today’s teens have finally learned the lesson their older siblings failed to grasp – what you post on social media, stays there – forever!

Snapchat is a photo messaging app where users can send an image or video, including text and drawings, to a controlled list of recipients. You can set a time limit for how long recipients can view your content – otherwise known as ‘Snaps’. The range is from 1 to 10 seconds, after which the content disappears from the recipient’s device and is deleted from Snapchat’s servers.

Launched in the iTunes App Store in September 2011, it has only been around for just over two years, but already around 400 million photos are shared every day.

Snapchat has become a staple in the lives of many teenagers and young adults. Its large and growing user base is undeniable despite the fact that it has come under fire for encouraging sexting. While there are no official numbers of users in Australia, it has been estimated that there are more than one million mainly young Australians using the app.

What I find interesting about Snapchat is that it highlights how the shift from desktop to mobile has changed how people are using social channels. Our phones have always been a very personal device. On mobile, we are used to sending messages to people we know. Despite its huge success curve, Facebook was unprepared for the mobile revolution and it failed to foresee the opportunity that would arise – that is, to service the latent need in the market for a channel that delivers more private social media interactions.

In an effort to crush Snapchat, Facebook launched Poke in December 2012 which quickly crashed and burned. Then, Mark Zuckerberg offered 23 year old Evan Spiegel and his partner Robert Murphy, an incredible $3 billion for the two year old app – which they promptly refused.

Snapchat announced a new feature – Snapchat Stories in October. It allows users to compile photos and videos taken through the app into a montage of sorts that will live on for 24 hours. Now, when users take photos and videos, they can elect to include them in their Snapchat Story, which is viewable an unlimited number of times by any of their friends. It can also be made available to the public.

So what’s in it for brands?

The best opportunity is the Stories feature, but the main challenge is that first you need to attract a following, which means committing to sending very appealing content frequently to build a base of followers. Consumers will need a solid reason to follow brands on Snapchat, given how personal the app is, compared to a platform like Instagram.

Brands like Taco Bell are having success posting late night pre and post meal photos of real tacos, nachos and burritos, accompanied by funny comments and drawings. Other brands are contracting users who already have a large following to act as brand ambassadors.

Snapchat is definitely a social channel to watch especially if you are marketing to young adults. Just as Instagram and Twitter have evolved to become more ‘brand friendly’, there are many opportunities to take a ‘native’ approach on Snapchat. Are you up for it? You’ve got 10 seconds.

Jo Stone is Head of Channel Planning & Integration at BCM

- Jo Stone on February 7

Hey Nick thanks for the update. Hope all is going well for you in NZ! All the best.

- Nick Allen on February 7

Agree Jo and Paul, it is one for all brands to watch! I talked to the business development team at Snapchat on Tuesday. There's brand features and the possibility to promote a handle in the works, but gladly for now they're keeping away from the send to all button. It's a great platform for activating live events like flash mobs, scrambles and short lived giveaways. Also an amazing way to share behind the scenes with your top brand ambassadors. My gut reaction was 'why build content that disappears in seconds'? But by it's very nature Mission Impossibe self destructing Snapchat commands far more moments of pure attention than Facebook or Instagram.

- Paul Cornwell on February 7

Agree Jo. Snapchat should be on every marketer's radar. Also, users should be aware that a recipient of a 'snap' can simply screen shot the image and then keep it. So, it may not absolutely, completely disappear - just like everything online.

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