Nine reasons for brands to be bullish about Snapchat

Given Facebook’s extraordinary dominance in social, I’m generally sceptical about claims brands should prioritise or, in some instances, even be present on any other social media channel.

However, I believe Snapchat offers marketers a unique and compelling way to reach a younger audience. And it can do so in a way that’s more likely to get the brand noticed, drive involvement and boost recall.

Here are nine reasons why:

1. It's growing fast.

Unlike most of its competitors, who are seeing user numbers begin to level out, Snapchat remains on a steep growth trajectory. Nearly 40 per cent of 18-34 year-olds in the US are active users, while in the UK, 29 per cent have used it in the last month.

2. People spend a lot of time using it.

Amongst under-35s, comScore has discovered it’s second to only Facebook in how much time people spend using it. Although it remains some way behind its bigger rival, Snapchat users spend nearly 400 minutes a month on the app, more than double the time they spend visiting Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest.

3. It has less ad clutter.

In my previous column I explained how the NBD-Dirichlet model illustrates why anyone who uses any social media platform is very likely to be a Facebook user too. However, while it’s important to avoid duplicating reach (getting as many people as possible to the first exposure is considerably more effective than hitting the same person twice), if they don’t notice the ad, it can’t have an effect.

In that respect, Snapchat benefits from reduced clutter (users only see 2.5 ads a day on average), which boosts recall. It also attracts a notoriously difficult audience to reach, enabling it fill in the gaps traditional media misses.

4. It encourages a unique type of personalisation.

I’m sceptical about the value of most personalised marketing for two reasons. Firstly, it generally involves targeting individuals or groups of people. However, as the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute have evidenced, broad reach creates growth. Secondly, advertising works best when it creates shared cultural meaning. If a brand targets people with different content, it loses the collective response that sparks conversation and helps to make a brand famous. If the Green Party had created different campaign videos tailored to the individual’s voting preference would it have prompted so much earned media this week? It’s very unlikely.

Where Snapchat is different is in the way it enables the brand to create the same Sponsored Lens, which the user then personalises. This ensures the copy and underlying message remains the same but allows the individual to bring their own associations and needs. It also places the creativity in their hands but ensures the brand is still present. If you want a demonstration of whether a Lens can drive conversation, try asking anyone under 30 in your office whether they’ve used Face Swap recently.

5. The biggest barrier to entry has gone.

With Geofilters from just $5 the prohibitive costs to advertising (rumoured to be in the seven-figures) have gone. Geofilters also enable brands to create campaigns at the store-level around product launches or events that can tie back to ATL. IHOP was one of the first to test the feature target, enabling pancake-eating customers to swipe for brand-themed overlays on the platform.

6. The bar to involvement is low.

Ordinarily, campaigns that aim to involve a target audience set themselves an impossibly high bar. The vast majority of people aren’t enthusiastic about brands. They’re largely indifferent. So persuading them to take part in a campaign generally attracts the involvement of the minority. However, Lens is a core part of an app that demands interaction. People don’t go there to gawk at a small number of friends repeatedly over-sharing every aspect of their lives, while posting nothing of their own. There’s no stream of posts to look at. Even if they don’t send or even Snap the Sponsored Lens they will scroll across it and are far more likely to notice it then an ordinary ad. How could they not be? Their face is right there in the middle of it.

Gatorade recently created a Sponsored Lens that allowed people to overlay an animated dunk of the drink onto their selfies or their friends’ photos. They did so an extraordinary 165 million times in just 48 hours.

7. It’s challenging the leading chat apps.

Chat apps are on the rise and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have been at the fore of this. Increasingly we want to talk to small groups of friends, rather than broadcast our lives to everyone we know. Snapchat 2.0, the recent update to its own chat feature, has immediately positioned it as major competitor to Facebook (which owns the two leading chat apps). The video functionality also means it becomes an even more natural way of, in Snapchat’s words, “hanging out, second only to face-to-face”. Facebook Live is a response to the threat posed by Snapchat and the growing demand for live video.

8. It satisfies the craving for privacy.

The ephemeral nature of the app has been highlighted as a key attraction by thousands of experts now. However, the desire for greater privacy, less public content and a reduced data trail continues to grow. In that regard, Snapchat is uniquely positioned to provide this. It’s also established a reputation as the leading network for privacy and any new or existing social channel would struggle to uncrown it.

9. It understands what people want from social media.

When Evan Spiegel speaks, he doesn’t sound like a typical CEO, even in Silicon Valley circles. In 2014, he challenged the traditional, profile-based social media model which he said only made sense in the context of “binary experiences of offline and online”.

If you’ve encountered the concept of ‘digital dualism’ (the false belief the digital world is ‘virtual’ and physical one ‘real’) you may be familiar with the man who introduced it, Nathan Jurgenson. A young academic at the University of Maryland, he’s at the forefront of understanding social media in a sociological context. He’s also a researcher at Snapchat and was one of the first to identify the desire for greater ephemerality. With Jurgenson deploying his deeper understanding of its user base and their underlying motivations to use social networks, Snapchat is well positioned to continue evolving its offer to match changing demands.

As the latest comScore research highlights, Facebook’s dominant position in terms of how many people use it, how often they visit it and how long they spend using it shows no signs of abating.

However, Snapchat does offer brands a unique platform to complement their existing social media marketing activity and reach users in a way that’s both more likely to be noticed and remembered.

On this occasion, I’d recommend experimenting early (while clutter remains low) and testing how and whether it can work for your brand.

Gareth Price is head of research and insight at The Social Partners. He tweets @G_Price

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Gareth Price

Gareth Price leads The Social Partners' research and insight offer, working with clients such as Allianz, Avis, Dairy Crest, New Amsterdam Vodka and Wilkinson Sword.

In 2015, he was awarded a Judges' Commendation in the Admap Prize in Cannes for his essay on using big data to support creativity. He also collected the Forrester Groundswell Award for Social Reach in New York on behalf of the agency and Wilkinson Sword for the ‘Facebook Couples’ campaign.

He has also won awards in the past for his research using social data to help Barclays, first direct and Pfizer better understand their customers.

All by Gareth