A Wild West for influencer marketing, Snapchat continues to lasso brands and agencies

Snapchat has emerged as a prominent communications channel among teens and touts a growing older millennial audience – and yet, its brand opportunities and measurement capabilities remain somewhat nascent compared to more established social platforms.

By virtue of being a “closed” network, Snapchat is unlike the other major social media stalwarts. This has presented a challenging scenario for marketers who value Snapchat’s active user base, but struggle with how to forge successful campaigns within its existing advertising offerings. Some brands have noted they had driven better results through “free brand-owned accounts” where they distributed their own content, and partnered with popular Snapchat users to post “brand-sponsored content.”

Here are some common hurdles marketers face when launching efforts on Snapchat, and how they can be overcome to drive results.

“I don’t have the resources or media spend to launch and maintain a branded Snapchat presence.”

As any 14-year-old will tell you, Snapchatting is a full-time job. Users post more frequently on the platform and are spending 25 to 30 minutes a day viewing their friends’ content on Snapchat. What’s more, creating content for Snapchat is a real-time art form: it requires capturing and editing vertical photos and videos with a limited set of tools – and doing so in the moment.

Some brands are going all in on Snapchat. Taco Bell, for example, has hired an in-house team of millennials whose sole focus is on creating compelling stories on behalf of the youthful QSR brand. Other brands enlist digital agencies and content shops to manage their Snapchat presence and utilize paid media to reach large audiences on the platform.

Not all marketers have the creative resources and/or media spend (one takeover of a Snapchat Discover publisher channel can cost at least $50,000) to invest in Snapchat this way. For these brands, the best course of action is to identify influential Snapchat users and partner with them to reach their large and engaged audiences. For example, a new protein shake brand might partner with a fitness influencer to infuse their brand into that person’s story – with proper disclosure per the FTC guidelines, of course. Speaking of which, a disclosure needs to be upfront and appear within the first one to eight seconds of a story. Too often, you’ll see a disclosure in the last second of a series of sponsored stories.

“I don’t know how to identify and recruit the right creators to help tell my brand’s story.”

Assuming you lack the resources to maintain an ongoing Snapchat presence yourself – or you don’t have the media dollars needed to invest in Snapchat’s advertising products – how do you find and recruit the most relevant creators to tell your brand’s story? This is a question that plagues many marketers, especially since Snapchat is somewhat like the Wild West when it comes to influencer marketing.

When sourcing creators to partner with on Snapchat and other social media platforms, leveraging data and automated tools will save time to help find the most relevant people for your brand. That said, as is the case with traditional PR, relationships are critical to forging successful (and ongoing) brand-influencer partnerships. Crowdtap recently interviewed 60+ creators to inform a report on the state of influencer marketing, and found marketers can be doing a better job when it comes to building enduring and authentic relationships.

Marketers will want to employ a pairing process factoring both data-driven and editorial inputs. Look at audience lifestyle interests and engagement metrics – beyond sheer reach (read: follower counts) – to source the most authentic and trusted subject matter experts for telling your brand’s story.

“Measuring the impact of influencer efforts on Snapchat can be a black box. How can I accurately report on my campaigns?”

Brands who maintain their own Snapchat handles and invest in advertising can capture metrics directly from the platform, but how can marketers track campaign performance when partnering with third-party creators? Right now, many marketers rely on self-reporting from the creators themselves, oftentimes in formats as rudimentary as a screenshot, which must be captured within 24 hours of posting. There are also partner platforms that collect and store this data (audience, views and engagement) for you.

Snapchat is continuing to evolve is advertising features. For example, Snapchat partnered with Nielsen mobile Digital Ad Ratings (mDAR) to measure the audiences of its 3V advertising metrics (video, vertical and views) on mobile devices in both U.S. and U.K. campaigns.

Earlier this year, rumors surfaced that Snapchat had engaged developers regarding the creation of an API that would allow third-party technologies to directly pull data from the platform. While it may be over a year before it’s available, we can predict the API will immediately create an accessible price point of entry – similar to what we saw with Facebook's ad tech platform. With this access, third-party developers and brands will be able to target their branded content audiences intelligently and efficiently.

*****

Feeling perplexed or even overwhelmed by Snapchat does not mean marketers need to sit on the sidelines. Snapchat is commanding a sizable slice of media attention among teens and millennials and – at this moment – is the de facto content creation and sharing platform for millions of consumers.

Absent big media budgets to invest in Snapchat ads and an army of in-house creatives to generate content, marketers should explore partnerships with expert creators who have amassed large, devoted followings within the platform. Remember to weigh audience engagement (in addition to reach) to ensure your brand enters conversations here authentically and effectively.

Claudia Page is VP of platform & creator partnerships at Crowdtap

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