Last summer, the following conversation occurred between a good friend and myself:
Me: “I got an iPhone! In no way am I qualified for this much technology!”
Friend: “You have to get Snapchat. NOW.”
And, since I lack the forces necessary to counter peer pressure, the app was on my phone less than 5 minutes later.
For anyone who is unfamiliar, Snapchat involves taking a picture or video, adding a caption and/or drawing on the picture, and sending it to friends (who you can search for or add right from your contacts). The catch is you can set the viewing time between 1-10 seconds, which adds the urgency of “THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN…” The premise resembles a social experiment where people live free of consequences, and the ability to screenshot functions as a vague force that keeps (almost) everyone in line. Plus, you never know quite what to expect. When I explain this concept, some people react as if I’m chatting up the sketchy guy standing alone in the corner of an already questionable basement party (I promise, it’s not that bad).
Snapchat boils down to these basics: it’s fun, easy, and at times, totally inappropriate. What’s not to love?
In the past months, businesses large and small tested Snapchat as a marketing tool. My knee-jerk reaction was Why would anyone want to get snaps from businesses? Well, after taking a bit of time to ponder the issue, I came up with this list of business snap pros and cons:
- Exclusive, One-on-One Connection with Customers: Snapchat provides a new way to engage with customers on a personal level. For example, some use it as a way to take customers “behind the scenes.” For smaller businesses with a close-knit customer base, this might be a fun way to communicate. All you need is a cell phone number (or, give your company’s profile name to customers, and let them add you). Roughly 63% of people use the internet on their mobile phones , and most likely check e-mail and Facebook. Snapchat doesn’t get tied up in that stuff: it’s a different thing altogether, which means more room for your message to be seen. Plus, unlike e-mail blasts or status updates, snaps are sent to individuals who can’t see the other recipients, making it feel like a message meant just for them.
- New Medium for Contests and Giveaways: For example, 16 Handles is recognized as one of the first businesses to implement Snapchat as a marketing tool. The giveaway went like this: customers added the company on Snapchat, sent them a snap (which had to be a picture of them at a 16 Handles), and in return, a snap was sent back with a coupon (with anywhere from 16-100% discount). In order to redeem the coupon, customers had to wait until they were at the register before opening it. Sure, this could’ve worked with a different medium. I’ve seen department stores mail coupons that get scanned or scratched off at the time of purchase to reveal the discount. Using Snapchat instead reaches a different age group altogether, and saves the trees.
- No One Else is Doing It: Well, that’s an exaggeration. But in the grand scheme of social media, Snapchat is still considered emerging. Discovering how to implement it in an entrepreneurial way remains a challenge, but it may be rewarding for the businesses who try.
- Junk Mail Potential: Most people assume that if businesses start using the app, they’ll constantly be sending spam snaps, and the whole experience will lose its appeal. One person’s “Oh that’s fun!” is another person’s “Stop marketing to me!”
- May Not be Worth the Time: The 16 Handles Contest, while innovative and successful, made the customer do quite a bit of work for slightly cheaper fro-yo. While it doesn’t require Herculean amounts of effort, the snapping back-and-forth might feel cumbersome to some people, and thus not worth their time to participate. For businesses using it as a way to send “behind the scenes” or what have you, if they see people aren’t opening the snaps, or otherwise engaging, it may make sense to either try a different approach or scratch the snaps altogether.
- It Leaves No Trace: In terms of meaningful forms of communication, Snapchat a few steps below texting. The whole appeal is that the content doesn’t last. It’s fleeting in nature. I get a Snapchat from a friend, open it, laugh a little, and go on with the day. Depending on something that lasts 10 seconds (at most) to build a consumer base seems like a recipe for failure.
So, whether or not you decide to try Snapchat for your business, I definitely recommend it for entertainment purposes. My only example is this snap below, from last December. Could I have e-mailed or texted it? Yes, but I wanted to spare my friends the burden of having “Wrecking Ball” stuck in their head all day, so I sent the type of message that cleans up after itself.