Snapchat’s rise to relevance

In the world of social media, there are constantly new ideas and programs being put online, but making one stick is a tricky task. Creating a social platform that is user-friendly and addresses the needs of a large market is hard to do. This is especially true in a world that is dominated by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by nearly every age demographic. Snapchat is a program that has cut through the clutter and claim its spot in the ranks of social media success stories. For public relations, understanding Snapchat’s functionality both as an app and as a means of reaching publics is huge. Consumer brands have slowly begun to take notice of all that a little white ghost has to offer.

How Brands can Use Snapchat Successfully

When discussing companies that have embraced the opportunities that Snapchat offers for communication, Taco Bell is a major leader. Snapchat offers a more exclusive experience than other platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and Taco Bell quickly recognized its potential.

The fast food chain is known for using the My Story function of the app to promote events, customers and new products. In an article by AdWeek, Nicholas Tran, Social Media Lead of Digital Marketing for Taco Bell, reports the brand has at least 200,000 friends on the app, but that number hasn’t been confirmed. It’s estimated that when the brand sends out a snap, 80 percent open the snap while 90 percent view it in its entirety.  When the restaurant was preparing to launch its dollar menu, the promotion and subsequent release was all done via Snapchat. They included pictures of some of the items being offered on the brand new menu. They were able to successfully promote a brand-new portion of their company using a channel that many consumer brands have yet to join.

Taco Bell was one of the first companies to begin using Snapchat as a tool in reaching its target market. This is a smart tactic in reaching the millennial generation, as many are transitioning away from using Facebook. Over 71 percent of Snapchat’s users are between the ages of 18-34 where only 16 percent of the same age group use Facebook regularly.

According to Snapchat celebrity and power user, Shaun McBride (aka Shonduras), the content that is posted to Snapchat is extremely valuable. On other social media platforms, users are scrolling through feeds quickly and not absorbing all the content that is being presented. Snapchat forces users to pay attention, otherwise the picture/video is gone for good. If the goal is to make an idea or product stick in consumer’s minds, Snapchat is a new way to do so.

Snapchat is a perfect platform for creating buzz about a soon-to-be-released product or service. Many consumer brands have already begun to use the platform as an exclusive place to reveal new products. Acura had a campaign in which they showed exclusive footage of the prototype of the NSX to the first 100 viewers.

Lessons We Can Learn from Snapchat

Snapchat is a perfect example of how a simple wish can turn into an incredibly popular reality. It solves the pain point of wanting to send pictures, but pictures with a time limit for viewing. It creates a space for creativity and innovation that other social platforms haven’t had at their disposal before now. The filters that are available allow for users, both brands and regular people, to customize their pictures. Geofilters are a recent addition that allows users to display where they are in their snaps. These filters are created by artists and designers from around the world, thus helping to culminate a worldwide Snapchat community.

Snapchat is an incredibly useful tool because it is so effective in reaching millennials and members of Generation Y. Because so many of Snapchat’s users fall between the ages of 18 and 34, it is perfect for reaching Generation Y members. It’s disappearing photos and accessibility are points of interest for this tech-savvy generation. If a brand is searching for the perfect way to promote themselves to a younger demographic, Snapchat is a perfect way to do so.

Snapchat teaches the importance of exclusivity. There’s something to be said about an app that can make the user feel important and Snapchat has the ability to do just that. During the iHeart Music Awards, Snapchat created a live feed documenting the entire evening. It made a very exclusive event feel very personal. And in the case of the Acura the company used Snapchat to show users an exclusive sneak peak of a vehicle that the others had to wait to view. The way in which Snapchat came to be mirrors its marketing path today. Its slow rise to popularity, and eventual adoption by consumer brands and labels is all due to the bumps along the road to its creation.

Snapchat’s Humble Beginnings

The story of how Snapchat came to be is one that is highly comparable to that of Facebook. Brilliant college students come up with an idea that fails at first, but eventually finds the sweet spot and strikes gold. The minds behind Snapchat, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, were fraternity brothers at Stanford. When another brother, Reggie Brown, was regretting sending a photo to somebody, the idea was born. From there, the idea of a disappearing photo service went from an incredible idea to reality.

Just as Mark Zuckerberg had his famous lawsuit with the Winklevoss twins, so did the creators of Snapchat. When the question of brand equity came up, Brown expected 30 percent of the company along with rights to the original name and ghost logo . This caused Spiegel to cut Brown out of the company, and shortly thereafter, Snapchat was born.

When the app was originally launched on the Apple App store on July 13, 2011, results were unimpressive. The biggest flaw the app had was the ability for users to take screenshots of the pictures they were being sent. This was seen as a potential social deterrent, and for marketing to a younger demographic, it’s understandable that this would be a problem. In its early stages, Spiegel’s mother had told her niece about the app, and it spread like wildfire throughout the young girl’s in a Orange County high school. Spiegel and Murphy began noticing that the app was getting a lot of attention during regular school hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.. This happened when usage hovered around 1,000 users. During the holiday season, usage went up to 2,241. By January the app had over 20,000 users and by April that number skyrocketed to 100,000.

Due to the success that Snapchat has experienced, it is currently one of the fastest growing social media apps available. They are currently a revenue-less company, but because they have grown so rapidly, there is talk about ads being placed more heavily on the app. The recently unveiled “Discover” feature provides a new way to entertain users and also bring in revenue.  Businesses have taken note, and many are beginning to use Snapchat as an effective means of communicating messages to their younger publics.

The biggest lesson Snapchat can teach is that there are always limits to be pushed. When Facebook came out, the idea of a program that would allow you to send self-destructing images couldn’t even be taken seriously. Now it is a major player in the social media game, and brands and companies are taking notice. Social media is tricky game to play, but once you have a place, opportunities to grow and expand are everywhere. From showcasing a brand new Taco Bell dollar menu to giving a sneak peek at a brand new car, Snapchat has the know-how and ability to cater to every market looking to reach Generation Y.

Image courtesy of Snapchat.

Brooklyn Davison, a public relations student at Brigham Young University, is an avid user of social media. When she isn’t on social media she can be found reading, watching Netflix or creating the next best playlist. She operates on many social platforms as well as a personal blog. You can learn more about her at brooklyndavison.blogspot.com.

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