The ultimate Snapchat primer (with a B2B twist)

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The lifespan of new social platforms is almost entirely impossible to predict, which is one of the reasons why businesses often hold back (and rightly so) from investing too much time and energy establishing a presence on them. But once in a while, a platform unlike the rest comes along and seems to strike a chord with the masses. Right now, that role belongs to Snapchat. While its lasting effects on the social media landscape and its payoff for businesses are still grey areas, there’s enough evidence piling up to at least make it worthy of our attention.

First off, what is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a rapidly growing mobile app that allows users to share photos and videos. The catch? They can only be viewed for a short amount of time before disappearing. That sounds like the perfect recipe for some inappropriate exchanges, right? Yes. Absolutely. But, many companies have already jumped on the Snapchat train and are using the platform in creative ways to market themselves, which we’ll have a look at after we first go over some basics.

Why would a B2B company consider using Snapchat?

Depending on the service or product offering, it can offer B2B businesses an innovative opportunity to create a sense of excitement and urgency, and offer time-sensitive content through direct calls-to-action.

B2B companies can use Snapchat to:

  • Give sneak peeks and previews of upcoming products or technologies
  • Provide behind-the-scenes photos and video of events, conferences or interesting spaces relevant to your company
  • Send quick tips and/or tricks
  • Create a 24-hour narrative using Snapchat Stories
  • Execute contests and giveaways
  • Offer deals (like a discount code) through photo or video snaps

Why should Snapchat be on my radar?

Snapchat reportedly has a user base of 100 million, the majority being female, between the ages of 13-25 and it recently became the third most popular app among Millenials, according to a report from comScore. This widespread use among influential early-adapters is quickly approaching critical mass, and could be a possible indicator of eventual mainstream adoption. The platform is currently rolling out sponsored ads in the U.S. and recently made headlines by turning down a $3 billion buyout offer from Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. Whether that decision was overzealous confidence on their behalf or a sign of larger things to come, it’s clear that Snapchat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

How does Snapchat work?

The app is fairly simple: you take a photo or a video (aka a “snap”), give it a time limit from 1 to 10 seconds and fire away to your chosen contacts. As soon as they open your message, it will only be viewable for the amount of time that you chose.

You can also post an update that everyone who “follows” you can view.

For (slightly) longer-lasting content, you can use the Snapchat Stories feature. This allows you to add photos and/or videos of your choosing to your “story” which is an aggregated collection of snaps available for all of your contacts to see for up to 24 hours.

Of course, very little information that disappears from our electronic lives is ever truly GONE and this goes for Snapchat as well. Anyone receiving a snap can easily take a screenshot of it (duh), and there are plenty of other mobile tools that exist by which a user can save photo or video content from Snapchat to be viewed indefinitely.

Snapchat has consistently been expanding the platform’s capabilities, including an instant messaging feature and most recently the introduction of Snapcash, which allows users to transfer money to one another’s bank accounts simply by typing and swiping.

How do you get followers on Snapchat?

Since this platform is exclusive to mobile and doesn’t have publicly visibly profile pages, you’ll have to leverage your existing marketing channels including Twitter, Facebook and email blasts to direct people to your handle. Don’t forget to entice them with WHY they should add you as a contact. What can they expect from you? What are the perks?

What are the pros and cons of Snapchat?

PROs:

  • It’s a chance to get on board early as one of the first B2B businesses using this fun, new, emerging platform
  • Its casual nature doesn’t require highly polished content
  • Perfect environment to take some creative risks and try out new approaches

CONs:

  • The current demographic may not be ideal for your B2B businesses just yet, but that could be changing as tech-savvy users steadily flock to it
  • Anyone who adds you as a contact can send you something (meaning you could potentially get some inappropriate snaps)
  • Photos and video must be taken directly from within the app, meaning you can’t send content already created or stored on your camera roll
  • A recent security breach resulted in a leak of approximately 4.6 million phone numbers, something Snapchat says they will be addressing in their next app update

 

Examples of businesses already using Snapchat

  • General Electric started up in July of 2014, using the platform for a Buzz Aldrin cameo and to unveil “The Mission” sneakers to celebrate the 45th anniversary of GE’s contribution to the moon landing. They also regularly use Snapchat to send snaps of their machines and products, as well as brainteasers, puzzles and fun facts. This all contributes to reinforcing the commitment GE has to experimenting, innovating and moving the world forward.
General Electric's Snapchat pic of Buzz Aldrin
General Electric’s Snapchat pic of Buzz Aldrin

 

  • Mashable is currently using Snapchat to take people along on a helicopter ride above Vegas during The 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (#CES2015), giving their followers an exclusive (albeit fleeting) look at an experience they may otherwise never get.
  • Intel is also using Snapchat to offer a behind-the-scenes look at #CES2015 including a tour of the Intel Museum
  • Taco Bell is one of the most active businesses on Snapchat, regularly sending out playful photo and video snaps that feature their menu items along with clever copy that speaks directly to their target market; a lesson in creatively tailoring content for the right audience that B2B businesses can surely learn from.
A Taco Bell Snapchat snap
A Taco Bell Snapchat snap

It’s hard for anybody to predict whether or not Snapchat will become a beacon for B2B marketing in the future, but if you’re an innovative marketing professional who’s always on the look out for the next trail to blaze, it just might be time to get snapping.

Want to learn more about other social networks?
Check out this B2B primer of Pinterest
Bookmark this primer of WhatsApp
L
earn more what Google+ can do for B2B

 

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Sarah Dawley

Sarah Dawley

Sarah is an Ecosystem Copywriter at Hootsuite, where she writes a variety of materials about social media and its impact on business. Prior to joining Hootsuite, she was the Social Marketing Manager for the Music & Entertainment Channels at Bell Media, where she spent nearly four years building the presence of Much, MTV Canada, M3 and E! Canada into social communities of over 2.8 million fans and followers. Find her on Twitter @sarahdawley
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