Without a doubt, Snapchat is the medium of the millennials, with 71% of its users under the age of 25. There are over 100 million active users and over 400 million “Snaps” sent every day, and these numbers are increasing rapidly. Even if your company doesn’t specifically target teens and twentysomethings, there’s a good chance Snapchat could still be a good fit for you. Using this social platform helps your company seem current, cool, and on top of the latest technologies. We live in a digital world where traditional marketing mediums are still alive, but becoming less and less relevant, so it’s important to keep up!

What’s so great about Snapchat?

In 2014, Snapchat was the fastest growing social app, experiencing 57% growth over the course of the year. While Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, and Instagram all grew at astonishing rates, none could keep up with Snapchat’s downloads. It’s one of the most popular social networks today, and for a good reason. A lot of platforms out there have incorporated images and videos, some being exclusively for these content types, but Snapchat has seemed to find its niche in the social media world.

If you’re not familiar, Snapchat allows users to send pictures or videos to their friends that are visible for 1-10 seconds once opened. In addition to simply taking a photo or video, you can type one line of text and use a drawing tool to further illustrate what you are sending. Then you select from your list of friends who you want to send the Snap to (you can find them through your phone’s contact list or by username). There is also a feature called “My Story,” which will publish your Snap in the feed of everyone who follows you, instead of you manually sending it out.

As an avid Snapchatter, I’ve been asked many times: “What value is there in a picture or video you can only see for a few seconds?” And that’s a valid question. Even though you can screenshot the image and save it to your phone, is this fleeting communication really worth it? For me, that’s what I love about it. It’s more spontaneous and random than other social media, and generally less serious.

Snapchat has a lot to offer the marketing world as well, and companies are beginning to realize it. If you have a following on Facebook and Twitter, use those platforms to encourage people to follow you on Snapchat. Being able to connect with your loyal followers on several platforms certainly has its benefits; they’re likely to remember you and probably trust you. And users are only going to open the Snaps they actually want to look at, so you can be confident that viewers are legitimately interested in your brand.

There are plenty of visual-based social networks out there that have a strong following. But Snapchat has really made a mark for itself by offering visual content in a real-time fashion. And with the relatively short attention spans of millennials, you need to get your message out there quickly and effectively.

Snapchat is becoming a common ground for real-time images and video, and even clips of live events. Also in the livestreaming arena is Meerkat, a video app that allows users to share a video stream on Twitter. The difference between the two is that Snapchat pulls together clips from an event and stiches them together, and Meerkat offers a continuous livestream. You might wonder if Snapchat has the ability to compete with Meerkat if they don’t offer an ongoing stream of video. But Snapchat differentiates itself by allowing personalization to any image or video through a text box and drawing tools, so you can add a little pizazz to your Snap or Story.

What are some ways to utilize Snapchat?

1. Discover current events

Something that’s great about Snapchat is that they aren’t stuck in a rut. They listen to what their users like and don’t like about the platform, and add new features accordingly. The most recent update making headlines is the introduction of the “Discover” feature, where publications and news outlets can provide a synopsis of the latest news and trends. This brings news to an audience that may not be tuning in to the news on TV or online to find out what’s going on in the world. Teens and young adults rely on social media as their source of breaking news, and Snapchat certainly noticed.

“Discover” features 12 news and media sources, such as CNN, People Magazine, and ESPN, and each channel features a series of short videos and articles. Videos can be as long as 15 minutes and articles are about the length of a typical blog post. Discover channels are updated every 24 hours to ensure they are providing the latest and most important news to users.

2. Share a Story

The most common way for companies to engage on Snapchat is through the Stories feed, where you can piece together a series of images or video to share with all of your followers for up to 24 hours. The Story can be up to 20 seconds long and include a maximum of 5 different pictures or videos. The limited lifespan of Snaps offers a great way to deliver a call-to-action that creates a sense of urgency and buzz.

3. Offer an exclusive promotion

Another great, but lesser-known way to utilize Snapchat is through special offers and promotions. Consider hosting a contest or offering a link to a web coupon through your Story to provide engagement in a different way. These incentives encourage people to follow you and actually view your Story, while also making them feel like an exclusive customer through Snapchat-only promotions. The frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles was one of the first to offer a Snapchat-based discount, where during a certain time period followers could submit a photo and receive a discount towards a future purchase. It was a huge hit for the chain and paved the way for other companies to utilize Snapchat in this previously uncharted territory.

 

4. Launch new products

Much like a release party, Snapchat is a great platform for launching new products or services. It’s a way to expand your following by hinting a sneak peek or major announcement on other social outlets and telling people that they have to follow you on Snapchat to find out about this release before anyone else.

Taco Bell was an early adopter of this strategy back in 2013, using Snapchat as a platform for a “secret announcement,” the reintroduction of the Beefy Crunch Burrito. Not only was Taco Bell the first major company to start using Snapchat, but they also broke the mold and used it as a marketing platform. How do we know it was effective? Look at how many companies are following suit!

 

5. Showcase your team

Aside from marketing the products or services you sell, Snapchat can be a useful tool to show off your awesome team and office space. With so many companies competing for sales, it’s important to find a way to stand out, and adding a more human element to your brand is an effective way to do so.

People love to see “behind the scenes” of where the magic happens at their favorite companies. Showing who is behind the products you make and the services you provide makes you relatable and personal, and that goes a long way when it comes to brand preferences and making a purchase decision.

A great example of this is Mashable, an online news platform that caters to the “connected generation.” If you check out their Snapchat (username: mashable), they often feature videos of their office and employees discussing a trending topic or trying out a new product. You can’t help but feel like you know these people personally because you get a peek into their work life. It’s a company with personality, and it certainly encourages me to use them as a news resource.

 

6. Livestream events

Through the “Our Story” feature, live events have become a staple for Snapchat users. Users attending participating events can submit their own pictures and videos to the designated Story. A team at Snapchat goes through the submissions and strings together a video sequence of a narrowed down group of images. User-generated content allows engagement between those at the event and those who aren’t attending, but are still interested in following what is going on.

 

All different types of events have taken part over the past year, including music festivals like Lollapalooza, sporting events like College Gameday and the FIFA World Cup, and others like New York Fashion Week. It’s another way that companies can interact with its followers, while adding an extra element of engagement through the contributions of attendees.

So there you have it. Snapchat isn’t all about selfies like you may have thought. There are legitimately valuable ways to incorporate Snapchat into your marketing strategy, and none of them require a major time or financial investment. It’s all about connecting with those who are already connected to their technology, and utilizing a unique platform to make your message heard. Snapchat is entertaining, interactive, and separates those aimlessly following your company from those who are really interested in what you have to say. And that in and of itself is extremely valuable to any company’s marketing. So if your company is looking to take your social media approach up a notch, why not give Snapchat a try?