Live-streaming upstarts Periscope and Meerkat have generated hundreds of headlines about their pop-up, limited time availability social platforms, but they both benefit from a path carved out by Snapchat years ago. Originally a simple photo sharing app, the social media platform recently passed its third birthday and now has over 200 million users, nearly half of them digital natives.

Today, Snapchat is evolving into a full news source. After adding features such as Stories and Discover, its users, as well as news and entertainment organizations like CNN, Cosmo, Vice and National Geographic, can create stories based on trending topics, regional events or breaking news.

Unlike traditional social platforms, Snapchat (and the insta-media platforms following it) challenge marketers to forget everything they know about social media marketing. With Snapchat:

You have a user’s undivided attention – for 15 seconds or less.
Unlike with Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat’s content will disappear within 24 hours or less. Some brands may find this off-putting, but marketers can’t overlook the ability to grab an audience’s attention. To open a snap, a user must physically touch her finger to the screen for the snap’s duration, meaning you have 100% of her attention. The average consumer endures a daily cacophony of marketing messages; having the undivided attention of a key demographic for even six seconds at a time is an incredible opportunity.

If brand content doesn’t feel organic, then it doesn’t belong on Snapchat.
Communication through Snapchat is intimate. Thoughts and feelings about your friend’s snap that you would have seen in comments and likes in Facebook don’t exist. This gives the feeling of a private conversation between two parties.

The most successful brands on Snapchat mimic this feeling of a personal conversation between friends. They create organic and engaging content, tap celebrities and Snapchat influencers and make use of all of the functions and features of the application—and their snaps ultimately don’t feel like they’ve been Photoshopped by the marketing lens. Fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff did an excellent job of this, for example, by creating an intimate moment with its fans when it debuted the 2013 Spring collection on Snapchat moments before it hit the runway. Cosmetics company NARS followed suit, allowing its fans early access to the 2013 release of the Guy Bourdin color collection.

It’s not about creating conversations; it’s about telling stories.
Snapchat is a very different type of social platform. Where Facebook and Twitter are available for millions of people to have conversations and engage with one another, Snapchat exists to tell stories.

When the Southhampton (UK) Football Club launched a new kit for its players, the team posted clues on Snapchat to a football hidden somewhere in the city. It rewarded the lucky fan who found the football with a full kit of their own. McDonald’s similarly uses its Snapchat account to give fans a behind the scenes look at celebrities filming commercials or teases images of new food products prior to launch.

Social media done well requires marketers to shift from traditional communication models and focus on providing increasing value to their customers. Snapchat only heightens this need; brands must consider what stories to tell and the voice with which to tell them before venturing onto this increasingly popular platform.