Snapchat is amassing users, and brands are taking notice. Unsurprisingly, heavy hitters like McDonalds and Taco Bell have jumped onto the app to engage teen users, however, one of the best things about this bite-sized content sharing app is its accessibility. Unlike typical marketing channels, Snapchat doesn’t require a massive budget or professional camera crew—any company, from SMBs to enterprises, has the opportunity to connect with avid Snapchatters.

In this guide, we’ll cover the 5Ws and H of Snapchat—who, what, where, when, why and how.

Who uses it?

Snapchat’s core audience is 13 to 25-year-olds. eMarketer reports that 32% of 13 to 17-year-olds use Snapchat on a mobile device.

Around 26% of 18 to 29-year-old smartphone users report using Snapchat. Only 5% are among 30 to 49-year-olds, 3% of 50 to 64-year-olds and 2% of 65 and older. Co-Founder and CEO Evan Spiegel reported that 70% of users are women.

It’s estimated that the app has 26 to 30 million active U.S. users.

*Though it may not be considered an academic source, Reddit can shed some light on the subject. A recent r/AskReddit thread posed the question, “Teens of Reddit what’s cool nowadays?” Snapchat was by far the most popular answer.*

What are brands using it for?

Though the app hasn’t yet become a “must have” for many brands, it has attracted several companies looking for ways to effectively reach the coveted teen market. Taco Bell, McDonalds, 16 Handles, Acura, and GrubHub are just a few brands that have used Snapchat to promote their products, release exclusive content, send users coupons, tell branded stories and ultimately engage with “snap” recipients.

Social Media Today posted an article on Snapchat last month that described a few challenges brands may face when using the app. However, we believe some of these challenges may in fact prove beneficial to brands.

Challenge: Snapchat is almost entirely visual. Other than the doodle function, Snapchat does not provide any space for marketers to add text to their messages, eliminating the ability to add context.

Benefit: Marketers didn’t back down when Vine and Instagram Video limited them to six and 15-second clips. Brands faced the challenge head on and have produced some incredibly creative spots because of it. Snapchat and its unique offerings simply provide an opportunity for brands to get creative with their content. Just as the first brands to successfully harness the power of Vine and Instagram Video were deemed ingenious leaders, so too will the front runners of Snapchat be heralded as innovative marketing connoisseurs.

Challenge: It lacks editing capabilities. Marketers cannot edit the images they send out to improve their quality.

Benefit: What? You mean brands can’t edit a video or image within an inch of its life? That’s right, it’s time for brands to get real. Due to its lack of editing capabilities, Snapchat is probably one of the most honest forms of marketing, something users will no doubt appreciate.

Challenge: Discoverability on the app is extremely limited. Your audience isn’t likely to find you on Snapchat unless they make the choice to add you as a friend.

Benefit: To gain “friends” on Snapchat, you’ll have to promote your account. The benefit here is that anyone who adds you is obviously “opting in” to your marketing content. They choose you; you aren’t interrupting random people’s social experience. Your Snapchat “friends” will be more likely to engage with your brand and/or purchase your product.

Unsaturated by hundreds of brands, Snapchat is still a fresh marketing option for small, mid-sized and enterprise level businesses.

Where are people using it?

On their mobile devices! In January, mobile app usage overtook PC internet usage in the United States for the first time ever. CNN reported, “Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January. Apps made up 47% of Internet traffic and 8% of traffic came from mobile browsers, according to data from comScore, cited Thursday by research firm Enders Analysis. PCs clocked in at 45%.

Although total Internet usage on mobile devices has previously exceeded that on PCs, this is the first time it’s happened for app usage alone.”

It’s important to note the significant growth in mobile app usage and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly (i.e. advertising via Snapchat).

When should you use it?

Well, we recommend as soon as possible. Marketing-wise, you have a plethora of options when it comes to timing. You could augment an existing campaign, create a Snapchat-specific campaign or perhaps chime in seasonally with creative holiday “Snaps”.

Sending “Snaps” around special promotions or events should help drive traction, especially if you include an exclusive coupon or freebie.

Timing is everything. You don’t want to overload users with spam-y “Snaps”. If you have a lot of great content to share, create a Snapchat Story. This allows you to build a fluid narrative through multiple “Snaps” that users can view for up to 24 hours.

Why should you use it?

According to Co-Founder and CEO Evan Spiegel, Snapchat users send 400 million “Snaps” each day. The number of photos shared has skyrocketed from 20 million in October 2012 to 60 million in February 2013, 150 million in April 2013, 200 million in June 2013 to 350 million in September 2013.

There are 26 to 30 million people in the U.S. actively using the app, many of whom fall into highly sought after target markets. If you’re targeting a younger audience, Snapchat is the place to be.

As marketing on the app is still fairly new, huge opportunities exist for companies that decide to take the leap now. Not only will you be able flex your creative muscles, but your campaign may also prompt media coverage, expanding reach and visibility for your brand.

How to start:

  1. Download the app.
  2. Sign up using your email address and birthday.
  3. Choose a username.
  4. Enter your mobile number if you want to access your phone contacts to add users you know.
  5. Otherwise, search for Snapchat users via their usernames and add them.
  6. Start Snapchat’n