Is Snapchat Worth Your Time?

March 17, 2014

snapchat for brands

If there’s one thing that the marketers I’ve spoken with over the past couple of months have most frequently asked, it’s, “Should we care about Snapchat?” It’s easy to go with the stock answer that today we all need to stay ahead on new platforms and tools but, with all of the buzz, what makes Snapchat so special? And, more importantly, is it worth your brand’s time.

Before we get started, let me offer the following disclaimer: I am not a Snapchat expert. In fact, I’m the first to admit that it made me feel old almost immediately, as I struggled to work the interface at first. For those that need a quick overview, Snapchat is simply a social app that allows you to share photos with captions (and doodles) as well as short videos with your friends. The defining feature? These “Snaps” last just a few seconds (between one and 10) and then they’re gone.

Many get hung up over the early connections between the app and sexting, while others wonder if it’s just for kids (talk about two extremes). And yet, we’ve seen a few brands jump aboard for some experimental efforts.

So … does Snapchat matter?

What Can You Do with Snapchat?

As a teacher and marketing practitioner, it’s my job to point out that, regardless of channel, you first need to consider what it is you’re trying to do. Yes, this is your friendly reminder to think strategically. Establish an objective then consider which networks might help you accomplish this. But how can you know if Snapchat is a good fit without knowing what exactly it does? Let’s take a look at who’s seeing success with the app and what they’re doing.

It can be tricky to find examples of brands doing great things that aren’t limited to the same small group. For instance, it’s not hard to see that Taco Bell has racked up some early recognition. They were one of the first brands asking users to add them on Snapchat. Last year, they used this exclusive audience to introduce their new Beefy Crunch Burrito and generate buzz for their brand among a key audience segment (more on that in a bit).


Acura found a strategic way to align Snapchat with their sneak peeks of new vehicles. When it was time to preview the NSX supercar, the automaker released their six-second video teaser on Snapchat first. After the initial excitement, they wisely reused this video content in a more widespread manner on Vine.

DirecTV provides behind-the-scenes access to event television such as Oscar red carpets and the Super Bowl. Speaking of TV, the HBO series Girls also had a bit of fun with Snapchat and some emojis, offering fans of the shows a coded message and further building excitement for the upcoming season. McDonalds recently made waves by announcing that they were going to begin snapping.

The common thread among these examples is the opportunity to create an inner circle through exclusive, brief, and time-limited social content. As we work to build massive audiences on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, we may find ourselves losing the ability to keep track of those truly rabid fans. Snapchat provides a means for conversing with and rewarding these individuals with special access, sneak peeks, and more.

Digging deeper online, you find many citing these same few organizations. This is a different trend from platforms like Instagram and Vine, which quickly attracted a wide variety of brands experimenting. That’s not to say that it’s not as useful. Rather, it’s simply observing that the brand adoption rate of Snapchat is a little bit different.

Why You Should Care About Snapchat

The very smart Tom Webster, Vice President at Edison Research, shared a link from his blog Brand Savant recently with the title Why Facebook Offered Snapchat Three Billion. (That’s the kind of link you just have to click on.) The data he shared was from Edison’s new Infinite Dial study showing that nearly half of Americans 12–24 use Snapchat (below).

Snapchat slide - Infinite Dial 2014 A.jpg

Before you dismiss this as further proof that this is just a network for those darn kids (get off my lawn!), consider a couple of things first, such as the rate of this rapid growth. Any network that can this quickly become such an integral part of a key demographics’ life is one worth taking note of. If you brush this off because of the age of this group, remember that these “kids” are growing up with Snapchat and will likely continue this use as they age through other stages of the consumer life cycle.

The Verdict

Are you just as confused now as when you started reading this? Here’s a helpful way of looking at all of this. Based on these observations, Snapchat might be a good fit for you if one or more of the following applies:

  • Your audience target is a younger demographic
  • You launch new products consistently that demand awareness and excitement
  • You drive online and offline traffic through offers and couponing
  • You create content or programming that you can offer behind-the-scenes access to

Of course, Snapchat may not be for you. Remember not to get caught up in all of the shiny new things that surround social media that can lead us down the path of “checklist marketing” — where we simply check all of the boxes off of the social network checklist regardless of their fit for our business objectives. Only you know what will work best for your brand.

Again, Snapchat is very new and, though it’s catching like wildfire among teen users, brand adoption still isn’t clear. If you’re unsure, maybe experimenting a bit with Snapchat as a user is a good way to explore the potential of this new app.

What do you think of Snapchat? Are there brands you see doing great things that weren’t listed here? Let me know in the comments below and we may add them to the post.

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.