Forward-looking brands are experimenting in Snapchat today

We’ve had a lot of internal conversations about Snapchat lately, especially as we start building out programs for clients.

But Snapchat isn’t proven. It’s new and is the definition of an emerging channel.

Why should a brand start peeling off resources for test-and-learn programs in Snapchat today?
Snapchat is the 2015 version of “Join the Conversation” and “Be Present Where Your Audience is Engaging” — the same reasons brands started experimenting in social media six to seven years ago with Facebook and Twitter.

At that time, Facebook and Twitter didn’t have brand tools, weren’t monetized and senior marketers were struggling with taking dollars out of proven ROI strategies to experiment in softer, exploratory, highly social channels that didn’t map directly to ROI. Sounds like Snapchat, right?

Fast forward to today, and we tend to forget Facebook is 11 years old; Twitter is 9. These are no longer social media channels for “Joining a Conversation,” in practice. Instead, they are highly monetized content marketing programs with advertising tools and proven ROI for brands.

So it’s time to take that test and learn approach we leaned on so heavily in the early days of Facebook and Twitter to explore emerging “true” social media channels, like Instagram and Snapchat, depending on audiences and business objectives. Note: this means we don’t simply RFP them, just as we wouldn’t simply RFP Twitter with a core engagement/content strategy.

Brands need to take a pragmatic but bold approach to exploration, test and learn, and being “present/joining the conversation” in these new channels — so that 1-6 years from now they’ll be poised to build hard-working programs as these platforms monetize, build publisher tools and mature advertising strategies.

We should also use the available tools available today, in concert with other social/digital/POS/TV/influencer strategies, to drive awareness and growth of these new channels. That’s where an RFP to Snapchat makes sense, but a media buy should be the second step (not the first).

Which audiences are best for Snapchat exploration?
Brands that have young Millennials and Gen Z in their target audience mix. In terms of usage and reputation, it’s swiftly climbing the ranks to join the Facebook-Instagram-Twitter triumvirate which currently dominate this audience — for now.

Mary Meeker Snapchat

According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trend report last month, approximately 65 million Snapchat users employ the app to create original content every day. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn usage among kids age 12-24 all fell in the last year.

However, visual social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram saw noticeable gains. Only 14 percent of teens said Facebook is the most important social media app, compared to 33 percent in 2014. Snapchat itself is also fueling the vertical video craze (much to my chagrin, for what it’s worth). But it’s a real trend and one we’re seeing scale across other platforms.

There’s also some really compelling third party studies on college-age audiences and Snapchat I like to reference in these discussions. Based on this research from last year, nearly 80% of college students use Snapchat everyday, and 70% of college kids would add a brand on Snapchat because they followed it elsewhere. What do they want? Deals and promotions. And entertaining content, too.

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Therefore, based on the data AND the trend line of adoption, brands must begin not only experimenting on Snapchat, the opportunity cost of not being present on Snapchat could be staggering when it comes to reaching next generation. And if Snapchat ends up not being relevant at the 10-year-mark, forward-looking brands will have learned countless lessons about how to continue experimenting in new and emerging social networks.

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