As you probably know, social media is an important pillar in any small business marketing plan. And as you also probably know, Snapchat is a super-popular social media platform, which you may even use yourself. But how to use Snapchat for business is probably different from the way you use Snapchat to keep up with your friends’ (or favorite celebrities’) lives.
As a reminder, Snapchat’s claim to fame is its ephemerality, as Snaps disappear 24 hours after they’re posted. But because of that urgency, Snapchat users are actually more inclined to actively consume this content, if even for a few seconds, rather than scrolling past your post as they may on another social media platform. (Research proves that Snapchat ads command significantly more visual attention than do ads on other social media platforms.)
Snapchat users do conform to a specific demographic, however—i.e., they skew young: According to Pew Research Center, 78% of 18-to-24-year-olds use Snapchat. If your business caters to consumers far out of that range, you may want to set your sights elsewhere.
That said, signing up for a Snapchat account is free, so there’s no harm in testing the waters to see if it works for your business—and in fact, you might have fun doing so. But before diving in, take a look at these tips, sourced straight from marketing experts and small business owners, to learn how to use Snapchat for business effectively.
6 Tips on How to Use Snapchat for Business
1. Are your customers using Snapchat?
Even before you start using Snapchat, figure out whether you’ll see a return on your time investment (or your monetary investment, if you pay for a Snapchat ad)—in other words, make sure your consumers are actually on the platform.
A crucial step in creating a well-rounded marketing plan involves some amount of research into your audience’s behaviors. That way, you can understand how best to tailor your marketing materials so they resonate with your consumers, and on which platform to issue those materials in the first place.
The best way to conduct that research is to reach out to your customers and ask them which social media platforms they use most. Or survey your base’s demographics, and see if they align with Snapchat’s.
Research shows that the average Snapchat user is an 18-to-25-year-old female living in the U.S. More generally, though, if your target consumer is as young as 13, they may very well be active on Snapchat. Ditto if your consumers are older millennials, who are now in their early to mid-30s.
“Contrary to popular belief, Snap’s user base isn’t solely young teenagers, but in fact is made up of users up to their early 30s,” says Gracie Page, innovation lead at global ad agency VMLY&R. “So it’s a good place to reach young adults, too.”
If your customers don’t fall within these loose demographics, you may be better off focusing your time and energy on the social platforms that your target customers do engage with, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other channels.
2. Diversify your content.
This holds true for all of your business’s social media platforms, but it’s especially true on Snapchat. Because of the brevity of the content—you can record videos of up to 60 seconds, but the most successful Snapchat stories last generally between three and seven seconds—Snapchat users are not exactly known for their enduring attention spans. So, cater to your audience’s expectation of constant stimulation and novelty, and upload a mix of content.
That said, you do need to create content that aligns with what your audience wants, as Page advises:
“As with every social media platform, and indeed marketing effort, the business should ask itself what the platform’s users are coming to the app for. In the case of Snapchat, they’re coming for lightheartedness, for connection, and for fun. This isn’t to say that only frivolous brands can exist on Snapchat, but rather that every brand hoping to resonate with users, they need to make sure their communications on the channel are tailored for that content consumption model.
For example, if I’m a clothing brand, and I’ve decided to target 20-to-24-year-old women on Snapchat, my content should be in the same style as that which they already love to consume on Snapchat. Listicles, highly visual, easy to consume in under 3 seconds, and always refreshed are key elements to success.”
With that in mind, here are a few ideas for different types of content you can post on Snapchat. (You can use most of these ideas for other social media platforms, too, and especially Instagram, which is similarly image-focused.)
- Behind-the-scenes images and videos: Snapchat, and social media in general, is all about closing the gap between brand and consumer. Offering your audience a glimpse into how your business operates—think office tours, quick employee interviews, or your manufacturing processes—is a fun way to establish transparency.
- Employee-generated images and videos: On that note, let your employees take over your Snapchat account, and have them post fun or informative videos around the office.
- Expert opinions: You’re an expert in your field. So give your followers exclusive tips, tricks, and advice about something pertaining to your area of expertise, whether or not you explicitly promote your products or services as you do so.
- Snapchat-exclusive promo codes, discounts, and contests: The ultimate goal of every marketing effort is to convert leads into paying customers. What better way to do that than incentivize them to spend with discount codes, special promotions, sales, and rewards for contest winners? Snapchat is the perfect outlet to promote these special offers, and Snapchat’s inherent urgency might further incentivize your users to act quickly.
- Show off new products: This one’s obvious, but it works! Use Snapchat to share images of your products or services, or videos of your offerings operating in the real world. You can also post teasers of forthcoming products pre-launch.
- User-generated content: Ask your customers to take their own pictures or videos of them with your products, and repost that content on your Snapchat channel. Posting content created by your customers shows that you actually care about them, which humanizes your business. Your customers will be more inclined to engage with your brand if they know that they’re being seen and responded to, as well.
- Promote events: Think of Snapchat as your digital megaphone. Whatever you want your audience to know about—whether it’s a sale, an event you’re hosting, or a conference your CEO is participating in—use Snapchat to promote it.
Beyond posting a combination of these and other types of content, make sure you’re playing around with Snapchat’s editing features and decorations, like graphics, filters, stickers, emojis, sound effects, and music. Luckily, the platform is inherently conducive to playfulness and experimentation. “You can only be your best Snapchat self when you’re trying new things,” says Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics. “If you’re afraid, keep in mind that your Snapchat story will disappear in 24 hours. Snapchat is very informal, too, so play around with as many features as possible.”
Be sure to upload regularly, too, as is the case with all of your social media channels.
3. Build your audience through cross-promotion.
Establishing healthy social media presence—by which we mean lots of engaged followers, at least in this context—is a major boon for boosting any business’s clout. But especially on Snapchat, that’s easier said than done.
“It’s important to note that this is a notoriously difficult thing to do as a brand,” Page says of organically growing your Snapchat base. “There are no outward-facing success metrics, such as likes and followers, which are a huge part of a brand’s status on other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”
Plus, users on Snapchat can’t search for hashtags or geotags, as you can with Instagram, which makes it harder for potential followers to find you.
So, one of the most effective ways to gain followers on this platform is to cross-promote your Snapchat across your other social channels. Include a link to your Snapchat in your Instagram bio, your Facebook’s About page, and at the bottom of your business website. You can even include your Snapcode on your physical merchandise, as Elizabeth Williamsberg, a portrait photographer, does to generate new leads on Snapchat.
“I have my Snapcode on all of my marketing materials. I even have a water bottle and PopSocket that I give to my senior reps (and carry around myself) so that anyone can scan and add me anywhere at any time,” she says.
Even though it can be admittedly difficult to garner followers on Snapchat, cracking the code can be incredibly rewarding. As Page says, the Snapchat audience is highly engaged; in fact, 60% of users create content on Snapchat every day. Once you’ve found them, it’s likely that your Snapchat followers won’t just passively consume your posts, but they’ll take action on them, too.
4. Engage with your followers.
Speaking of taking action: Engaging with your audience is the best way to get them to engage with you. Masterson suggests including a CTA (call to action) in most of your Snapchat posts to encourage engagement, like clicking on a link to your website or online store. But your customers are much more likely to respond to those requests for participation if they feel like they’re chatting with real people, not just a faceless brand.
As we’ve mentioned, the beauty of social media is that it allows businesses the opportunity to humanize themselves. Snapchat is no exception—and because it’s so informal, it’s arguably the best social media platform through which to connect with your customers on a human-to-human level.
How do you do this on Snapchat? For starters, respond to any and all of your followers’ direct messages, even if they’re just words of encouragement. Snapchat is also a natural forum for requesting feedback from your customers. Post a video of you or an employee asking a question about how you can better serve your customers, encouraging them to send Snaps in response.
5. Consider paid advertising strategies on Snapchat.
You can—and should!—test out all of these no-cost (aka “organic”) strategies for gaining and engaging Snapchat followers. But if after some time you’re not seeing a bump in your Snapchat audience, and if your marketing budget allows, you may want to take advantage of Snapchat’s paid advertisements.
In truth, paid advertising is the fastest way to gain followers, as it boosts your channel’s visibility. As Page says, “Paid content on the Snapchat platform gets pushed through the ‘Discover’ section of the app,” so visitors can more easily find your content. Know that there are a few ways to advertise on Snapchat. You can choose among several ad formats that’ll appear on the Discover page, or you can create your own Lenses or Filters, for starters.
And while this paid strategy isn’t native to Snapchat, you can also consider hiring an influencer to take over your Snapchat account for a day (or a few hours). Influencer marketing can be incredibly effective in boosting brand awareness, since you’ll be reaching your influencer’s audience as well as your own.
As you know, every Snap you post will disappear 24 hours after it’s published. Rather than feeling stressed or constrained by this conceit, embrace the ephemerality and take some risks with your content.
While all of your Snaps should be aligned with your bigger marketing goals, you do have a lot of leeway to experiment here. So have fun with formats, filters, and other editing features. And if you hit upon an opportunity (or even an urge) to Snap, don’t hesitate to do so. The stakes are very low if you miss the mark; and in fact, Snapchat users respond best to off-the-cuff, unscripted content.
Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) Use Snapchat for Business
Using Snapchat for business can be a really fun way to connect with your target audience in a relaxed, informal space. Users tend to be more engaged on Snapchat than other social media platforms, too. So assuming that you’re including a clear CTA on many of your Snaps, like a link to your online store, you may very well gain paying customers through the platform.
Just keep in mind that if you choose to use Snapchat for business, this channel should be just one aspect of a holistic marketing plan. And if you find that Snapchat for business just isn’t working for you, there are plenty of social media marketing strategies that can better serve your business’s goals.