What the Heck is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a messaging social media platform that was founded in 2011 by Stanford student Evan Spiegel. Unlike other apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the core communication on Snapchat happens between individuals. Although users can now broadcast longer form pieces of content to a wide audience, Snapchat’s roots are as a messaging app rather than a publishing app.

Social entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said that the way “Snapchat works is much closer to how we communicate face to face than any other social network.” It’s true if you think about it. Are you more likely to compose a concise, witty quip to share with your friend or tell her about the carrot that looked like a person at the grocery store?

Snapchat has had an explosive adoption rate, especially among teenagers as many as 60 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. aged 13 to 24 use the app. Mashable explains that we like the platform so much because it promotes authentic communication, is easy to use, and is fun.

A baby among social media networks, Snapchat has come a long way in the past five years. Here’s a fun visual history of the young social network.

Why Should Brands Care?

It’s one thing for teenagers to flock to a new app, but what does this mean for brands and marketers? Well, teenagers being on the platform is a critical draw for many brands who want to grow a base of loyal customers. The challenge is to break through the barrier of the teenage subculture.

Content Marketing Institute explains that brands have a few different options for using Snapchat to engage with their target audiences. In addition to creating interesting, engaging, on-brand content, companies can work with a celebrity who already has a strong presence on the social network to promote the brand via snap picture or video. Brands can also sponsor user-generated stories by purchasing ad space.

So which brands are doing a good job?

General Electric Does Snapchat

When you think of brands doing a good job on Snapchat, the company that makes light bulbs probably isn’t the first one to come to mind. Despite the fact that GE is a giant, global company with brands in a variety of industries, it has found a niche on the network.

Instead of trying to cover all the possible topics related to its brand, GE focuses on one core idea that relates to the entirety of its business: science.

Because Snapchat is a personal communication, General Electric doesn’t simply rely on outward communications to strengthen the brand. It encourages followers to send snaps in order to receive a reply with specialized content. For example, a post on Tumblr explained, “Just add ‘generalelectric’ on Snapchat, send us an emoji, and we’ll send you some science.”

The content followers received included clips like this one with celebrity science guy, Bill Nye.

Another key to success on Snapchat is fresh content. The platform is innovative and surprising, so brands that thrive create content that reflects that. One GE campaign that used both the element of surprise and a celebrity spokesperson was when astronaut Buzz Aldrin appeared on the account.

By continuing to promote science-themed content to young Snapchat audiences, GE is able to, according to Global Director of Innovation Sam Olstein, “celebrate invention with an expanding community of young fans.”

What core idea would your company use as the basis for Snapchat content?

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