Snapchat for Business - A Primer for Beginners

  •    digital marketer and writer in New York. She specializes in social media, web development, and publishing. Say hello in 140 characters @melissajohill.

It's 2017 and like it or not, Snapchat is here to stay. The mobile social network has made enough headway in the last eighteen months that a comprehensive social media marketing plan can no longer safely ignore its presence, potential or influence.

Unconvinced? Here are some mind-blowing stats that will convince you the give it a shot:

  • Every day 150 million people use Snapchat to talk about, share and learn what's happening in the world
  • 41% of millennials ages 18-34 use Snapchat
  • Snapchatters share 10 billion videos every day. Let that number sink in a moment. 10 billion. Every. Day.

That said, Snapchat isn't the most intuitive of social networks. The mystery, the je ne sais quoi, is the appeal of it for a younger demographic. If you're hoping for tutorials, support and tool-tips that guide you through the posting process, you won't find them in the app. You'll need to experiment to really get a hang of the interface, see how filters work, and set up your snaps and stories in an effective and narrative way. Understanding the ephemeral nature of Snapchat is the second hurdle you'll need to clear to make good use of the platform. Snaps are good for about 10 seconds… after that, they disappear into the void.

Small businesses can't have the "if you build it, they will come" mentality on garnering a Snapchat following either. Limitations on search means that a user needs your exact username or the special QR code to find and follow. Furthermore, the privilege of a follow will need to be earned through engagement, and Snapchat users engage most directly “in the moment." That means your Snapchat account needs to be on and live in ways your other social does not. While you can plot out your brand messaging and the stories you'll tell through snaps, you'll need a social media point person to be live for the execution of this social strategy.

So given the limitations of Snapchat, just how can a small business use it as part of their social strategy? The pros typically recommend using the app in one of three ways — to share behind-the-scenes images, to preview and tease new products and services, and to engage local users with sponsored Geofilters.

Getting Started with Snapchat for Business

Download the app to your phone — there's no web app or way to sign up online. Fill out your name, password and choose a username for your account. That's all it takes!

Getting Started with Snapchat for Business

Tap around the app, try out the camera and filters (they're fun!), and swipe up, down, left and right so you can get a sense of how in-app navigation works.

Next, you'll want to click on the three dots in the lower right corner to go to Stories (which is analogous to your feed). Click on “My Stories" and make sure everyone can see them — especially if you're using Snapchat for your business!

Now you can begin adding Snaps to your stories. You can add a photo and edit it with text, stickers, and doodles or add a short video. Photos display for 3 seconds, videos for 10. And in your Story, photos and videos play in the order you upload them, so you can plan out Stories in chronological order for your followers to view.

Finding your Following

If you've already got a fanbase on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, use those platforms to lure them to Snapchat. You'll want to share your username or the special QR code that's generated (click the ghost icon at the top of the screen to find it and save a screenshot to your phone or go here to download a high-resolution Snapcode image). This is especially critical if you're using a username that's slightly modified from your brand or business name, as the search function on Snapchat is extremely limited and it's unlikely your fans will find you there.

​Post your Snapcode to your other social networks, print it out on your business cards or product packaging, and include it on posters, flyers, and invitations to events.

Behind the Scenes in 10 Seconds

Use Snapchat to share glimpses of your design and development process, how you source your products, or put together your booth for a trade show. Show what a “day in the life of" your business is — whether you're selling ice cream or fine jewelry. Give a trusted employee access to the account for a day, and offer your customers a peek into the life of one of your team members.

The VP of Marketing at Michael Khors did just that — offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes view of NY Fashion week on Snapchat M— and found 14.6 million people tuning in to engage with their brand.

Tease New Products

About to make a big announcement about a collaboration or new addition to your catalog? Give fans clues about what's coming and offer a prize to anyone who guesses before your big reveal. NARS cosmetic company did just that — offering a glimpse of their new line for users who followed them before a specific time. They announced the exclusive content on Twitter and Facebook to not only create excitement around their new line, but boost their Snapchat following as well.

Sponsored Geofilters

And finally, small businesses can take advantage of Snapchat's On-Demand Geofilters program. Essentially this makes a new filter available to any user within a specifically targeted geographic location. This is especially geared toward brick-and-mortar shops or businesses that are on-location.

For example, anyone staying at a W Hotels location will see new Geofilters added to their Snapchat account. The filters overlay branded messaging, so users can snap and share what they're doing using W Hotels branding.

Snapchat makes it easy to create, upload and purchase a Geofilter. In fact, it's not just small businesses getting in on the action — you can create a Geofilter for your personal holiday party or wedding.

Snapchat marketing isn't for every business or brand, and it's not for the faint of heart. If you're going to be successful using Snapchat for business, you need to think critically about making a big impact with the tiniest sliver of attention. If you're willing to make the leap and can master just one piece of the Snapchat puzzle, you'll be miles ahead of your competitionwhen targeting that coveted millennial demographic.

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