By Ryan Holmes
Recently, I broke some major company news… on Snapchat.
Using a special lens that made me look like a bunny rabbit and talk in a high-pitched voice, I announced that my company had acquired a tool for tracking social media analytics on Snapchat. The update was a bit silly, but I wanted to prove a point.
Snapchat isn’t just for the kids anymore. The proof? This little video was viewed more than 100,000 times across different networks, drawing thousands of likes and hundreds of comments on social media.
Meanwhile, news quickly spread to mainstream media. The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and two dozen other outlets ran stories. It was easily one of the biggest responses to a Hootsuite announcement… ever.
Snapchat’s $20 billion plus IPO earlier this year put it on the radar of lots of people who had dismissed it as a toy for teens. But I think there’s still an exceptional amount of misunderstanding about what Snapchat is and—more importantly—its value for businesses and leaders.
As social media grows increasingly visual (just look at the success of Instagram Stories and Facebook Live, among other examples), tools like Snapchat will only grow more valuable. And despite threats from Instagram, Snapchat’s 18 to 34-year-old user base is extremely loyal: nearly 50 percent don’t use Instagram or Facebook, at all.
I’ve touched previously on why now is the time for businesses to explore Snapchat as a serious marketing and communication platform.
It offers access to a coveted (and shifting) demographic
Snapchat’s 150 million plus users are generally still young compared to Facebook users, who average out at 40 years old in the U.S. And, according to a recent study, teenage social media users now rank Snapchat ahead of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as their favorite social network. For brands and media companies forever trying to get tomorrow’s consumers hooked early, Snapchat offers a unique portal.
Beyond that though, more than half of new users signing up to Snapchat are over the age of 25. I’ve seen these shifting user demographics firsthand, with increasing buzz around the network among my own industry peers. An older generation (including me) are slowly but surely getting onboard.
It’s (already) bigger than TV in some ways
Recently, 40 million people tuned in to watch clips of the annual Coachella music festival—on Snapchat. The Story consisted of a short montage of videos taken at the event by users, then curated and broadcast by Snapchat staff via the app. Compare that to the Grammy awards, which recently drew a TV audience of just 20 million viewers.
These numbers hint at a bigger trend: millennials from the ages of 14 to 25 now turn nearly equally to TV and social media as a source of news content. Indeed Snapchat users quietly rack up 10 billion daily video views—rivaling the numbers put up by Facebook and YouTube.
Meanwhile, Snapchat has made deals with ABC, BBC and CBS in recent months to showcase original programming from the networks, right on the app. It’s really no exaggeration to say that Snapchat is the new TV.
It’s probably the most innovative mobile ad platform
Senior ad buyers are starting to advertise on Snapchat more than any other social media site. And with mobile video currently growing faster than any other form of digital advertising in the U.S., Snapchat is uniquely poised to reach users.
Indeed, the network has already earned accolades for raising the bar on mobile advertising. In addition to 10-second vertical video ads that appear between users’ self-generated Stories (daily montages of selfies and videos, shared with followers), brands can tap into next-gen ad formats.
Special geofilters offer branded artwork that users can overlay on their selfies when in certain locations (like a cascade of McDonald’s french fries, an option that might appear when inside McDonald’s restaurants).
Bonus: Download a free guide that reveals how to easily create and use a custom Snapchat geofilter to promote your business for as little as $5.
Meanwhile, sponsored lenses allow users to morph their own faces into, say, a Taco Bell taco, then share pics and videos with friends. (Snapchat also recently unveiled self-serve ad tools so that even small businesses can get in on some of these features.) New analytics tools like the one we just acquired make it easy to measure conversions and ROI on these ads.
It offers the rarest commodity: authenticity
In Snapchat’s very first company blog post in 2012, CEO Evan Spiegel described the company’s mission: “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest, or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.”
In other words, from the start, Snapchat set out to be a different kind of social network—one that’s less about creating and projecting a polished image or persona (a la Facebook) than just about being authentic.
Staying true to this premise, Snapchat remains the social network where there is the least pressure for people to try and appear perfect. For businesses, it offers a rare vehicle to connect with users on a human level: casually and without pretense, and even with a healthy dose of silly fun. Older social networks have lost a great deal of that innocence and cachet.
This quality is, of course, enhanced by Snapchat’s ephemeral nature, with content disappearing after either a few seconds or a day’s time. (Caveat: Anything you put on the internet can become permanent, so use discretion.)
The enthusiasm among today’s Snapchat users reminds me of the excitement around Facebook a decade ago. Yes, Facebook is replicating lots of Snapchat’s innovative features in an effort to steal its thunder. But there’s something about the freshness of Snapchat that’s hard to copy.
A whopping 156 million people spend a big chunk of their day on the network… and plenty of teens swear by it. Businesses and leaders looking to stay ahead of the curve should probably start to spend some time there, as well.
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