Friday TechMunch: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

If you thought 140 characters was strict, try Snapchat. The user has only 10 seconds to view an image. After that, it’s gone. For good.

Snapchat is the latest social media phenomenon. 400 million “snaps” are sent everyday – making the 40 million images captured by Instagram seem paltry in comparison. Much like Instagram and Pinterest, Snapchat’s core audience is women; but while the two older photo sharing channels are favoured by women aged 18-35, Snapchat’s demographic is younger still, beloved of 13-25 year olds.

TacoBell, ASOS and MTV have been quick to jump on the Snapchat bandwagon. But what are the challenges of brand-Snapchatting, and is it really possible for Snapchat to be included as part of a successful communications strategy?

Why is Snapchat so popular?

The “self-destruct” nature of photos adds a new dimension to instant messaging which other platforms cannot offer. Although recently the brand has had to admit that there are “several simple ways that recipients could save snaps indefinitely,” including third-party apps and screenshots, the concept remains. Snapchat allows users to show what is happening to them right at that moment, with the possibility of adding fun and humorous editing. This simple but genius idea is the centre of the App’s popularity.

The Snapchat Challenge

A primary concern for brands is the insinuation that Snapchat is a means for sharing indecent images – tainting the App’s credibility. But this reputation does not explain the striking popularity of the service. The global Snapchat phenomenon has occurred because it facilitates fun, innocent communication. It has capitalised the rise of the “selfie.”

So beyond the cheeky reputation, what presents the real challenge for brands is using the App to market their message in ten seconds flat.

Is it really possible to engage fans with only a ten second snap?

Absolutely. A handful of brands have been quick to utilise the benefits of “self-destruct” images. Taco-Bell was the first, whilst Lnyx has used the App to “leak” details about secret parties. Up and coming brands have been even more eager to jump onto the Snapchat train – 16 Handles asks fans to snap a picture of themselves at one of its locations, in return for coupons.

So what is the appeal? Images posted on other social media sites are there for the world to see; but with Snapchat a push notification is sent directly to the recipients’ phones. This, combined with the sense of urgency the photo viewing creates, makes users sit up and notice the brand’s message. This appeal is something neither Facebook nor Instagram can offer, and with a youthful energetic demographic that neither can match, it’s arguably the most direct way to communicate with a young audience.

The popularity of the App aside, when considering joining any new platform, each brand must consider their key demographic. Using Snapchat as a form of communication is questionable unless young people make up your target audience. But if Snapchat does fit in well with your brand’s DNA, then it should be integrated into an existing social strategy. Done well, the App offers a more personal connection with the recipient and the possibility of showing off really engaging, rarely seen, brand personality.