A former teacher, Matt now specializes in R&D for ecommerce business owners and helps guide merchants in understanding the importance of this digital-first world.
When it comes to Snapchat, there are generally two types of people:
Those who are completely obsessed with it, and those who have absolutely no idea what all the fuss is about.
To be fair, it’s completely understandable if you fall into the latter category - especially if you haven’t used the app since its early days back in 2011. If we’re talking about the basic version of Snapchat that was available back then, you’d be justified in your hesitation to use the platform as a marketing tool.
But Snapchat has come a long way since then. While the app is still based around sending and receiving ephemeral and impermanent photos, videos, and messages, it has a lot more to offer in 2018.
In this article, we’ll go over the many ways ecommerce companies can use Snapchat to increase their reach and deepen their relationships with their customers.
But first, let’s take a look at why you should consider diving into Snapchat in the first place from a logistical standpoint.
Snapchat’s Usage Statistics
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not getting your company on Snapchat is worth it, let’s allay your worries here and now.
According to data collected by Omnicore:
- Snapchat sees as many as 187 million daily active users, and 300 million monthly active users
- 41% of 18-34 year olds in the US use Snapchat on a daily basis (and nearly 1 in 5 US social media users have a Snapchat account)
- Users who are considered “Active Snapchatters” use the app at least 18 times every day - and spend 30 or more minutes per day on the app
- 58% of college students have stated they would likely buy a product from a brand that sent them a coupon via Snapchat
While Snapchat’s MAU and DAU metrics certainly pale in comparison to, say, Facebook’s or Instagram’s numbers, Business Insider found that people are much more engaged when using Snapchat than when using any other social media platform. Additionally, nearly one out of every four Snapchat users engage with many of the app’s various features whenever they load it up.
(Considering the relatively passive way many people use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, this active engagement is a huge plus.)
While we’re on the subject of engagement, let’s dive into why, exactly, Snapchat is so engaging in the first place.
What Makes Snapchat Different - and Why It Matters for Ecommerce Companies
As we’ve alluded to (and as you probably know), Snapchat is one of the most unique social media platforms out there - if not the most.
First of all, the initial premise of the app in the first place - sending and receiving ephemeral photos and messages that disappear after a short period of time - goes against pretty much everything we’ve come to learn about the internet. Whereas most everything else that we put “out there” is archived in one way or another for...well...ever, the main draw of Snapchat is that the content you publish will never be available again once its gone.
(Yes, there are ways around this, but not when using the app as it’s meant to be used.)
The point is, the nature of Snapchat’s disappearing content creates a sense of urgency for its users that permanent content simply can’t replicate. Think about it: if a user knows they can easily go back to an Instagram photo or Facebook post later, there’s a good chance they’ll scroll right past it for the time being; with Snapchat, this just isn’t an option.
(It’s worth noting that Instagram and Facebook have, in the fairly recent past, developed their own version of disappearing content upon seeing the success Snapchat has had with it.)
Anyway, this sense of urgency works in two ways:
- When a user comes across a piece of ephemeral content that interests them, they’re almost certainly going to take the time to check it out right then and there.
- That same feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out...do people still say that?) can make users more likely to load up Snapchat for the express purpose of checking to see if there’s any new content to check out.
Another benefit of using Snapchat to promote your ecommerce brand is that it allows you to experiment, be creative, and have fun with your following.
As is probably clear by now, Snapchat is not exactly your standard social media platform. Whereas, for example, using Facebook or Twitter requires you to fit a certain mold when creating a post, brands are pretty much expected to break the mold and think outside the box when using Snapchat.
(And, even if a specific post misses the mark, it’ll soon disappear into the ether, anyway!)
Additionally, this notion of creativity can be shared with - and expanded upon by - your Snapchat audience in a number of ways. For example, brands can create filters, stickers, and more, which their followers can then use when creating their own content. We’ll get more into that in a bit.
Of course, let’s not forget that Snapchat is almost entirely based on visual and audio content - which is absolutely huge for increasing engagement. Of course, most other social media platforms incorporate multimedia capabilities in one way or another; but the focus when using Snapchat is specifically on multimedia content. What’s more, Snapchat allows companies to take full advantage of vertical video and advertising, allowing for a seamless experience for their followers.
Lastly, Snapchat allows companies to engage with their followers in an authentic and real-time manner. Needless to say, this is an incredibly important aspect of utilizing any social media platform - but it’s definitely worth mentioning here. While brands typically focus on adding to their Snapchat story or promoting content on Snapchat’s Discover feed, they also have the option of sending and receiving direct messages (and other content) to and from their individual followers.
Keep all of this in mind as we go through the next sections, where we’ll discuss how to actually go about generating - and maintaining - a solid following of engaged Snapchat users for your brand.
Growing a Following on Snapchat
Before we dive into the process of actually creating content on Snapchat, let’s go over some of the ways you can begin to grow a following from the moment you register an account.
Mine Your Current Customer Base
Assuming you have an existing customer base - and perhaps an existing presence on other social media platforms - your first order of business should be to introduce your current followers to your brand’s Snapchat account.
Add Customers to Your Snapchat List
Now, Snapchat does provide the option of connecting your phone’s address book to the app, in turn allowing you to add any of your contacts who have a Snapchat account to your list. However, you want to use caution when doing so, as some people might not be all that receptive to an out-of-the-blue friend request from your new account.
Similarly, you can also find Snapchat users if you know the phone number they used to register their account. So, if they’ve provided their number to you in the past, and you have it stored (such as in your CRM), you can manually add individuals using this info. Again, though, take heed not to come off as spammy when doing so.
For both of the above scenarios, your best bet is to contact the individuals you plan on adding outside of Snapchat before you add them. Which leads us to our next suggestion…
Solicit Adds from Your Customers
As we just alluded to, when adding others to your Snapchat list, you run the risk of annoying or otherwise alienating some of them - albeit unintentionally.
Think about it from the customer’s perspective. How would you respond if, from seemingly out of nowhere, a random Snapchat user sends you a friend request?
Even if the screen name is somewhat recognizable, it still might be a bit off-putting. I know that if something like that happened to me, I’d have a number of questions:
- Who is this person?
- How did they get my screen name?
- *Gasp* Do they have my phone number, too?
Even if I had given my number to the company in question at some point in the past, getting a random friend request on Snapchat would probably still be a bit...well...creepy.
At any rate, the point is that you have a better chance of getting a positive response from your current customers if you let them add your brand to their Snapchat list at their leisure.
Of course, you can certainly facilitate this process in a number of ways, such as:
- Sending a blast email to your mailing list that includes your Snapchat contact info
- Including your Snapchat info (or link) on your website’s Contact page
- Providing your Snapchat info on your Twitter and Instagram bios
Let’s check out a few examples:
Note that, within the company’s Instagram bio, Asos not only includes its Snapchat info, but also links to a number of ancillary branded Instagram accounts as well.)
Here, media company PopSugar allows its readers to easily follow the company’s Snapchat account (and other platforms’) by simply tapping the Snapchat logo at the bottom of their page.
(Note: If a user is on their phone, tapping on an “Add Me” link will open Snapchat immediately; if they’re on a desktop or laptop, it will bring up a Snapcode, which they can then scan using Snapchat on their phone to add the brand’s account to their list.)
(Source / Caption: Here’s PopSugar’s Snapcode as it appears on a non-mobile device.)
Now, it’s worth mentioning that Snapcode’s are, by today’s standards, a bit played out. For one thing, they’re no longer new and fresh; literally everyone with a Snapchat account can create one. More importantly, scanning a code is a bit more user-intensive than simply typing in a screen name. While you certainly can make your Snapcode available to your audience (and to the general public), you shouldn’t exactly rely on this tactic to build a following on the platform.
Discovering New Audiences
Of course, you aren’t just using Snapchat as another way of reaching your current audience; you also want to find new customers, as well.
Let’s check out some of the ways you can do so.
Snapchat allows users to suggest other accounts to their friends in a few ways.
One way is to tap on a user’s image within their contact list, which brings up a number of options to contact that individual via Snapchat:
Instead of contacting the individual, the user can also share their contact’s username with others on their Snapchat list, in their address book, or via their other social media profiles.
So, you might include a call-to-action within your Snapchat stories or other branded messages requesting that your followers share your Snapchat info with others in their network. Not only does this increase the chances of like-minded individuals being introduced to your brand, but it also inherently deepens the level of engagement between your brand and those who take it upon themselves to share your info with their friends.
Influencers and Takeovers
Another effective way to grow your Snapchat following is to partner up with popular figures within and around your industry to create engaging and exciting content together.
We’ve discussed influencer marketing before, so we’ll quickly go through how to approach the strategy on Snapchat.
Essentially, you’ll want your influencers to create photos and video content that involves your brand’s products or services in some way or another - and paints them in a positive light. At the same time, though, you don’t want these pictures or videos to come off as too commercial or “salesy”; the whole point of influencer marketing is that the influencer actually uses your products or services in their everyday life.
(However, you do want your influencers to provide a call to action for their audience that involves following or engaging with your brand in some way.)
To increase the reach of your brand via influencer marketing, you might also have them repost their Snapchat content featuring your products on their other social media pages, as well. Similarly, you’ll also want to post their content on your brand’s social media pages - being sure to tag the influencer when you do.
Another more modern approach to influencer marketing that’s especially popular on Snapchat is what’s referred to as a “takeover.” As the name implies, a takeover is when a brand allows an influencer to take control of the company’s Snapchat account for a short period of time (usually 24 hours or less).
The screenshot above shows a Victoria’s Secret model taking over VS’ main Snapchat account. While there is almost definitely a huge overlap among followers in this instance, there could certainly be a number of individuals who, for example, only follow the model’s account - and were introduced to VS’ Snapchat account via this campaign.
Now, while Snapchat takeovers share some commonalities with the more typical influencer campaigns, one difference is that you need to ensure your influencer’s audience is aware of the takeover before it occurs. Since, of course, Snapchat stories disappear within 24 hours, you want to be sure that your influencer’s takeover of your account is seen by as much of their audience as possible.
(Not to mention the fact that, by promoting the takeover beforehand on your and your influencer’s channel, you’re inherently getting even more exposure for your brand.)
Additionally, you want to plan the takeover for a time in which your influencer’s following is most active on Snapchat. Of course, this all varies depending on a number of factors (e.g., your influencer’s industry, where they’re located, etc.) - so you’ll need to hash this out with them beforehand. The point, again, is that you want to be sure you get the maximum amount of exposure possible through the takeover campaign.
Snapchat also allows brands to create sponsored ads, as well.
Snap Ads are short (at most 10-second) videos that appear to users as they consume content on Snapchat.
With Snap Ads, you can place a call-to-action within your 10-second vertical video prompting viewers to swipe up to engage further with your brand. Depending on your company’s goal for the ad, you can use this CTA to point them to your website, the app store (to install your app), or a longform video hosted elsewhere.
A few examples:
(Source / Caption: Thrive Market solicits downloads for its app.)
(Caption: Swiping up on ExxonMobil’s ad allows you to read more about current green initiatives.)
(Caption: Birddogs’ Snap Ad brings you directly to the company’s online store.)
The logistics of setting up a Snap Ad are pretty straightforward for anyone who’s run ads on other social media platforms - or any online platform, for that matter.
You’ll begin by setting a specific audience to target, narrowing your target area by:
- Demographics and geographic location
- Users’ likes and subscriptions (regarding other Snapchat content)
- Devices and connection type
You can also choose whether you’d like your Snap Ads to show while targeted users view their friends’ stories or curated content - or both. Additionally, you can schedule your ads to only appear at certain times of the day (or certain days of the week).
Then, you’ll define your daily budget for your ad campaign. Essentially, Snap Ads work similar to the way PPC ads do, in that your budget works as a bid against a number of other companies vying for visibility from a specific audience.
As your campaigns continue to run, Snapchat allows you to assess a variety of metrics related to their reach and overall effectiveness. In fact, as long as your account is registered with Snapchat for Business, you can check these metrics for all of your content - whether sponsored or not. We’ll dig deeper into all of this in an upcoming article.
So far, we’ve talked about how to gain a following on Snapchat from a logistical standpoint. Next, we’ll dig into how you can maintain your following through consistent creation of engaging content.
Maintaining Your Snapchat Following
As we talked about earlier in this article, one of the main draws of Snapchat as a marketing tool is that it’s all about creativity.
That being said, there really is no “one way” to go about creating content that will hook your audience. What might work for one brand might fall flat for another; it really all depends on your brand’s “feel,” as well as your customers’ expectations - and your ability to completely exceed them.
Of course, there are a number of “go-to” tactics for creating content on Snapchat, such as:
- Product release announcements
- Behind the scenes and live events
- Educational/How-To videos
- Promotions (such as discounts and deals)
In the interest of keeping your mind open to the numerous possibilities Snapchat offers, we’ll simply provide a few examples here of how successful brands have used the platform in the past.
Here, the team behind Sour Patch Kids created a series of cartoony Snap stories involving the mouth-puckering gummies dressing up in different costumes for Halloween. The screenshot above is just one example of an even larger campaign featuring “Real Sour Patch Kids” - teenage candy characters invented solely for the Snapchat campaign.
Online clothing retailer Everlane is another company that is incredibly active on Snapchat, often engaging directly with its audience via Q&A sessions and the like. In the above example, the team celebrates “Transparency Tuesday,” during which they tour their facility and do a bit of “meet and greet” with various staff members.
In the series of screenshots above, Grubhub called its followers to take a relatively simple action: Use Snapchat to draw a “food doodle,” then send it to the brand’s account; in exchange, Grubhub would select ten respondents, who would then win a prize of some sort.
(Note that the rules don’t say anything about the quality of the doodle; it just has to be of some type of food.)
Not only is such a contest a great way to keep your followers engaged with relatively little investment on their end, but it also allows you to see how many of your followers actually engage with your story in the first place (via the amount of responses you receive).
Aside from “doodling,” Snapchat offers a number of proprietary features that you can - and should - take advantage of from time to time, such as:
- Filters and Geofilters
Take a quick look at the following video from Cisco:
Not only does this video provide some behind-the-scenes footage in a tongue-in-cheek, human manner, but it also takes full advantage of pretty much every feature mentioned above.
The above screenshot from Starbucks is an example of a brand-created geofilter to be used not by the company’s Snapchat account, but by its followers. Geofilters become active when an individual enters a certain region - in this case, when they’re near a Starbucks (which, really, could be just about anywhere on Earth…).
Also worth noting is that this filter was only made available for a two-hour span of time over the course of a couple weeks - adding a bit of urgency for those who just had to snap a pic of themselves with a frappuccino in hand at three in the afternoon on Cinco De Mayo.
Whether you’re creating a fun story to get a laugh out of your audience or soliciting engagement in the form of audience feedback - or anything in-between - Snapchat allows you to do so in a relatively unstructured, and much more creative, manner.
So, again: while we’ve provided a few examples to help inspire your own Snapchat campaigns, keep in mind that the major selling point of the platform as a marketing tool is that your audience expects you to think outside the box - and perhaps be a little weird, too. While originality is an important part of all marketing campaigns, its essential when it comes to Snapchat.
If your brand is just getting started on its Snapchat journey, this article should hopefully help you get the ball rolling.
While we’ve made it pretty clear that Snapchat is unique as far as a social media platform and a marketing tool, the basic principles remain the same: keep your customers’ needs and expectations top of mind at all times - and figure out how to blow their minds as often as possible.
When it comes to Snapchat, don’t be afraid to try something new. If your audience loves it, great; if they don’t, it’ll still be gone in less than a day.