Beginner's Guide to Snapchat Advertising

Jan 07, 2019

Snapchat Advertising

A few months ago we talked about the many ways Snapchat can be used to market your brand.

While the focus of that article was more on how to organically grow a following on Snapchat, it also briefly touched on the prospect of actually advertising your brand on the platform, as well.

Piggybacking off of this brief overview, today we’re going to take a much closer look at how paid advertising works on Snapchat, and discuss how you can use the platform to promote your brand to consumers at all stages of the sales funnel.

Throughout this article, we’ll explain:

  • Why ecommerce companies should consider advertising on Snapchat as we head into 2019
  • The overarching best practices for creating ad campaigns on Snapchat
  • The various options companies have when advertising on Snapchat

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Why You Should Be Advertising on Snapchat

In our previous article, we provided a number of stats regarding the size and quality of Snapchat’s fan base to show just how important it is for companies to start seeing the platform as a viable channel for marketing purposes.

The main takeaway from that discussion:

Though Snapchat’s audience isn’t nearly as humongous as Facebook’s or Instagram’s, its users are much more engaged when using the app than when scrolling through any other social media platform, period.

And, it turns out, this goes for paid Snapchat content as well as organic.

According to data collected by MediaScience, Snapchat ads:

  • Command almost as much visual attention as TV commercials (and up to two times that of Facebook video ads)
  • Evoke the most emotional responses out of all social media platforms (and ten times the emotional response of TV commercials)
  • Create double the purchase intent of ads placed on other social media platforms or television

With all this in mind, there’s little doubt as to why MediaScience calls Snapchat “one of the (most) powerful storytelling platforms” available to marketers today.

It’s also worth pointing out that, of the 12- to 24-year-old American population, an astounding 72% has and uses a Snapchat account. What’s more, when looking at all consumers under the age of 34, this adoption rate remains rather steady, clocking in at around 70%. As Hootsuite explains, this ability to reach the majority of consumers within such a sought-after demographic is one of the key reasons to consider using Snapchat for advertising purposes.

As if all this isn’t enough to convince you, you should also know that Snapchat has recently started rolling out features specifically meant to be used by ecommerce companies. As we’ll discuss in greater detail later on, these features include the ability to:

  • Create Shoppable ads
  • Upload and sync product catalogs to the platform
  • Collect more granular audience data regarding in-app and on-site behavior

Simply put:

The Snapchat team is actively working on making the platform prime ground for ecommerce companies looking to advertise their brand.

Coupled with everything else we’ve said about Snapchat’s audience thus far, and it becomes pretty obvious:

If you’re not yet advertising on Snapchat, you’re almost certainly missing out on some major opportunities for growth.

Overarching Best Practices for Advertising on Snapchat

Of course, in order to be successful when advertising on Snapchat, you have to approach the process strategically and methodically.

In this section, we’ll be discussing the more overarching fundamentals of creating ad campaigns on Snapchat, enabling you to get the absolute most value out of the endeavor right from the get-go.

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Know Your Targets and Your Goals

As we alluded to a moment ago, Snapchat has recently made it much easier for ecommerce companies to collect a vast amount of information on their audience base (using the newly-released Snap Pixel).

Going along with this, the platform allows companies to target specific individuals based on both surface-level demographic data and information regarding the user’s interests and in-app and on-site behaviors. Snapchat also allows you to create lookalike audiences, as well as custom audiences via retargeting methods, as well.

That said, you’ll want to work toward getting as specific as possible when defining your audience for each ad campaign you create on Snapchat. No matter what your goal is for a given ad, it’s essential that you know exactly who you want the ad to reach in the first place.

Speaking of goals, it’s (obviously) also essential to know exactly what you hope your ad campaign to accomplish. Not only does this go hand-in-hand with knowing who you want to target, but it also dictates which type of ad you should focus on creating, as well.

We’ll get more into all this in a bit. For now, it’s worth reiterating that Snapchat prides itself on enabling advertisers to reach potential customers at all stages of the sales funnel, for a variety of purposes:

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Strategic Bidding

As with all auction-based advertising, you’ll need to approach bidding on Snapchat ads strategically if you want them to be seen by the right people (or at all).

Thankfully, Snapchat allows you to get ultra-specific, here.

First of all, the platform allows for goal based bidding.

As Snapchat explains:

“Goal based bidding allows you to bid on a goal, like Impressions, Video Views, Swipe Ups, App Installs, or Shares. Your campaign will be delivered to optimize for that goal at the lowest cost by showing your ad to Snapchatters who are most likely to take the action you choose.”

For one thing, goal based bidding allows you to target individuals who are more likely to take one specific action over another. For example, if your goal is to drive sales, you’d want to target consumers who often “swipe up” (in this example, to visit a product page) over more passive Snapchat users.

This, in turn, means that your ad bids will be more effective and efficient overall.

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Again, Snapchat explains:

“In the above example, Brand A and Brand B are bidding on an impression basis at $12 and $8, respectively. Brand C is bidding on a swipe goal at $1 swipe. As we predict the consumer has a 2% chance of swiping-up, Brand C’s bid is translated to $20 CPM ($1.00/swipe x 2%= $.02 per impression = $20 CPM). When factoring in the quality component, we see that Brand C wins with a total value of $18. The final price paid out is the runner-up’s (Brand A) bid minus Brand C’s quality value (-$2) netting out to $15.”

Basically, by prioritizing specific targets, you’ll automatically bid more on auctions involving them - and automatically lower it when they aren’t involved.

(It’s worth noting that this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be bidding on auctions involving other individuals, though. That said, even if your true goal for a given ad is to generate sales, it’s still possible that the same ad could generate brand awareness in a new prospect, as well.)

Creating Ad Content

Since our previous Snapchat-related article dove deep into the best practices for actually creating content on the platform, we’re now going to toss out a few quick pointers as provided by the Snapchat team itself.

(Note: The following tips are from a video created by Snapchat in May 2018 titled Creative Best Practices and other resources provided by Snapchat.)

First things first: Make it short and sweet. The entire premise of Snapchat in the first place is centered around quick-hitting, ephemeral content. If your ad is more than five seconds long, it’s gonna get skipped. Heck, if you take longer than two seconds to get to the point, you’ll have already lost your audience.

Along with that, you’ll also want to present your CTA immediately. Be it in text, in app, outloud - or all three - your CTA should be among the first things your audience sees of your ad. Since you have absolutely no time to waste, the difference between saying “Want to learn more about XYZ? Swipe up!” and “Swipe up to learn more about XYZ” is monumental.

Going along with this, each ad you create should have a single focus in terms of value provided to the audience. Again, since you don’t have all that much time, you probably won’t be able to fit more than one value proposition in your ads, anyway; still, even if you could create 30-second Snapchat ads, you’d want to stay focused on a single selling point.

Lastly, you’ll want to take full advantage of everything Snapchat has to offer in terms of content creation. Most obviously, this means creating content that’s both visually and audibly engaging. But you’ll also want to experiment with Snapchat’s proprietary features, such as stickers, filters, and lenses.

(Of course, you’ll want to use said features as appropriate to your goal, message, and brand as a whole. Going overboard, here, will almost certainly turn your audience off to your brand altogether.)

Assessing and Adjusting

As is the case for any marketing campaign, assessing and analyzing performance - and making the proper adjustments - is essential when creating ad campaigns on Snapchat.

Luckily, the platform provides robust and in-depth reporting and analytics services, allowing you to gain both a high-level and granular understanding of how your ads have measured up.

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When analyzing the performance of an ad campaign, you’ll want to look at the factors we’ve discussed throughout this section:

  • Your audience targeting
  • Your bidding strategies
  • The content you’ve presented

If any of these areas is “off” in any way, your campaign probably won’t end up being as effective as it could have been. On the other hand, as you manage to figure out exactly who to target with exactly what type of content - and adjust your bidding accordingly - you’re likely to start seeing major improvement in the performance of your ads.

Snapchat Ad Formats - and How to Use Each Best

Since its release in 2012, the Snapchat platform as a whole has evolved quite a bit.

What was once a simple app used solely to trade quickly-disappearing photos and videos has become a social media hub with a variety of touchpoints. With the modern version of Snapchat, users can:

  • Create, share, and view their friends’ “Stories” - standalone pictures and videos that stay active on a user’s profile for 24 hours
  • Subscribe to branded Snapchat accounts that create and share Stories with their followers
  • Browse their personalized “For You” feed, which provides tailored suggestions of brand accounts to follow

Each of these touchpoints - and more - provide ample opportunity for you to squeeze in an advertisement for your target audience to check out.

In this section, we’ll go over how each of Snapchat’s ad formats work within the app, and explain when, why, and how you should be using each different format.

Let’s dig in.

Snap Ads

For those unfamiliar with Snapchat overall, Stories created by the accounts a user follows will autoplay one after another once the user begins watching them.

Snap Ads, then, are essentially commercials that play between Stories as a Snapchat user goes through their feed.

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Snap Ads are quite versatile, as they can be effectively used to target individuals at any stage of the buyer’s journey.

When creating Snap Ads tailored to Awareness-stage viewers, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Firstly, you’ll want to target either a Lookalike audience or, if you have the data to back it up, a custom audience based on demographics and interests. This way, you’re not just advertising to a general audience - you’re getting your brand in front of consumers who have a much greater probability of becoming paying customers.

As far as Awareness-stage content, you’ll want to use your Snap Ad to quickly hit on the main value your product provides your customers.

Take a look at Biore’s Snap Ad campaign. In five short seconds, the beauty and skin care retailer provides two quick shots of its newest cleanser in action. Not only does this ad act as a product announcement, but it also quickly shows exactly how the product is used and how using it will benefit the viewer.

While it doesn’t show in the above video, the CTA for this ad campaign was to download an AR lens created by Biore. In turn, the lens would then “soften” the appearance of the user when taking a selfie or video of themselves - again mimicking the effects of the new facial product. The takeaway here is, when creating Snap Ads targeting Awareness-stage viewers, your CTA should revolve around providing more information to your new potential customers - not on making a sale right away.

When using Snap Ads to engage with Consideration-stage consumers, there are again a few things to consider:

As for who to target, you’ll want to reach out to either your current customer base (or rather, a specific segment of your current customer base), or to those who have engaged with your brand in some way but have yet to make a purchase (i.e., a remarketed audience).

In terms of content, you’ll again want to focus on providing more (and more in-depth) info to your viewers. Typically, brands in this situation will use Snap Ads as a preview to such deeper content, as Neutrogena does here.

Again, your targets may not be ready to become paying customers just yet - but they have recently proven to be at least somewhat interested in your brand. That being the case, you’ll want to use Snap Ads to increase the engagement levels of these individuals by providing as much free value as you can.

Finally, when creating Snap Ads targeting Decision-stage consumers, you’ll again want to target current customer segments, as well as those who have engaged with your more in-depth and valuable content.

At this point, you can feel free to be a bit more “salesy” with your Snap Ad - while, of course, not being overly so. Your goal should be to showcase the major selling point of your product, and to get your “on the fence” customers to commit to a purchase.

Going along with that, at this point you do want your CTA to be to have the viewer swipe up to go directly to the appropriate product page, where they can immediately make the desired purchase.

Take a look at Hubble’s Snap Ad here. As Snapchat explains in its case study:

“Hubble’s punchy, GIF-like creative featured the product and a clear, singular message about its price advantage. These short but dynamic ads effectively captured the attention of Snapchatters and used a strong call-to-action to drive interested viewers straight to the sign-up page for their free trial.”

Again, unlike the other ad formats we’ll be discussing, Snap Ads are incredibly versatile, and can be used to engage audience members within pretty much any segment. The trick, of course, is to ensure your ad’s content, message, and CTA are always in alignment.

Collection Ads

As we mentioned earlier, Collection Ads are Snapchat’s newest offering in terms of advertising capabilities.

Like Snap Ads, Collection Ads are presented in between Stories as a user goes through their Story feed. However, Collection Ads provide an additional option for advertisers:

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(Source / Caption: A first look at Snapchat’s recently-added Collection ads.)

As shown in the sample images above, Collection Ads allow you to showcase multiple items from within your product catalog within a single frame - in turn allowing viewers to click on each product being shown. Once the user clicks on the image, they’ll be brought directly to the product’s page, where they can of course continue with their purchase.

You probably don’t need us to tell you, then, that Collection Ads are best-suited for audience members nearing the Decision stage of their buyer’s journey. Again, this means creating ads targeting your current customer base, as well as those who have shown intense interest in your content and products.

More specifically, you want to be sure you showcase specific products to specific individuals based on their specific engagements with your brand. If a potential customer viewed a certain product page multiple times, you’d definitely want to include this product in the Collection Ad you present to them; for current customers, you’ll want to use Collection Ads to showcase items that complement their previous purchases.

As Collection Ads have only been available since late September 2018, the verdict is still out on whether the format will be able to compete with similar formats (such as shoppable Instagram posts). That said, Snapchat’s initial testing of Collection Ads (with companies such as Wish and Guest) found the format generated up to 17 times more engagement than Snap Ads of similar content.

So...yea. If you’ve yet to give Collection Ads a try, you probably want to get on that as soon as possible.

Story Ads

As we mentioned earlier, Snapchat makes it easy for users to find accounts and channels they might be interested in via the platform’s “For You” feature.

For those familiar with Instagram’s Discover feature, the “Four You” feature is basically the Snapchat version of such:

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While many of the channels and content presented with the For You section are curated algorithmically and organically, brands can create Story Ads to provide a bit of a boost in visibility here.

Now, though Story Ads can technically be used to target individuals at any stage of the buyer’s journey, your best bet is to focus on those within the Awareness and Decision stages. Reason being, unlike Snap Ads and Collection Ads (which are played automatically), users must tap on a Story Ad for it to play.

Okay...but what does that have to do with the buyer’s journey?

Well, on the Awareness side of things, the mere presence of your ad as a clickable option will (hopefully) generate initial curiosity - which will in turn be strengthened once the user taps on your ad. In one example provided by Snapchat, Ford used Story Ads to present introductory information regarding the new features of its latest Expedition model. Those who engaged with the ad were then retargeted via Snap Ads featuring additional information (and entertaining content, as well).

For Decision-stage audience members, Story Ads can be used to finally get them to convert. In this case study, HiSmile created a longer video showcasing the value of its teeth-whitening product (and included some major social proof in the form of influencer marketing, as well). And, of course, the CTA provided provides a direct link to the product page, allowing viewers to immediately make a purchase.

So, why did we leave Consideration-stage audiences out of the equation here?

Well, let’s put it this way: Since Consideration-stage consumers already know about your brand, they’ll know how to go about learning more about what you have to offer on their own. And if they’re interested enough in your brand to click on what they know to be an in-app advertisement, you don’t need to spend anymore time nurturing them with supplemental content; you want them buying from you ASAP.

AR Lenses and Filters

While AR lenses and filters are separate, unique features, we’re going to lump them together since they serve the same purpose as far as advertising goes.

That is, they’re both all about generating awareness.

Unlike the formats we’ve already mentioned, showcasing either AR lenses and filters requires your target to actually create and share their own content on Snapchat.

With AR lenses, Snapchatters are able to place virtual masks, helmets, or wacky faces over their own. While Snapchat provides a variety of internally-created lenses, brands can also create their own as well:

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Filters, on the other hand, typically come in the form of text- and picture-based overlays, often with a fun or inspirational message behind them. Again, Snapchat provides a variety of filters (often changing them up on a daily basis), but brands can also create their own:

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The reason these features work best for awareness is twofold:

For one thing, those who use Snapchat regularly will often scroll through their options for lenses and filters to see if any new choices have been added. By creating your own of either content, you stand a pretty good shot at getting noticed by new leads on an almost daily basis.

Secondly, when these new leads use your lens or filters, their next step will be to share their created content with their friends and followers. For your brand, this of course leads to additional exposure - free of charge.

(It’s also worth noting that there’s no call to action for either of these formats, so it simply wouldn’t make sense to target those further along the sales funnel here.)

Still, you’ll want to be a bit more specific in terms of why you’ve chosen to use these formats to promote brand awareness. In other words, you’ll want to have a specific “something” in mind that you want your target audience to become aware of. For example, General Mills once created an AR lens to celebrate National Cereal Day, while Quaker Oats created a filter to announce the release of a new product, Overnight Oats.

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(Source / Caption: Hm. Never thought oatmeal could be so inspiring…)

Considering that Snapchat isn’t nearly as robust a social media platform as, say, Facebook, you definitely have a ton of options at your disposal when created ads on the app.

And, as we mentioned earlier, Snapchat’s development team has shown a commitment to providing companies - specifically ecommerce companies - even more creative and engaging ways to advertise and promote their brands.

Taking all of this into consideration - and adding to it the fact that the app’s user penetration rate is expected to continue growing in the years to come - it’s basically a no-brainer to start advertising on Snapchat as soon as you possibly can.

Matt Duczeminski

Written by Matt Duczeminski

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.

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