Posted: October 13, 2014, 10:50 a.m.
by Connor Fox and Katie Foster Howard.
In just 10 seconds or less, a Snapchat can disappear forever. There’s no way to share snaps or track snaps through a hashtag, and there are currently no scheduling programs or official analytics for the social media platform. Still, many companies are starting to use Snapchat as a social media tool.
“When you’re dealing with a brand, you want to meet the consumer where they are,” said Kammie Avant Kasten, social media strategist for Big Communications. “In social media, that means you’re going to go to the platform where your desired consumer is, and you’re going to try to meet their needs and interact with them in a way that is familiar with them.”
These “desired consumers” using Snapchat are millennials. Over 100 million people use Snapchat, with millennials and women snapchatting the most. Kasten said she believes brands must find a more niche way to communicate with their demographic and focus on building connections.
“Behavior sort of cycles through, generationally, and so I think this is a reflection of the younger generation and how they want to communicate,” said Kasten.
Brands like Taco Bell, General Electric, PacSun and the HBO series “Girls” have all implemented Snapchat in their social media strategies as a way to target this demographic. A brand at the forefront of the Snapchat revolution is McDonald’s.
Lainey Garcia, an external communications manager with McDonald’s USA, discussed the importance of the platform for the company and how it has enhanced the company’s social media strategy.
“A recent comScore report found that with 32.9 percent penetration, [Snapchat] is one of the top three most popular platforms for 18-34-year-olds and is actually ahead of Twitter,” Garcia said. “It’s a lot younger than the other platforms, which is currently of interest, given that we definitely want to find ways to engage relevantly with our millennial consumers.”
And it’s not just about the numbers. Snapchat provides personal, one-on-one communication with senders and receivers, and with the new Snapchat Stories, users or brands can create extended messages that are available for 24 hours. The more popular platforms have set parameters that do not necessarily allow for personalized connections, and as a result, the use of Snapchat is challenging the industry to rethink the approach to strategically using social media.
“As the lines of traditional and social are blending and evolving, as communicators, we have to play in both spaces,” Garcia said.
For its Snapchat premiere in February, McDonald’s used Snapchat Stories in lieu of a press release to launch a new product and offer a glimpse of the new item’s commercial shoot with LeBron James, who took over the account during parts of the filming. In addition to product marketing, McDonald’s has since used Snapchat during its sponsored party at The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival and the USA vs. Ghana game at the World Cup.
“We focus on those relevant McDonald’s moments to give our followers a behind-the-scenes look,” Garcia said. “Between focusing on those opportunistic moments for engagement; behind-the-scenes looks; takeovers from celebrities; and surprise and delight, these are the ways that we’ve really evolved our use of the platform since our first one with LeBron.”
If you’re looking to implement Snapchat into your marketing strategy, Garcia warns that managing a Snapchat with a high number of followers is a massive undertaking. In addition to cross-promoting your presence on Snapchat through Facebook and Twitter, you must also keep up with publishing and engage with your followers — all without a scheduling program.
“I would suspect that the brands who are doing [Snapchat] well are those that have resourced the platform well,” Garcia said.
Just last week, Snapchat announced plans to unveil a new service called Snapchat Discovery to eventually place advertisements in Snapchat stories. According to Snapchat’s CEO, the company plans to launch this later in the year, making it the first source of revenue after three years of operation. As it begins to monetize the service it lends to brands, Snapchat will expand as an avenue for use in all aspects of integrated communications.
While Snapchat continues to dominate social media for millennials, it’s now a frame of mind for public relations practitioners, especially. These brands have uncovered an intriguing, intimate way to develop deeper connections with the millions of consumers who use the platform daily.
“For us, we see it as a platform of interest, given the demographic and given the opportunity to really tell longer versions of our story — our brand narrative,” Garcia said.