Why We’re Not Walking Away from Snapchat — Yet

TL;DR: Snapchat has been seeing nothing but bad news since Instagram launched its rival feature, Instagram Stories. However, Snapchat still offers unique opportunities for brands to connect with younger audiences in new, authentic ways.

When I asked a few coworkers what they thought I should be including in an article about best practices for Snapchat, I was met with a one-word answer: “Don’t.” As in, don’t write an article about a platform that has seen a decline in usership as social giants Facebook and Instagram have found success in the disappearing content space. And now with the news that Snap’s shares setting an all-time low this week, the world seems to be telling us to steer clear, too.

Our collective gripe with Snapchat here at Sparkloft has always been the platform’s refusal to offer what Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and other channels have.

But recently Snapchat has made significant changes that show it is committed to staying relevant and competing for ad dollars from smaller brands. For example, it has launched a self-serve ad platform for brands similar to Facebook’s Business Manager. Previously, Snapchat ad buys would cost brands hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, brands can place ads optimized for app installs, video ads or still photo ads on their own with a budget as low as a few hundred dollars.

Whether you’re creating ads or organic content on Snapchat, creating a solid strategy for the platform is crucial. Below are our tips and best practices that any brand can use to craft a strategy for the platform.

First, the Basics: Use the Features Native to Snapchat

Snapchat is known for its authentic content. Followers will expect posts in real time rather than a overly produced story, so have fun with it. Once you capture your photo (click the large white circle at the bottom of the screen once) or video (hold the same button down until you’re done recording), you can make it your own. You can include (click on the large “T” in the right-hand menu), draw (click the pencil icon), add stickers and emojis (tap the paper icon), or add a link (tap the paperclip icon and paste your link). You can also swipe left or right to put filters or geotags on the image to let people know where you are (you’ll have to enable location services on your phone to see geotags).

Once you’re satisfied, click the blue arrow to publish to your Snap Story (a public story that can be viewed by anyone following you) and/or send it to people you follow. If you want to save the Snap for later, click the downward arrow, located on the bottom left-hand side of the screen or you can add directly to your Story by click the small box next to it with the plus sign.

Snapchat allows you to also upload images from your camera roll, though these will appear in a different format when posted to your Story. To access this, click the smaller circle to open your “Memories” and then tap “Camera Roll” on the right-hand side. Here, you’ll also be able to see your saved Stories.

When determining how to best interact with your audience, consider user habits: Younger users primarily send Snaps directly to their friends. Though more work to share content, brands should consider sharing with a handful of followers this way to garner a relationship.

Know Your Audience and Objective

We start all of our strategies here, and Snapchat is no different. The audience on Snapchat skews much younger than other platforms, so you aren’t likely to reach an older demographic. Snapchat campaigns are great for reaching a younger audience, especially Generation Z, who research shows are more open to branded content. If you have a message you want to get to Snapchat’s core demographic of people 34 and younger, consider pursuing a strategy.

Building this audience of younger users can be difficult. Though it seems like all social platforms gives users a chance to discover or connect with friends and brands, Snapchat makes it near impossible. Brands have built awareness by sharing their Snapchat code (swipe down from the top of the screen when in the app and click on the code for a download option) as their profile picture on other social media platforms. Others have incorporated their Snap Code into print initiatives, so users can easily point their phones at your ad and join your network of fans.

Snapchat has a narrow set of objectives you can achieve. If you’re used to the robust advertising options available on Facebook or Twitter, you may disappointed by what can be achieved. Both in paid and organic, Snapchat is primarily a tool for awareness and for engaging with your core fanbase. Brands hoping to convert users or send them to a website page are better off on different platform. However with the right content, brands on Snapchat can build a loyal fanbase and grow awareness.

Programming

What you put on your Snapchat channel will make or break the success of the initiative. The rule for Snapchat is simple — if you don’t have the material or resources to post on frequently and consistently, don’t do it at all. With its recent investment in its Discover programming, Snapchat is becoming less of a social sharing network and more of a medium for television-like programming. Brands like CNN, MTV, Bleacher Report and Cosmopolitan all regularly publish content to this area and see hundreds of thousands of views on each one.

Brands should follow the lead of these massive publishers and think about how they create their own channel. If your brand was a channel on TV, what kind of content would it publish? Who would the face of this channel be? Answering these questions will guide you to the type of programming you should be publishing.

Posting regularly with content that is consistent will keep your fans coming back each time. Keep it different than what’s on your other channels, and use sequential storytelling (telling a larger story segment by segment over time to the same audience) to keep your users coming back.

Next up, Snapchat is looking to stay afloat by joining the social TV app race, but it's still too soon to tell if this will be what saves this social platform.