A Guide to Creating Compelling Snaps & Stories That Grow Your Brand
At one time, Snapchat was the playful app of the mobile-obsessed teen and young adult group who were drawn to disappearing messaging and the candid feel of communication. And brands avoided it, understandably confused about how to interact on the social media platform and why they should invest in creating content that was only going to disappear.
But that’s no longer the case. Not only has Snapchat grown up since its launch in 2012, introducing more media formats, filters, and ad formats, but its user base and growth rate should be enough to gain the attention of any company: Its daily active user base (158 million) surpassed that of Twitter in mid-2016. And its audience is diversifying. From Q4 2015 to Q4 2016, usage among the over-35-age group increased by 224%.
Building a brand presence on Snapchat is now a smart investment for many businesses, but creating content for this app is unlike doing so for your other marketing channels. Snapchatters expect behind-the-scenes content they can’t find anywhere else and want the authentic and unpolished version of your brand.
You’ll need a foundational understanding of how Snapchat works and a strong strategy for creating engaging Stories. We’ve covered all of this and more in the below guide on using Snapchat to market your business.
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Marketing your business on Snapchat isn’t for everyone. We’re not suggesting that you sign up without a strategy, an understanding of its user base, and most importantly, a commitment to creating content that may be completely different from anything you’ve created before. That’s the first thing you need to understand: This social media platform is well, really, not like any other platform. It’s about one-to-one (or one-to-a-few) messaging, real-time video, emojis and doodles, and quirky content. It’s raw and full of personality. Brand messaging that feels too professional will be seen as boring. If you’re not willing to think outside-the-box, experiment, and have a little fun, then it’s not the right social media marketing platform for you -- at least not right now.
But there are a few attractive benefits to marketing your company on Snapchat: There’s less competition, and therefore, you’re more likely to stand out. There’s also no algorithm hiding your posts. If a user adds your business as a friend, they can easily see that you’ve added a Story and play it. And there are few ads and no links to drive traffic away from seeing and interacting with your content.
Your company ultimately needs to decide if it’s worth investing the time and resources to engage this audience.
Once your company is on board with the value of building brand awareness and a following on Snapchat, the first steps are to create an account and familiarize yourself with the interface.
One thing to note is that there is currently no difference between a personal account and a business account on the app. So you might consider testing out your Snapchat skills and learning the ins and outs with a personal account first.
Click “Sign Up” and enter your first and last name.
You must be 13 years or older to use the tool, so on the next screen it will ask for your birthday.
Type in your desired username. Note that your username must be unique, and it cannot be changed later on so choose carefully and get approval from the necessary decision-makers prior to selecting a username for your business.
Next, provide your email address or phone number. You may be asked for both. And then set your password.
Once your account is verified, you can set up your new profile.
Click on the ghost icon at the top of the app (or swipe down from the camera screen) to access the main menu, and then tap your Snapcode. Once you click the circle, the app will take a series of five photos that will make up your profile photo. Consider taking a photo of branded items to get your logo in the image. If you choose to leave this blank, Snapchat’s preset ghost icons will appear as the image next to your username in search and the friends list.
While you cannot upload a custom image as your profile photo, you will be able to create a custom Snapcode that features your logo or brand-related image to share on social media, your website, or in promotional materials.
A Snapcode is similar to a QR code -- you can use your phone’s camera to take a photo of a Snapcode to add a friend. To create one for your business account that can be shared with your audience through digital or printed communication, go to your “Settings.” You can find this by clicking on the ghost icon, then the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner.
Enter a URL, upload a photo, and resize it so that it fits within the ghost outline.
You can also create a Snapcode from your computer by using this web editor.
Snapchat can be a frustrating app to learn. The app’s interface is unlike most other social media apps: There’s no real navigation -- swiping left or right gets you to a new section of the app. And buttons and actions are controlled by icons without labels.
It can be tempting simply give up and return to Facebook or Instagram, where things feel more intuitive.
Let’s start by reviewing what all the icons and symbols mean so you can get familiar with the visual language of Snapchat and start to feel at home with swiping and tapping through the app.
You’re probably accustomed to uploading images, adding some compelling copy, and dropping in a link, but Snapchat’s history as a mobile social messaging platform means that it is more about creating custom content for the social network than repurposing. The core content format is called a Snap, which is either a video or a photo you take from the app.
When you open Snapchat, the default screen will be the camera screen, which looks like this:
If you are in the Chat screen, swipe right to get to the camera. From the Stories screen, you’ll swipe left.
To take a photo, tap the round shutter button. To take a video, hold down the shutter button -- videos can be up to 10 seconds long. Videos and images can be taken with the forward-facing camera or you can use the selfie view by tapping the reverse camera
You can either add this image/video to your Story or send it directly to a friend. But before you publish it for people to see, add some effects to your photo. These additions are what make the visuals on Snapchat so unique.
Snapchat offers a variety of pre-made stickers to choose from, such as animals, food, and various phrases.
You can also create a Bitmoji, a personal emoji or cartoon avatar that can be used like stickers and added to images. However, to do so, you’ll need to connect your Snapchat account to the Bitmoji app (App Store | Google Play). Once you create your avatar and connect your account to Snapchat, you’ll be able to use a variety of stickers that feature your look-alike cartoon character.
Turning an image into a sticker is one fun way to create a stand-out Snapchat business account. You can take a photo of an object and then trace your finger along the edges to create a
Taco Bell (@tacobell) recently promoted a Snapchat marketing campaign where viewers could screenshot and create stickers from a series of photos.
This is a great way to add playful brand elements to your brand’s Stories -- and even get your friends to share your company’s brand or products as seen in the above example -- while staying true to the app’s style.
Add text to your Snaps by clicking the button. Input your phrase and then hit enter. You can slide the text box to adjust the placement on the screen. To increase the size of the text, rotate it, or change the color, tap
To add a drawing on your Snap, select
Geofilters are image overlays that highlight your location, the weather, altitude, and more. There are also branded
Once this setting is enabled, you can add filters to an image or video by swiping right. Keep swiping to choose a filter. You can add an additional filter by holding your finger down on the first filter and swiping right again.
To add a selfie filter, known as a Snapchat Lens, adjust the camera so it is in selfie mode and then hold your finger down over your face for a second or two. Small circles will appear next to the camera shutter, and you’ll be able to swipe through the various Lenses.
If you’re ready to become a master Snapchatter, check out this article on advanced Snapchat tips and hacks.
Before you send your Snap, you have two more decisions to make. You can save your Snap to Memories using the save icon . If you are sending a photo, you can determine the number of seconds (up to 10) you want the image to show for by clicking the stopwatch symbol .
When you’re happy with your Snap, you can choose to send it to specific individuals or add it to your Story (more on what this means in the next section).
To send it to specific friends, select
To quick add it to your Story,
A Snapchat Story is a series of images and videos (basically, the Snaps you’ve taken and added to your Story in chronological order) that disappear after 24 hours. You can create a storyline that plays out over a series of images or you can create a collage of visuals that highlights your brand.
But before you publish your first Story, you’ll need to consider who you want to see them. By default, only your friends can see your Stories. If you want to change it so that anyone can see your Story, go to the main menu by tapping the ghost icon and then selecting the “Settings” icon. Scroll to “Who Can…” and select “View My Story.” Adjust this to “Everyone” to improve the visibility
To start creating engaging Snapchat Stories, follow the tips below or watch this video:
If you are sending Snaps directly to people, don’t also use these for your Stories. It’s repetitive and will ultimately hurt the number of views -- and therefore, the completion rate -- your Stories receive as people won’t want to rewatch the same Snaps.
Pacing is one of the most important storytelling skills you can master, and Snapchat is a great platform to experiment with. Adjust the timer on images or alternate between shorter and longer videos to build momentum and keep your viewers’ interest.
While your Story might be -- and probably should be -- less than two minutes long, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider how to craft a narrative that has a beginning, middle, and end. Consider how to open your Story with scenes that
The great thing about Snapchat is that businesses are still experimenting on the social media platform -- there’s no one right way to communicate. So mix it up and try out different formats and themes for your Stories. Try interactive content and see how people respond. Test out talking-head videos. There are a lot of possibilities for content creators.
If storytelling in this frame-by-frame format is new to you, it can be helpful to break it down. Try mapping out your first few Stories using the below storyboard template. It makes it easy to see the big picture without getting overwhelmed by small details, and you’ll be able to hone the messaging, content formats, and style of visuals your business wants to promote.
In July 2016, Snapchat introduced Memories, an archive of Snaps that makes it easy to save and revisit previously created Snaps within the app. Snaps are archived in reverse chronological order, and you can search by location (as long as you’ve enabled access) or graphics such as emojis. In addition, the search function includes recognition features so you can find your past Snaps that feature items such as mountains, food, or dogs.
In Memories, Snaps will appear square while Stories will be circular.
To access Memories, go to your camera screen in the Snapchat app, and look for the small circle below the camera shutter. You can then search for or view Snaps saved either in Memories or in your phone’s Camera Roll.
To save a Snap to Memories, simply click the save button prior to sending or adding it to your Story. To save a Story, go to your Stories screen and select the download button.
You can also save a Story while viewing it by clicking this icon .
If you would prefer to save your Snaps to your Camera Roll instead, you can change this by visiting “Settings.” Scroll to “Memories,” and then adjust where your Snaps are saved to, either Memories, Memories & Camera Roll, or Camera Roll Only. You can also choose to autosave your Stories.
One of the best things about Memories is that you can reshare Snaps or Stories. But your audience won’t be fooled that this is new content. Media shared from Memories is framed by a black border and includes a timestamp.
To reshare, navigate to Memories and click on the image or video and then click “Edit & Send” at the bottom of the screen. You’ll then be able to edit the Snap or Story and either send directly to a contact or add the media to your day’s Story.
Memories can fuel your Snapchat marketing by helping you to create more cohesive Stories and themed videos. When at an event, multiple people can use the app and add media to your Memories. Then, you can review all the content, pick the best, and craft an interesting Story for that day.
You can also use Memories, which accesses your phone’s Camera Roll, to add custom graphics and video to your Stories.
Finally, consider using your saved Snaps and Stories to remind people of an event or an important moment for your business. This could be anything from an employee celebrating a 5-year anniversary to showing off the highlights from a previous year’s conference to drive ticket sales to reintroducing a product.
Before you start snapping and creating Stories, you may want to let your friends know that you’re on the app by adding them as friends. Remember: There are no business accounts, so you can invite people to connect just like you would with your personal account. Only by being friends can you sent direct Snaps. However, we should note that most brands do not send Snaps directly to individuals -- the goal is for users to add your account to view your Stories. This may depend on your business, but most users will be turned off -- and more likely to block your account -- if they begin receiving direct Snaps from a company.
But for this guide, we’ll show you how to add friends so you understand how it works and can use it if it makes sense for your business and target audience.
To add a friend, click on the ghost icon at the top of the app or swipe down from the camera screen to access the main menu. Select “Add Friends.” You have a few different choices for ways to connect with users through the app: Add by Username, Add from Contacts, Add by Snapcode, and Add Nearby.
To add by Username, you’ll need to know the person or brand’s exact username, which can make it difficult. With the introduction of a universal search bar in January 2017, the app is attempting to make it easier to search for brands, publishers, and conversations within the app. However, you’ll still need to be cautious when adding companies. For instance, HubSpot’s Snapchat username is @hubspotinc, not @hubspot. There is a limited list of verified accounts on Snapchat (these are indicated with an emoji), so it can difficult to distinguish between a real brand account and someone who has simply claimed that username.
To get you started, check out this list of the best brands on Snapchat. Or you could use a directory site such as Ghostcodes to discover accounts to add.
You can also add a friend by taking a photo of a Snapcode and then selecting the “Add by Snapcode” option. The app will scan the image in your Camera Roll and add the Snapchatter to your friend list.
Once you’ve added friends, you can send them Snaps, they can view your Story, or you can start a chat.
You can also add friends who have sent you a request by returning to the main menu, selecting “Added Me,” and then clicking the plus symbol next to the usernames of those you want to connect with.
Once you’ve set up your Snapchat account for your business and mastered creating quality content for your friends, you can focus on growing your following and increasing the number of views your Stories see.
However, the platform doesn’t make it easy. There are no hashtags, a suggested user list, or other features that make it easy to get in front of people looking for new accounts to follow. Unless you’re one of the few publishers on the app’s Discover channel, people will have to add your brand like they would any friend -- and it’s unlikely they have your phone number saved.
To grow your audience, you’ll need to use the power of your other social media networks and digital marketing channels.
To promote your account on these other profiles, simply grab your Snapcode and create an easy-to-share graphic.
Here’s a great example of this from Sour Patch Kids.
Share this image on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social networks you manage, but only when it’s natural and do so sparingly. You don’t want to annoy your fans and followers with calls-to-action that drive them to another platform. Email is another great channel to use to promote your Snapchat account, but be sure to segment your list or first test it with a small group of subscribers who are most likely to be on the social platform and open their email on their mobile devices.
Another strategy to try is to write a short post that details your appearance on the platform. That way, if someone searches for your brand and the word “Snapchat” in Google, they can easily find your user name or Snapcode.
SoulCycle has a great example of this published on their website.
Be sure to add your Snapchat username to your social media follow module that appears either in the header or footer on your website.
And finally, work with other local companies or brands with similar audiences to coordinate an account takeover. This will help your account get in front of a new group of people, and it’ll introduce your own following to different types of content and voices.
Geofilters are image overlays that can be added to Snaps when a person is in a pre-defined location. These filters are a fun way for someone to communicate where they are and what they’re doing. And your brand can create its own to promote an event or its office location -- though geofilters do have a price tag.
To create one, follow the steps below or watch this video:
Step 1: Go to Snapchat’s On-Demand Geofilters page, and click “Create Now.” Then sign into your account.
Step 2: You can upload your own design or use the app’s creator tool and templates to design a
Step 3: Once you’re happy with the look of your filter, select the dates you would like it to be available.
Step 4: Next, you’ll be able to determine the area in which the filter will be available. Zoom in on your location and draw a polygon around this area. The tool will update with the square footage of your geofence and the resulting price of the filter.
Step 5: Finally, you’re ready to purchase your custom filter. Once it’s
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Now that you’re fully trained in how to use Snapchat to market your business, it’s time to take a step back and examine what you want to do on the platform and how best to connect with your audience. And that means you should start with a deep understanding of who your audience is and what they expect from your brand.
Snapchat’s user base still skews young: 37% of users are in the 18-to-24-year-old range, while 26% are in the 25-to-34-year-old group. It reaches 41% of all 18-to-34-year-olds in the U.S. per day. So if you’re looking to connect with and create more brand advocates among the under-35 group, this is the place to be.
But as its popularity has grown, its user base as expanded and adoption is increasing for the over-35-year-old age group. Currently, around 14% of users fall into this category. While the core audience is younger, they are also addicted. On average, its daily active users spend 25-30 minutes on the app. For comparison, people spend 50 minutes on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger -- combined.
This all means you need to carefully consider the type of content your audience wants. And that starts with a strong understanding of your buyer personas.
If you’re not familiar with the term, a buyer persona is a fictionalized version of your ideal customer. To create this persona, you pull data about the behaviors and responses of your current and past customer base, asking questions such as: What makes a customer more likely to buy? What are the behaviors of my “best” customers (those who are most loyal or have the highest lifetime value)? You conduct market research and interviews to determine what the demographic details, motivators, and goals of your ideal buyer. This information
Knowing the audience makeup of Snapchat, you may want to revisit your research and determine if there were different habits and goals of those under the age of 35. You could also conduct a small focus group by interview some of your best customers who are avid Snapchat users to determine what they look for in a brand, how often they use the app, how they interact with their friends on the app, and what they would like to see from you. This will give you a great starting point for understanding who you are communicating with and tailoring your efforts.
The next step in establishing a strategy for your Snapchat efforts is to figure out what types of content you’ll publish. Here are a few ideas that will fuel your social marketing efforts:
On Snapchat, people prefer the unpolished, authentic look. Behind-the-scenes tours and sneak
GE (@generalelectric) introduces its employees to its audience and special projects in a tour from the brand.
Get your audience snapping by creating activities they can participate in. The below Story from Starbucks (@starbucks) features an image they want people to draw on and send to their friends -- a great example of a brand considering the platform’s native features and using this to drive a share-worthy campaign.
Employee takeovers help people get to know your team members and see what life at your company is like. It’s a fun way to showcase your culture, the interests of your staff members, and get new and interesting content that is outside the realm of your office and products.
Curating Snaps featuring your audience can propel the popularity of your account. Ask your customers, audience on other social platforms, and Snapchat friends to send you Snaps you can feature in an upcoming Story on a specific theme. You could also tie this to a giveaway to generate additional interest and submissions.
Check out how Nasa (@nasa) gets its audience involved in its Cassini mission.
The Story format lends itself well to teaching someone how to do something in short, instructional videos. Ask your sales reps what questions they frequently get asked or check out the most popular searches on your website. Consider who on your team has an interesting skill and showcase this in a Story. It doesn’t even have to be that serious. Taco Bell (@tacobell) recently published a Story detailing the struggles of opening a sauce packet and some unconventional and ineffective ways to go about it.
Use Snapchat to give your company’s senior leadership team a platform where they can speak directly to customers and prospects, provide their opinions, and highlight what’s next for your company that gets them excited. This type of access to some of your team members may only happen a few times a year if not less depending on the size of your organization and client base. This helps people to better get to know your company’s executives and can go a long way to increase trust and respect for your business.
A game can be a fun way to get your audience interacting with you on Snapchat -- either through the chat feature or by asking your audience to send you Snaps. You could even feature these in your Story that day.
Here’s an example of a fun, holiday-themed game from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (@LACMA).
The great thing about Snapchat is that’s easy to create a short video and quickly get it in front of your audience -- there’s no need for worrying over lighting, setup, or editing. When something newsworthy happens, get an internal expert on camera to explain the event, its implications, or what they find interesting about the news or poll multiple people in your office to get a few quick opinions and reactions. This is
Finally, you’ll need to establish a consistent publishing schedule on Snapchat. This will drive your team to produce creative Snaps and Stories on a regular basis, and your audience will know to expect -- or even want -- content featuring your brand.
With a simple calendar, you can keep track of when company events are happening that you should cover on Snapchat and the editorial mix of content types you want to maintain. If multiple people are your company contribute to your Snapchat Stories, use the calendar to indicate who is responsible for which calendar slot. This helps you to plan to be in the right place at the right time to catch the action and create compelling content for your growing audience.
Unlike its social media competitors, Snapchat doesn’t offer robust analytics data. This has made it difficult for brands to track their effectiveness and therefore, invest more in the platform.
Snapchat only offers information on the numbers of views , screenshots , and replies on your Snap or Story. The most basic metric -- follower/friend count -- isn’t even available on the platform. Instead, you see a score that is the sum of all the messages sent and received. This number appears next to your username when you click the ghost icon.
In addition, metrics are only available for 24 hours after you create a Snap, so you’ll need to set a reminder to log in and record the details after each update. You can find the metrics by viewing the Stories screen, and clicking the icon with three vertical dots next to “My Story.” A drop down with your metrics will then appear.
You should track these metrics to determine the success of your Snapchat marketing strategy and to better understand what content is performing well:
You could also track the fallout rate to determine when people dropped off when viewing your Story. This is basically where people lost interest. Divide the difference by the views from the previous Snap and multiply by 100. This will be helpful in understanding what content contributes to people exiting from viewing your Story.
But the app’s advertising options still do not compete with the variety of choices available on other social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook. In addition, the barrier to entry and cost is much higher because the company is cautious to flood the app with branding and poorly performing content. Still, it’s worth exploring the options available and how the app is changing the digital advertising game.
Snap Ads are skippable videos that appear between autoplay Stories and content
Advertisers also have the option to include a swipe up feature to reveal more information, such as an article, longer video, website page, or app install CTA.
Brands can also sponsor Lenses to create an experience for Snapchatters. Users can add the Lens to their photo or video and send the Snaps to their friends or Story.
For the 2017 All-Star Game, NBA sponsored a Lens featuring high-profile players and raining confetti.
This type of brand activation does come with a large price tag, the exact cost depending on if the planned promotion is
Snapchat Live is a curation of Snaps created by users and stitched together by Snapchat to promote a theme or an event, such as the Grammy’s or the Super Bowl. On average, these Live Stories see 10 to 20 million
Brands can sponsor a filter, which the company says reaches 40% to 60% of Snapchat users. These can be made available to all users or in specific locations, such as if you are near any McDonald’s location in the U.S. Pricing for this option is not publicly available.
Image Source: International Business Times
Image Source: Adweek
Discover is Snapchat’s network of media and brand partners who create custom content for the app. This includes both digital-first companies, such as Mic and Refinery29, and publishing institutions like the Wall Street Journal and National Geographic. Buzzfeed has boasted that 21% of the brand’s total traffic is generated from Snapchat, while Cosmopolitan’s Discover channel boasts 19 million views per month.
You can find the Discover channel by clicking on the dotted globe icon in the top right-hand corner of your Stories screen. You can also preview recent updates from Discover publishers and see updates from those publishers who you’ve subscribed to by scrolling past the section where you view Stories created by your friends.
To subscribe to a Discover publisher, simply tap and hold the screen. A subscribe confirmation box will appear.
Spectacles are sunglasses that can record video and are connected to the Snapchat app. Released in October 2016, these smart glasses are Snap Inc.’s first foray into hardware and retail for $130.
Image Credit: SpectaclesSpectacles record 10-second videos, and the people around you will know you are recording due to a small light that illuminates while filming. For iPhone
Snapchat has arguably changed marketing and advertising. Just look to Instagram whose CEO Kevin Systrom admitted that Snapchat deserves “all the credit” for the introduction of Instagram Stories. And just a few short years ago, not many people would have predicted a Super Bowl ad to be in the form of a vertical video. Ephemeral marketing, face filters, silly doodles on video, and other Snapchat-influenced visuals can be found in marketing campaigns for big brands, B2B companies, and the like.
While the app’s features are still limited, it’s a creative playground where content creators can test out new ideas and projects and find interesting ways to translate these for other platforms. And because it’s still in its infancy, it’s a lot easier to get noticed on the platform. A recent study found that when users view a brand’s Snapchat Story, they watch it in its entirety 88% of the time. That’s a significant break from accidentally clicking on banner ads, scrolling past ads, and skipping pre-roll video.
That means it’s a great time to get started with marketing your business and building a brand through Snaps and Stories.
Content Strategy @ HubSpot