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Updated: March 27th, 2020
It’s often tough for small business owners to decide how to best allocate their marketing resources. There’s no magic spell that we’re aware of that fills your bank account with money, turns back the hands of the clock and allows you to focus on 25 things at the same time. So, until the laws of nature change, we’ll have to deal with the fact that time, money and attention are all finite resources. Which brings us to Snapchat for small business.
You probably either use it and love it, or you’re baffled by it and terrified of it. Or, if you’re like many other small business owners, perhaps you’re exhausted, weary and you just don’t care. Either way, you’re probably familiar with the basic Snapchat talking points; it’s more popular than Facebook with teens, it’s growing fast (it was the fastest growing social network for 2 years in a row, beating Instagram), and some brands are getting huge exposure using it (100 million users are watching 6 billion videos every day). However, as a place for small businesses to advertise, it hasn’t matured. The advertising that does exist on the platform is so expensive as to be beyond the reach of all but the biggest brands.
What it does have is reach. For smart brands that are capable of creating eye-catching content, Snapchat offers a relatively low competition platform to reach 18-29 year old consumers.
It’s true of all social media marketing, but it’s especially true when you’re dealing with young people—authenticity matters. If you can’t use Snapchat to authentically appeal to your customers, then you probably don’t belong there. However, if your content can genuinely connect there, you are reaching people young enough that they might form a lifelong connection with your brand.
At the same time, Snapchat is fundamentally different from other popular social media apps. It’s best to think about Snapchat as a messaging app, rather than a social network. Think about your audience as contacts, rather than fans. Snapchat is more like Kik and Whatsapp than it is like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Keep that in mind as you’re using the app.
Real-time interaction is an emerging trend in social media. Snapchat is the leader in the field (beating out Periscope and Meerkat). Snapchat’s simple interface is ideally suited to capturing what’s happening in the moment and sharing it with your audience. If you’re a shop you can use it to show yourself unboxing the newest shipment of products you receive, or perhaps marking down items for sale. You can show yourself creating new menus or writing down the special of the day if you’re a restaurant.
In a way, Snapchat echoes the early appeal of social media. Social media provided an avenue to connect with your customers in an unfiltered, unmediated way. Across the most populated platforms, the signal-to-noise ratio has become less favorable for brands, advertising has emerged as the top priority, and algorithms determine how much of your audience you can reach. Snapchat is a relatively intimate way to connect with the people that are interested in what you’re doing.
No business should offer the same content on multiple platforms. The content you create on Facebook will usually be a bit more direct and informational. Instagram tends to be a bit more curated. The ephemeral nature of Snapchat allows you to offer a look behind the scenes, or at works in progress, in order for people to get an inside look at how your business works.
Snapchat allows you to send Snaps to your friends. Connect with your customers on Snapchat and offer them a coupon in the form of a Snap when they answer a call-to-action. Snapchat’s public facing tool to reach your entire audience is called Stories. Stories you create there will appear for 24 hours, to be replaced by the newest content you create over a 24 period. This keeps the mix fresh and focuses on spontaneity and moments over timelines and curated feeds. Try creating something for your Snapchat Story where you ask your customers to do something. Ask them to take a snap while using your product, or ask them to send you a snap with a funny doodle or caption. In exchange, send them a coupon in the form of a Snap. As in, send it directly to them. In your story, make sure it’s clear they know that they can’t look at it until they’re going to present the coupon to you (it will self-destruct once it’s viewed—though they will probably already know this as experienced users of the app). This means that they won’t know what the coupon is offering, so it’s up to you to make sure that it’s not a disappointing offer.
This would also be a solid opportunity to cross-promote. You can mention (or even advertise) this offer on your other social channels in order to grow your Snapchat following.
Snapchat’s Story format makes it ideally suited to tell an evolving story. Build anticipation for a product launch, special offer or simply create something funny or engaging for users to watch. You can utilize a mix of photos, videos, captions and drawings—or even Snapchat On-Demand Geofilters—to present a multimedia narrative presented in a linear way. If you conceive of it and write it out or design it ahead of time, you can create something which would not be possible to share on any other social network. Building valuable content that respects the time and attention of your audience should be the highest priority here. If funny is tough or you find the pressure to perform too abstract or intimidating, consider whether you could offer a how-to, or a tutorial, or even just a story about yourself, your business or your customers.
OK, so you have a good idea for a Snapchat campaign, but what’s it matter if no one sees it? Growing your presence on Snapchat is probably the biggest mental and practical obstacle that you’ll have to overcome in order to feel really invested in the platform. It’s not impossible though. You could potentially switch out your Twitter and Facebook avatars for your Snapcode image (an image that users can scan to start following you—learn more by visiting here). You can periodically post your Snapcode to Instagram. You can share bits of your best Snapchat content on your other social channels along with your Snapcode. As we mentioned above, cross-promotion is the key here. You may not be able to advertise on Snapchat, but that’s no reason not to use the robust advertising tools available on other social platforms in order to grow your Snapchat presence.
Samantha Novick is a senior editor at Funding Circle, specializing in small business financing. She has a bachelor's degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Prior to Funding Circle, Samantha was a community manager at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Her work has been featured in a number of top small business resource sites and publications.