Over the last few years Snapchat has quickly become one of the most hyped and – outside a certain demographic – most bewildering social networks on the Internet. It is loved by teens for its ephemeral nature, lusted over by investors and rival platforms who want to cash in on its success or neutralise it, and feared by parents for its associations with sexting, it is also intriguing to brands and marketers.
Since its launch just over four years ago Snapchat has grown to cater to over 100 million users. Puny compared to Facebook’s 1.4 billion, but exciting because of their rapid growth, youthful audience and active usage. According to Global Web Index nearly half of UK teens now use the service – a statistic which has brands salivating as they see an opportunity to access the spenders of the next generation who are becoming increasingly hard to reach through traditional channels.
The question from investors has continually been “how can it be monetised?” with many expressing shock that they rejected Facebook’s takeover offer of $3 billion early last year.
Signs of the answer to this have come over the last few months with the introduction of video ads and Discover, but now the picture has become much clearer thanks to last week’s Bloomberg interview with 24-year old founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel.
While confirming his somewhat blunt approach, one of the most surprising things to come out of it was his very traditional attitude to content.
He strongly advocates the prioritisation of editorial direction over using data to predict what users will want. In fact Spiegel says he hasn’t “seen data deliver the results that [he’s] seen a great editor deliver” and finds it “weird” when a product follows you around the internet. Although Discover’s traffic has levelled off now that the hype around its launch has died down, its flagship partners remain optimistic about its ability to target a hard-to-reach demographic and keep them engaged.
His approach to advertising is also unique; looking at it as a part of the experience rather than a necessary evil that needs to be bolted on in order to earn money. Adverts automatically show in portrait mode rather than requiring users to rotate their phone, according to Snapchat this makes users nine times more likely to view an entire ad. This user-centricity seems to be paying off, a study by Millward Brown Digital has found that 44% of users enjoyed the ads they saw on Snapchat versus an average of 17% across the internet.
All this comes as a shock to the system for brand and marketers who have become accustomed to social media offering increasingly targeted messaging and the instant gratification of likes and retweets where Snapshot offers a dearth of data. In order to work out how to crack Snapchat advertisers will have to have to step back, take a deep breath and go back to some core principals:
- Rather than interrupting, be contextual, relevant and interesting.
- Crafting a story and having engaging content should be the backbone for communicating with a millennial audience. Snapchat gives a chance for brands to share truly in-the-moment, relevant stories with their followers, such as Burberry’s usage of the channel to build excitement around their LA Flagship Store opening.
- Media outlets know their audiences. While Facebooks Instant Articles hands the power from publishers to data, the pioneers of Snapchat Discover are looking to forge relationships that will allow brands to reach their readers such as BMW’s sponsorship of CNN’s daily news updates.
One thing is for sure about Snapchat; we are going to hear a lot more about them, particularly in the wake of the announcement that they are preparing for an IPO.