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The best brands on Snapchat


There is never a dull day in the world of content marketing. On Facebook, brands compete for coveted news feed real estate and are now spending even bigger budgets to engage consumers with the right combination of quality content and paid media. While on Pinterest and Instagram, where organic content still thrives, new ad platforms are on the horizon, and advertisers are lining up to be the first to test them. The new reality is that with the volume of content on the rise and more competition to engage consumers and scale campaigns across the largest social media networks, brands will need to invest more in creating quality content and supporting it with paid media. As a result, many marketers are experimenting with smaller, emerging platforms as a way to connect with a more intimate demographic and grow their organic audience.

Among these emerging channels is Snapchat, a relatively new app that joined the scene in September 2011 and has since seen significant growth in use between 13 and 25 year olds. The app is now estimated to have 26 to 30 million active U.S. users who, on any given day, can be found snapping one to 10 second clips to their friends on their mobile devices. Friends on the receiving end of this content can view the "snap" before it disappears or quickly screen capture to save. And, in the past month, Snapchat has added a new chat and video calling feature which allows users to communicate in real-time, with the chat erased from their history as soon as they exit the conversation.

For brands, this new channel's heavy teen user-base poses a number of fresh opportunities. For starters, there is no algorithm and less noise with a small but growing user base, and only early-adopter brands are testing the waters. With less competition for viewer attention, brands have more access to Snapchat's audience and greater capacity to build a connection. Similarly, the one-to-one sharing paired with limited editing (i.e. all content must be shot and shared straight from the app) means interactions between brand and consumers are inherently more raw and authentic.

However, as with any new territory, it's an incubator for trial and error. Some brands have found a niche by leveraging the app for its ability to provide exclusive access and snippets of news. Others are just exposing their silly-side and a glimpse into what makes their brand tick. Across the board, the best examples are the ones that have clearly identified their value exchange and are giving followers compelling and unique content relevant to their brand.

Here is a look at how brands are using Snapchat across the board.

Fashion brands: Supplying insider updates

Fashion labels are jumping on the Snapchat craze to tease products and provide inspiration to teen consumers on the platform. Followers of Whole Hearted Clothing (Whclothing) are frequently rewarded with glimpses of new stock -- most recently, the brand snapped its spring collection. This strategy -- giving consumers an insider's view -- not only builds anticipation, but it can also generate deeper loyalty, as followers feel more connected to and inspired by the brand.

American Eagle Outfitters (OfficialAEO) is another fashion label experimenting with excusive content -- they used Snapchat Stories to go behind the scenes for a peek at their Fall '14 collection. While regular snaps can effectively convey a quick message, Stories is a Snapchat function that allows brands to tell a narrative. The tool combines video, photos, and doodles, and it lives for 24 hours rather than the normal 10 seconds. For OfficialAEO, building a Snapchat Story allowed them to showcase their product line with more context while sharing more compelling content. 

(Left to right: American Eagle Outfitters, Whole Hearted Clothing)

Heineken: Providing event perks

The beer brand leveraged its exclusive sponsorship deal at Coachella Music Festival to engage attendees with behind-the-scenes content teasing some of the surprise acts at the Festival. Snapchat users that elected to follow the brand at HeinekenSnapWho and confirmed they were over 21 years of age received clues about artists making guest appearances. If fans snapped back a correct guess, HeinekenSnapWho would reveal, via a returned snap, the time they could catch them onstage. Through teaser content and exclusive information, the brand created a unique and ownable way to connect with its target consumer while driving deeper value and affinity. 

Association of Surfing Professionals: Giving news, updates, and access

The ASP World Tour (or ASPworldtour on Snapchat) has unique access to the world's biggest surfing events and competing athletes. When events are on, supporters hear from ASPWorldTour with live news, including swell updates, results, and glimpses of the action. This real-time information is something that fanatical fans crave, and, for the sport, it represents a new opportunity to connect with a younger demographic and bolster interest and awareness. Like most brand marketing through Snapchat, the updates are kept fast and scrappy, but the rawness this harvests is all part of what makes Snapchat unique.

GrubHub and Wetseal: Recruiting

GrubHub, the food delivery service, has been experimenting on Snapchat for more than six months and, in that time, tantalizing followers with special deals and surprises. However, most recently it leveraged the channel for a different purpose -- recruiting. On May 2, they put out a call for a new intern with some "Snapchat Skillz," requesting that all interested parties snap back their best doodle (and full name).


GrubHub is not the only brand to put out a recruiting call via Snapchat. Wetseal, the fashion retailer and e-commerce site, promoted its model search on Snapchat and encouraged viewers to sign up. A series of snaps featured scenes from the casting and included heavy placement of #wetsealmodelsearch to encourage the conversation to extend beyond Snapchat to other platforms.


Entertainment brands: Creating personal connections

For entertainment brands looking to reach a teen audience, Snapchat holds a wealth of opportunity. MTV regularly snaps raw clips of its stars sharing a message to their fans and, as this video cannot be edited, it becomes even more gritty and real. Similarly, with the content coming from one mobile device to another in real time, the experience feels more live and personal.

On the flip side, HBO's "Girls" takes a different approach by regularly snapping quirky doodles of the show's stars with quick messages. This content is lighthearted by nature, keeping in the tone of the program and the characters' personalities.

(Left to right: MTV Snaps musician Zedd, MTV promotes #TylerUnleashed with Tyler Posey, Girls snaps Shoshanna doodle)

Publishers: Staying topical

Publishers are also using Snapchat to connect with readers, but teasing out news is not the focus. Refinery 29, a site targeted to women and covering everything from fashion to beauty, lifestyle, and entertainment, uses Snapchat to share inspirational messages, memes, and doodles. This content reflects themes a younger audience can relate to, but it doesn't often reflect the content you might expect to find on their site. Meanwhile Mashable, the social media hub and Snapchat user, gets more personal and features its office culture, messages, and memes.

(Left to right: Refinery 29, Refinery 29, Mashable, Mashable)

Understanding what resonates with audiences on different platforms is key to any strategy, partnered with a point of difference that makes your brand memorable and engaging. While Refinery 29 is experimenting with content not typical to their site, neither publisher is taking the platform too seriously with lighthearted snaps in the vein of what users are already creating and sharing.

Snapchat has opened new doors for brands and publishers to entice and engage younger users. As a relatively new platform, brands are not restricted by an algorithm or oversaturated news feed and have an unparalleled opportunity to tap into this unique platform and growing audience. The ones that are making a splash are leveraging Snapchat's real-time, imperfect style to create and share raw, unedited content that resonates by being authentic, real, and relevant to the user experience. Their strategy hinges on a unique value exchange, whether that's exclusive access, insider news, special promotions, or a direct line with their favorite personalities and shows. They're offering a point of difference and something that followers can't get anywhere else. And whether their goal is to solicit a response, generate interest, or simply inspire -- the Snapchat audience is intrigued and curious, but most of all, they're willing to participate.

Rebecca Sleeman is supervisor of digital communities at 360i.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"The logo brand of Snapchat" image via Shutterstock.


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