The Skinny on Snapchat - How It Works and 5 Ways to Build Your Brand

Posted by Janet Hutchens on Jun 30, 2016 2:00:00 PM

Last weekend my son and his girlfriend gave me a crash course on Snapchat. It was super fun playing with the filters and adding dog noses and ears to my head, but how in the heck is this taking over Twitter? With the image disappearing so quickly how can Snapchat have any benefits for businesses and brand building??

So naturally I started to do some research. Seems like some brands, big and small, are taking full advantage of the mobile messaging app.


McDonald’s shared images and behind-the-scenes videos from its commercials starring NBA and NFL stars and invited fans to have one-on-one conversations with the pros. The company realized that using Snapchat has the potential to build more-personal relationships and create loyal customers.

GE celebrated the anniversary of the moon landing by including former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second human to ever walk on the moon, in its Snapchat campaign. GE had played a major role in the original lunar mission, so this gave the company opportunity to remind the world of its legacy and stature.

Taco Bell made a film exclusively for Snapchat that consisted of scenes from the MTV movie awards, then used it to promote a new item on its menu. The scenes were posted almost in real time, creating a sense of urgency alongside exclusivity.


So, what exactly is Snapchat?
Snapchat is the real-time picture-sharing chat app for iPhones and Androids that allows users to send photo and video messages that automatically delete themselves shortly after being viewed. The Snapchat community has shared more than a billion “snaps” since the app was introduced in 2011, and currently more than 400 million snaps are shared every day. Now, businesses are beginning to use Snapchat to promote themselves via this new short-term visual message format.

How does it work?
Snapchat allows users to capture up to 10 seconds of visual content in video or photo form, and then to embellish the content with paintings, text, emoji, filters, stickers, and animated lenses. These creations called “snaps” are then posted in one of three ways: on your Snapchat story, in an individual message sent to selected followers or sent directly to someone in a private message.

Snapchat stories, which anyone can view, are compilations of “snaps” that form a narrative. These snaps appear in chronological order, in a beginning-middle-end fashion that honors the true nature of storytelling. The snaps disappear after 24 hours.

Snaps sent to specific, selected followers are similar to a post on Facebook or Twitter, except that the snap will vanish 10 seconds after the receiver views it.

Snaps sent via Snapchat’s private messaging feature actually won’t disappear; they'll remain in your chat-box history.

According to early-adopter and Snapchat influencer Branden Harvey, “Your Snaps shouldn’t feel super-crazy planned. In fact, Snapchat is the poster child for imperfection. People go on Snapchat so they can be imperfect.”

Stunning Snap Stats

  • More Americans are familiar with Snapchat than with Pinterest or LinkedIn
  • Snapchat boasts more users than Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn
  • Snapchat grew as much in one year as Twitter did in four years
  • Over 100 million people use Snapchat daily
  • Users share an astounding 9,000 “snaps” every second
  • 10+ billion video views occur each day
  • The average amount of in-app time spent daily on Snapchat is 30 minutes

Why Snapchat for Business?
Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social networks. As you might already assume, 71% of Snapchat’s US users fall into the 18-to-34 age range. The very idea of Snapchat and other such mobile-only messaging apps involve direct and personal interactions that have seemingly been lost to corporate social media dominance. These apps are becoming a threat to bigger social networks as they are evolving themselves to become more personal and secure social networks.

Apps like Snapchat can add an extra dimension to customer service and interaction. Unlike tweets or Facebook posts on the walls of your brand page, these interactions are completely private so you don’t have to worry about others peeking at you.

Brands and content creators are using Snapchat to produce daily stories that engage and excite audiences. Snapchat stories, which last only 24 hours, are a string of snaps used to create a video narrative. You can have a lot of fun with the platform’s native tools and features by adding filters, geofilters, text, emojis, music and more, all from within the platform.

“Snapchat is very much built for storytelling,” says Snapchat influencer Branden Harvey, “By telling stories that showcase how a company operates and what makes it special, brand awareness is created.”

5 Ways to Grow Brand Awareness and Delight Your Audience

#1  Access to Live Events
Snapchat is perfect for real-time social media marketing because it can give the audience direct access to live events. Use it for product launches, trade shows or one-of-a-kind events like celebrating the 1,000th customer to shop in your store! Snapchat gets your audience excited because you’re providing a different, more authentic view of what’s going on at the event.

#2  Deliver Private Content
Use Snapchat to provide special content to your audience that they might not receive on other digital platforms.

Fashion brands like Rebecca Minkoff and Michael Kors have used Snapchat to debut their collections to followers before they hit the runway. Using Snapchat at Fashion Week made consumers feel included in an exclusive world, and in turn, they felt like they were part of the event.

#3  Offer Contests, Perks, or Promotions
Everyone loves social media giveaways and promotions, so think of ways you can keep your followers coming back for more. Offer promo codes or discounts to fans who watch your entire Snapchat story, or ask them to take a snap while holding your product. Offer a surprise coupon that can only be opened at the register (since it will disappear in 10 seconds) that reveals a 15% or 80% off coupon.



GrubHub has used Snapchat community engagement with a variety of promotions, exclusive deals, and contests. They were the first brand to execute a Snapchat scavenger hunt. Each day during the five-day campaign, they asked their followers to post a daily snap, whether it was a food selfie or a food doodle.

#4  Take People Behind the Scenes
With Snapchat, you can provide behind-the-scenes content to your community, illustrating the uniqueness of your brand to help create and engage a strong following. Show off your company and be sure to have fun with it. Capture company outings, office tours, or brainstorming sessions.

#5  Partner with Influencers
Similar to Instagram and other social channels, social media influencers on Snapchat can help spread brand awareness and reach. By partnering with influencers, you can spread awareness to a demographic that’s hard to reach through traditional media.


Sour Patch Kids partnered with social media star Logan Paul for a “Real-life Sour Patch Kid” Snapchat campaign. Paul, who has 500,000 Twitter followers, directed his social media followers to the Sour Patch Kids Snapchat account so they could see his "sweet and sour" pranks.

Influencers who are skilled with the Snapchat platform can create spectacular video content that can further enhance brand voice and personality.

Studies show that people are getting tired of spam-filled social media which explains the rise of mobile-messaging apps like Snapchat. Their personalization and privacy features are intriguing and comforting. As with all social media channels, Snapchat will evolve based on its audience. It's worth keeping an eye on and in the meantime, have fun with it!

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Topics: Social Media, marketing, video, mobile messaging apps, snapchat