Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Is Snapchat becoming the new darling of the digital advertising industry?
The company, which recently recorded the tech industry's biggest IPO in years at US$3.4 billion, has come into the spotlight by brands and agencies alike both for its organic content capabilities, as well as growing advertising options. Already, top-tier US companies are reportedly advertising on its Snapchat Discover media platform including BMW, Gatorade, T-Mobile, Sperry, Under Armour and Sony Pictures.
So what’s the fuss? Snapchat is a popular social messaging app which allows users to share pictures, videos, chat and drawings. Originally a platform predominantly used by pre-teens and teens, today it has transformed into the social media player capturing a significant overall audience share.
Snapchat revealed last year it has four million active daily users in Australia and 150 million users globally. As a comparison, Facebook has 12 million local daily active users and its Instagram photo and video sharing platform has 7 million monthly active users.
According to Bloomberg, Snapchat has surpassed Twitter for number of daily active users - 158 million daily users versus 140 million users for Twitter. Recent local data also shows 31 per cent of Snapchat users are aged between 18-24, 28 per cent of users are aged between 25-34, 23 per cent are aged between 13-17 and 18 per cent aged 35 and over.
But arguably, the growing appeal from a brand perspective was the launch last year of Snapchat’s first self-service ad offering locally, enabling businesses and consumers to create their own images, then select an area for them to be applied to Snapchats.
According to GroupM head of mobile, Vanessa Hunt, many of the media agency’s brands have trialled Snapchat for both content delivery and advertising solutions.
“From Lenses for the AFL grand final, to unlocking GEO filters in stores, to the approach of vertical video, brands are embracing the unique features of the platform and more importantly the mobile phone to bring meaningful interactions with their consumers,” she tells CMO.
For Hunt, there are several main benefits to using Snapchat, along with measureable results.
“Snapchat’s advertising proposition takes advantage of native mobile behaviours. The use of camera, vertical video, short snackable content – are all unique behaviours to mobile,” she says. “Although making it hard to scale in the early days due to unique assets, we’re now seeing a shift from brands to create content with a mobile-first mentality to be able to access the previously difficult teen and young adult market.”
Hunt sees Snapchat as a formidable competitor, offering the market an alternative, viable outlet.
“Having a third force with Google and Facebook is a good thing to encourage choice, variety and keep the industry moving ahead. It has a different audience to the alternative social media sites capturing the attention of millennial’s – not an easy task,” Hunt says.
“We have seen social media sites go through product lifecycles with huge growth periods, reach critical mass then plateau in terms of usage. Audiences move and products need to remain relevant and useful to the base. Digg, myspace, friendster all had solid foundations but could not maintain relevance with ever increasing fickle consumption habits. Snapchat is not afraid to move and recreate itself to keep growth and often encourage competitors to do the same.”
Hunt says Snapchat’s growing list of utility features will unlock new audiences. Traditional publishers for example, like CNN, National Geographic and News Corp, are using it as a new way to seed content, while event organisers are providing back stage access to events never seen before. There’s also the launch of snap codes (similar to QR codes) to unlock features, websites or content.
“The more uses for a mobile product in terms of utility, the bigger the audience,” Hunt says. “In mobile, there are two reasons to be needed by a consumer – to waste time (fill in down time) or to save time and Snapchat is in a good place to add both at varying audience groups.”
Mighty customer service
Digital marketing specialist, Mark Hayes, cites customer service as another of the myriad ways Snapchat is evolving as a platform.
“By seeing and hearing what the problem is, your customer service rep will be better able to understand the problem and help find a solution,” Hayes says. “Brands are also using Snapchat to create real-time content such as instructional videos and tutorials of their products, as well as teaser campaigns. GrubHub used Snapchat to find a summer intern, while a cosmetics company, NARS, used Snapchat to release a preview of its upcoming Guy Bourdin colour cosmetics collection.”
Brands like the idea of using Snapchat for the real-time stories and the ability to share raw photos, videos and messages makes it more authentic.
“Brands are able to do teaser campaigns of products, showing only a glimpse, to generate interest,” Hayes continues. “A behind-the-scenes look at brands generates interest not just in the brand but the culture of the brand.”
Measuring ROI for Snapchat, however, hasn’t been an easy task since it is hard to quantify with sales, but Hayes says there are ways to measure audience engagement. “You can measure followers, as well as get a Snapchat Score which according to Snapchat, is a special equation combining the number of Snaps you've sent and received, stories you've posted, and other factors.”
Other ways to measure include getting a Completion Rate (the percentage of total viewers that watched a complete story); unique views (how many people viewed each of the snaps in a story; and screenshots (how many people took screenshots of your stories).
KFC takes a bite
One big brand that’s been using Snapchat for some time is KFC. The fast food group was one of the first brands in Australia to launch its own account in 2015, aimed at engaging a younger audience in an unfiltered, authentic way.
“Today, the brand produces organic content, alongside testing Snapchat’s advertising offering – lenses, filters, and one of its newest ad units, webview,” says KFC CMO, Catherine Tan.
“In January this year, KFC launched its first Snapchat lens, to celebrate the Big Bash League final, as part of its cricket sponsorship over summer. The lens placed a bucket over the user's head, in the style typical of cricket attendees.
“Then in February, we created Australia’s first Snapchat game to engage the target audience around our new Freeze drinks. Inspired by the work from Gatorade and Under Armour in the US, we created a simple game which was served to audiences with Snapchat’s webview ad unit, and rewarded them with an exclusive Freeze filter.”
Tan says the benefits of Snapchat are twofold. “On the one hand, we have the opportunity to speak to a hard-to-reach audience in a very personal way, and on the other hand, the advertising options allow us to test out newer, innovative formats and ways to engage our consumers,” she says.
Tan says Snapchat is being seen as the new frontier for social. “The way in which audiences interact with the platform is completely different, it’s less about content consumption and more about building a relationship with the brand. This makes it an exciting platform to be trialling, and the results we’re seeing are promising.”
New found engagement
L’Oreal Australia has also engaged with Snapchat users for the past eight months particularly with its Maybelline and L’Oreal Paris brands, according to A/NZ head of digital media, Christophe Eymery.
“Snapchat has mass reach on par with Instagram, captures an audience that cannot necessarily be reached in other social media networks and offers an advertising format that can be very engaging for users,” he says.
Eymery sees many benefits to using Snapchat that offer measurable results. “Snapchat was the first to create filters and the opportunity for brands to engage differently with consumers,” he says. “Snapchat skews slightly more towards the new generation of social media users and given that it also offers age targeting for advertising, it gives the opportunity for brands to engage with a younger audience.
“Results are today harder to measure than in other social media networks but Snapchat is still relatively new and moving fast, enabling to audit viewability and fraud with MOAT ad serving since February 2017 for example.”
The challenge for brands is that Snapchat users expect more than traditional advertising, Eymery says.
“Creative in that environment really needs to add value and entertain the users to achieve a positive impact,” he says. “Like for any new form of media it takes time for advertisers to understand the opportunity and learn how to leverage it. As Snapchat’s user base is now larger than Twitter and similar to Instagram in Australia, it is definitely becoming a consideration for brands.”
Eymery reiterates the belief that Snapchat is no longer just for teens and pre-teens, but has new features that see it attracting a larger following.
“It is moving in the news and content environment in Snapchat discover, offering the news outlets, such as E! news and news.com.au, in particular to share their stories in new formats better suited to a new generation of consumers and those ready to embrace their way of consuming information.”
Up next: How Snapchat is shaking up the content game