ImageWhat do you mean you haven’t heard of SnapChat? The app that deletes your images or video, never to be seen again, after a specified time? Still no clue?

Let me fill you in. SnapChat is a relatively new app that is taking the world by storm. As of January 1st 2013, over 50 million ‘snaps’, images or video, had been sent per day. So why is it so popular?

SnapChat allows the user to take a picture, or record a short video, and send it to friends. Once the image/video has been opened and viewed, the message is gone – deleted from the phone, from the app, and from the SnapChat servers.

The user sets a specific time for each image or video that is being sent. This allows the recipient to view the message for a limited time, usually up to 10 seconds, before it disappears forever. It allows quick fire conversation to occur between users, in a similar way that Vine does, to get the message across quickly.

This has confused many marketers who are used to dealing with social media networks that have lasting messages and lasting impressions. But the appeal isn’t that hard to comprehend.

SnapChat provides users with the ability to form a personal connection with their recipient, unlike Facebook or Twitter where the majority of posts and messages are public, and belong to the social network once they have been published.

Privacy on social networking sites has come full circle over the last few years. Back in 2009 when the majority of our lives were private, it was a liberating experience to post pictures of your cat (guilty as charged) and your lunch online, but people are now trying to claw their privacy back.

Of course, an app like SnapChat comes hand in hand with comments about sexting and drunk dialling, but if you look beyond the more adventurous side of SnapChat, it’s actually a fun and interesting way to connect with your friends. So how can marketers hop on board the bandwagon and use it to create brand identity and sales?

One company, who used SnapChat as part of their marketing strategy, is US firm 16 Handles. 16 Handles are a frozen yoghurt chain and conducted their first promotion using SnapChat in January this year. Consumers were asked to send a picture of their purchase to 16 Handles, and in return they would receive a discount coupon, which they could use at point of sale. The discount was sent back using SnapChat, and the users only found out how much discount they received, once the snap had been opened, and shown to the cashier. This ranged from 15% to 100%, depending on your snap. The snap they received was great for two reasons; money off (who doesn’t love a discount?) and had the element of surprise.

But what about those companies who don’t have a tangible product to sell? Here are some ideas on how you can use SnapChat to your full potential:

1. Contests

Contests give brands a level of immediacy that is important in this technological world. Brands can reach out to specific customers (as you need to know the username of the recipient before you send a snap), and get feedback quickly. You could try sending snaps featuring clues or tips that a user must gather to receive a prize, or money off. Use other social media sites, such as Facebook, to promote your contest, or to gather participants.

2. Discounts

Think like 16 Handles did, and send discounts to specific customers based on their buying habits. Your customers will feel part of an intimate and special club, helping build your brand and reputation.

3. Send insider marketing

Send information only to your most loyal fans. Send ‘leaked’ images of your latest product or information to create excitement and interest in your brand.

4. Brand gamification

The word gamification is a relatively new marketing phrase that has been doing the rounds for a few years now. It basically refers to the combination of gaming and gratification that brands are adopting to create interest. Consider using gamification within your marketing campaign. Using SnapChat allows you to build a scavenger hunt that a user must complete to gain access to a discount or prize. Use this method leading up to a day or event, and lead your user onto your website or onto another social site.

5. Event

Encourage users to snap picture or video from an event that you’re hosting, or that you sponsor. This will allow you to see how your fans are enjoying the show, and encourages users to share their experiences on other sites.

Conclusion

The main thing for brands to get their heads around is the lack of tangible results. Unlike other marketing tools, like email marketing services or social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, where you can count your followers or retweets, SnapChat does not allow you to keep a record. Marketers need to keep track of the activity through other social sites. This means you need to have a good hold on all things social, and must be prepared to react quickly.

This year will be huge for SnapChat, and as marketers we need to be where the user’s eyeballs are. Only innovative brands will be able to take advantage and raise the platform to the next level.