The Ultimate Marketing Guide To Using Snapchat For Business

Ross Simmonds

This article was originally published in 2014 so some of the information may be out of date.

The internet is filled with guides on the latest social networks and marketing trends.

A quick search on Google will deliver you a handful of guides on Twitter best practices and Facebook strategies. It’s exciting that we live in a world where information is always at our fingertips. When writing this Snapchat guide, I want to offer you an opportunity….

An opportunity to leverage one of the  most talked about social networks since Facebook and drive real results for your business.

Snapchat first launched in 2011 under the name Picaboo and would be later renamed and relaunched under the name Snapchat. Snapchat allows users to take meaningless, embarrassing, private and goofball type photos or videos and send them to friends. After a few seconds, the photos or video vanish and are no longer available for the user to see. It’s that simple.

In the early days, the Snapchat team focused heavily on the technical aspects rather than an attempt to tell their story and market the app.

The app’s mascot was called “Ghostface Chillah”, a name the founders derived from Ghostface Killah of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan. It was fun. It was hip. It was brilliant.

Since then, the app has grown to become a social media juggernaut.

With an estimated user base of more than 30 million users, Snapchat is continuing to grow and develop its brand and product. Over the last few years, there have been many changes and updates to the app.

In this post, we’re going to look at everything you need to get started with Snapchat along with some strategies and insights that will help you take your Snapchat marketing to the next level.

Let’s Get Started….

The Elephant In The Room

Allow me to get one common misconception out of the way first and foremost: Snapchat is not just for sending nudes. Sure, I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a percentage of people who use Snapchat to send a risque photo here or there, but Snapchat now has more than 30 million users and the snaps are a mix of selfies, concerts, events, nights out and pretty much everything you’d find on Facebook.

A lot of people like to frown their noses at the idea of sexting but let me remind you that according to a recent study from McAfee & Intel, nearly 50% of adults have used their mobile device to share or receive intimate content (Tweet this). To take it a step further, another 50% of people say they’ve stored intimate content received on their mobile device. And thus, the initial reports around Snapchat were all focused around this idea of sending nudes without getting caught (Tweet This).

I’d be lying if I said no one on Snapchat uses it to send nudes. I’d also be lying if I said you don’t know a single person without nudes on their phone.  Just because the device can be used to share sexy photos, doesn’t mean it can’t be used for business. When Alex Willimott, the Community Manager for Lynx of Axe Body spray conducted their first Snapchat campaign he stated:

Our experience has been blissfully genital-free, but on those odd occasions where responses have been close to the line, we’ve been able to respond with an image of the new Deep Space shower gel, urging people to clean up and take a cold shower…

So there you have it. Sure, Snapchat might have a couple users sending around nude photos but so does Twitter, Blogs and yes, even Facebook. But you don’t see us questioning their value as marketing tools do you? It’s time to get over it and it’s time to start using Snapchat to drive real results.

Getting Started With Snapchat

Registration Process for Snapchat

If you’re looking to have a successful Snapchat marketing program, you’re going to need a complete and optimized profile. But before you even do that, you’re going to need a mobile device that can actually install the latest version of Snapchat. You will need an iOS or Android device to start using Snapchat so Blackberry users are unfortunately out of luck.

Let’s take a look at some of the basics that are required when signing up for Snapchat:

  • Email Address: You want to use an email address that will be used solely for Snapchat purposes. If you’re a small business, you should have no issues using your own email for setting this up. If you’re a large company, you will want to create an email like:
  • Password: I’m not going to preach about the importance of having a secure password but it’s extremely important on Snapchat. If someone hacks your account, they could do a lot of damage sending offside content directly to your users.
  • User Name: This is the most important element when setting up your Snapchat account for the first time. Your username is the @username that people will use to send snaps to you and use to add you to their friends list on Snapchat. Consider branding your username with your business name or with your real name if you’re an individual. It’s also a good idea to keep consistency between your Snapchat name and Twitter name.

Snapchat will also ask you for a couple of details that won’t matter if you’re a business. For example, it will ask you your birthday, in this place you should just select any age over 18.

Even if you’re not going to use Snapchat right away, I’d suggest that you sign up and own your username. If you don’t you could find yourself in a situation where someone else signs up with your name and you’re unable to get it without a legal battle or paying top dollar for it. Sign up for Snapchat today and you won’t have to worry about scrambling for a @Username tomorrow (Tweet This).

How Do You Send A Snapchat

Getting Started With Snapchat

Snapchat makes it super easy to get started. As soon as you sign up, they give you a quick run down on the three step process to sending a snap to one of your friends. When using Snapchat, there are two types of content you can share with your friends or followers.

You can share either a photo snap or a video snap

  • To Take a Photo: Tap the circle once and it will capture the frame.
  • To Take a Video: Hold down on the circle and it will begin recording your video. Hold down on the circle for as long as you would like the video to be. The max length of the video clip is somewhere between 8 and 10 seconds.

If you don’t like the first version of your Snap, you don’t have to worry. You can easily view your snap before sending it to anyone and from there decide if you want to send it or delete it by clicking the “X” in the top left corner. Once you’re happy with your Snap, you have to select the length of time a user can view your content.

If you look at the photo above where I’m wearing a black toque, you will see a clock in the bottom left corner. When you tap that clock, you will then be brought to the final screen (see the final frame) where you can select the number of seconds the recipient will have until the photo disappears.

Another great feature on Snapchat is the ability to add text to your snaps. After taking a snap, you simply tap the middle of your screen and will be able to type a short blurb of text for the recipient to read. Once you have written the text, tap anywhere (or press “Done” on your keyboard) to exit out of the caption interface.

From there, you simply tap the arrows in the bottom right, select who you want it to be sent to and it’s off to the masses.

Getting Fancy With Your Snapchats

Snapchat Basic Functionality

Once you’ve understood the basics of Snapchat, it’s time to get fancy and take these snaps to a whole new level. Snapchat gives you a wide range of functionality that will give you an opportunity to get creative and have some fun with your brand. Here are some of my favourite little tips and tricks that can help a simple snap become an awesome one. Compare the each point with the appropriate number in the visual above for a better idea of the instructions and what I’m talking about.

Different Fonts & Text

It would get pretty boring if there was only one option for the type of caption you can put on Snap. Recognizing this, one of the most recent updates to Snapchat has given users the ability to toggle through three different types of fonts.

If you look at the middle image above, you can see that the font is bold and larger than life. That’s just one of the options that you can take advantage of. I recommend switching it up here and there when sending Snaps to your audience to keep them guessing.

Share Quick Snaps

We’ve talked about how you get to manage the amount of time a user can see your snaps but how much can someone see in a second? That something that might be worth testing out. Shorten the amount of time that a user can look at a snap for to one second and force them to focus 100% on your snap.

Leverage Snapchat Stories

In October 2013, Snapchat launched Snapchat stories.

Snapchat Stories add Snaps together to create a narrative. When you add a Snap to your Story it lives for 24 hours before it disappears, making room for the new. Your Story always plays forward, because it makes sense to share moments in the order you experience them.

For example, if you’re at an event and you want to take multiple snaps from the event, instead of sending them each to users individually, you would post them to your story and each of them would attach to the last one to create a story from the entire night. Snapchat stories last for 24 hours and can capture a much longer and impactful message.

A Snapchat Story is a photo or video you post to your very own Stories section (or feed) of your account, which is visible by you and all your friends. When you visit your “My Friends” tab in Snapchat, your username should appear at the very top, and beneath it will be a circular icon of the most recent story may have posted. The same functionality will work for your friends.

See below:

Snapchat - How To Open

You can tap anybody’s name in this section to trigger the dropdown menu that may show additional Stories, if the user posted several of them. Stories live for 24 hours and can be viewed again and again for that period. Once the 24-hour time limit is up, they are automatically deleted.

Get Creative & Draw

If you’ve never played the game DrawSomething, you’re in for a treat. Snapchat takes one of the elements that made DrawSomething such a hit and applies it to our ability to share drawings, sketches and doodles with other users.

Whether it’s a moustache like you see in the photo above or a something as impressive as these Snapchats from Janine Doherty:

Creative Snapchats

What Settings Do You Need As A Brand

Snapchat for a brand is different from Snapchat for a person. You see, as an individual, you worry about things like privacy, who has access to send you content and of course, who can see the content you share. After you’ve gone through the motions, have a good understanding of what Snapchat is all about and have set up your account, it’s time to manage your settings.

Snapchat - Advanced Settings

Here you want to ensure that EVERYONE can view your stories. I know, initially that sounds odd but for a business – it’s actually very important. You wan’t to ensure that anyone who has added you to Snapchat can look at your stories because it’s only going to be a matter of time until your contact list is so full that you’re unable to scroll through and select every single person as the recipient for your snaps. This is the average friend list on Snapchat:

John C, Mike S, Cameron C and Surrey J are all friends who have been added as friends. Smitty R, is someone who has added me as a friend but I haven’t necessarily added them back. What that means is that Smitty R can try to send me snaps but unless my settings are set to “Everyone” the snaps are never going to make it. Smitty R is also unable to view my stories that I publish unless I’ve set that feature to “Everyone” as well.

It’s going to be a challenge to accept everyone to your Snapchat. So, I suggest leaving your settings open to Everyone which will give you the ability to put your story in front of anyone who wants to see it.

Note: If a user has added you to snapchat, you also have the ability to send them snaps directly from your account to theirs. If you don’t add the user back and they attempt to send you a snap, they will simply be met with a “Pending” as an indicator of snap delivery.

Why SnapChat Makes So Much Sense

IHop Snapchat

According to a captivating infographic entitled “How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds,” over the course of the last ten years the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to a staggeringly short 5 minutes. As a marketer deeply emerged in this digital age my experience shows this to be true. It’s more challenging than ever to capture the attention of a user and more challenging than ever to keep their attention on a ten minute YouTube video.

The study highlighting the impact of technology goes on to also report that 25% of people forget the names or details of close friends and relatives and 7% forget their own birthday from time to time (Tweet This). We’re living a in a time where our attention is minimal. Snapchat is a tool that captures someones attention entirely for a few seconds and has the ability cut through the attention crisis. In a world where our attention span is limited to 5 short minutes, a tool like snapchat could be a marketers dream (Tweet this).

Millions of people around the world have become accustomed to receiving their news in 140 characters and watching videos in under 5 minutes. It’s changing the way consumers think and the way marketers must react. The Founder of Snapchat, delivered an eye-opening keynote where he discussed the concept of Ephemerality when describing Snapchat:

“Snapchat discards content to focus on the feeling that content brings to you, not the way that content looks. This is a conservative idea, the natural response to radical transparency that restores integrity and context to conversation.”

It’s this that drives people to open their snaps. It’s an instantaneous feeling that lasts only for a moment and then becomes a memory that forces people to give their undivided attention to a snap. It’s this experience that brands have an opportunity to share with their customers. An ephermal brand experience that captures their attention, captivates their emotions and  communicates their story.

Gary Vaynerchuk of Vaynermedia has already gone on the record to express that Snapchat is one of the most important tools for his personal brand.

He went on to explain that, reaching a smaller engaged audience is more important for personal brands than a massive disengaged audience. I believe this idea is also true for big brands. If you can connect with a small group of brand advocates and inspire them to tell your story, they will become your marketers. It’s through them that the word will spread and through them that your brand will shine.

The Power Of Visual Storytelling

Brand Content - Snapchat

From the time we’re kids, visuals have played a significant role in our ability to understand and connect with stories. Whether it was a picture book our elementary teacher read to us or the colouring book we got for Christmas; visuals have forever allowed us to better understand a story and connect with it. In marketing,visual storytelling is an art that needs to be considered and applied like a science.

Psychologists have conducted research that indicate that 93% of communication is nonverbal. To take it a step further, the research department at 3M Corporation concluded that humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

If you’re a marketer, this matters more than you even know. It’s visuals that help us understand a situation, it’s visuals that connect with our emotions and it’s visuals that allow brands and businesses to tell their story quickly and more effectively.

The three most important aspects of visual storytelling are the way it reaches your audience, how it captivates them and how it aligns with your business goals or objectives. It’s the combination of these three things that determine the success of your visual marketing efforts and what will lead to you driving success.

In this case, the first element is already clear – we’re talking about Snapchat. What you’re looking to achieve for your business is something that you’ll need to determine after diving deeper into your business situation. The final piece of the puzzle which is key to success, is your ability to captivate an audience through a visual experience.

Here are six sure-fire ways to captivate your audience using Snapchat:

Brand Specific Content

GirlsHBO - Snapchat

The saying “A photo can speak 1000 words” is one of the most frequently used cliches but it’s a cliche for a reason. The underlying fact is that as humans, we’re hard-coded to make judgements and develop emotions as soon as we see something. As such, the power of using a visual in marketing makes for a very effective approach to communicating a compelling and complex message to consumers.

Brands like MTV, HBO, Karmaloop and Intel understand the importance of brand storytelling. Whether it’s through a photo of an actress making a silly fish face or photos of the of their product; businesses using Snapchat effectively recognize the importance of letting their brands story sing true through each and every snap they send.

The two examples above are both from the HBO series Girls. The one in the middle is a snap of one of their cast members and it’s telling her the fans that she loves them. It’s this simple branded interaction that connects the show even deeper with it’s audience. On the far right, it’s another visual from Girls but this one takes a different approach.

Instead of simply showing one of the cast members, this snap shows a box of q-tips with the old Girls logo on it while saying “Throwback Thursday.” The inclusion of Throwback Thursday demonstrates the brands understanding of internet culture and the trend that is known as Throwback Thursday where people share old photos with their followers.

The key to remember is that every brand is different. One of my favourite brands is Karmaloop and what they’ve done with their Snapchat account is nothing short of brand perfection. With revenues in excess of $100 million per year, Karmaloop is a leading e-commerce site for the trendy elite. The brands Director Of Marketing, Megan Knisely had this to say when describing their approach:

‘Our snaps are not for the faint of heart—you got to be ready for a little bit of boobs and butt,’ said Knisely. ‘We’ve toyed around with a little bit of nudity, but nothing hard-core. We have played up the fun, sexy side of things.’

Might I add, it’s also very unexpected. The content you’ll receive from adding Karmaloop to snapchat is always on brand but never what you expect. And that’s the magic of it. The key to creating a great Snapchat account is creating one that drives people to come back for more. One that delivers content that is so unique and compelling that you have no choice but to check it out and see what they’re going to send you next.

Behind The Scenes Content

GirlsHBO - SnapChat - Tweets

Snapchat Pro Tip: I repeat, if you’re going to be on Snapchat – Announce that you’re going to be on Snapchat.

Another type of content that is interesting to your audience is content that that shares a behind the scenes experience with your fans. People are thirsty for transparency and an inside look at how things are built or done within your organization (Tweet This).

If your brand has a strong connection with your fans, people will be excited to see the team behind your snaps or products. Embrace it! For years, brands and organizations have built their businesses on the promise of 43 secret herbs and spices instead of giving the inside scoop.

Today, the internet has made secrets a thing of the past. Brands should be looking at how they can be more transparent and more authentic as it’s what consumers are asking for. Victoria Secret is one brand that has done this well for the last few years.

Instead of simply shooting beautiful models and giving us the end result of these models in their lingerie, they are snapping live shots of the photographer, the make up artists and even the models during outtakes. It’s yet to cross over to Snapchat, but my bet is that it will.

When it was time for the Golden Globes, the folks behind the Girls HBO SNapchat account didn’t just leave their fans in the dark, they took their fans for a ride. Throughout the entire Golden Globe experience, the GirlsHBO team was making an effort to share as many intimate, behind the scenes moments it could with their audience. It was an awesome way to give their viewers an extra special layer to the event and offer them content that was engaging and unique.

Promotion Driven Content

Snapchat - Karmaloop - Promotion Ideas

Snapchat Pro Tip: I repeat, if you’re going to be on Snapchat – Announce that you’re going to be on Snapchat.

Promotions give people a reason to open your snapchats on a regular. If you’re sending solid discounts and deals to people who follow you on Snapchat, you have a chance to really start driving sales. Promotion codes and limited offer deals are a great way to build a strong connection with this audience and also a great way to measure the success of your Snapchat campaign. If you’re running an ecommerce site, it’s easier than ever to create a promo code and snap that to your followers one evening and track the results.

Promotions are an easy way to give customers what they want. In fact, a recent study from Syncapse, showed that 42% of fans Like a Page in order to get a coupon or discount. It can be assumed that a similar percentage of Snapchat users will add a brand to Snapchat for the same situation.

In the snaps and visuals above, is using Snapchat to share promo-codes with their Snapchat fans. As you can see in the image above, Karmaloop is promoting their account by pushing the value of Snapchat exclusive promotions.

Looking at the actual snaps you can see very clearly that they’ve ensured that their brand is still alive in well in these snaps using a video of a beautiful lady dancing with a sign along with a clip with marijuana leaves drawn all over it. According to Karmaloop, Snapchat is meant to be one of their many marketing tools that will drive online sales for their brand.

Leverage Snapchat Stories

Snapchat Stories - Intel

Snapchat launched the “Stories” feature in October 2013 and it’s still a huge untapped opportunity for brands. (Tweet This)

Brands who leverage Snapchat stories have the ability to share a deeper more immersive experience with their fans. It’s a great way to tell a longer story and give your fans a deeper and more engaging experience. As discussed above, a Story is a series of snaps that connect with one another and disappear after 24 hours.

In the example found above, the folks at Intel (@Intel_Inside on Snapchat) are giving their fans a chance to see a quick tour of the Intel museum. One single snap wouldn’t have been able to tell the story in full while this approach gave Intel a chance to share a deeper and more captivating brand experience. People who are connected with Intel are obviously interested in their brand so having a tour of their museum through Snapchat is pretty cool. People were so impressed by the tour that they uploaded screenshots of the Intel Museum for others to see.

That’s the power of telling a captivating story. Snapchat is a tool that gives you a chance to make your biggest fans feel special. As a result, these fans will not only share your story but help mold it in a way that is both engaging and unique to their latest brand experience.

Embrace The ‘Naughty’ Screenshot

Promote Snapchat Actions


So far, we’ve done a lot of talking about how you can deliver a cool experience to your fans and a couple ideas of different experiences you can share with them. Now, I wan’t to talk about the importance of engaging with your fans in a more creative way. I want to talk about how you can use Snapchat to result in user generated content and have your story shared far beyond your existing fans.

At this point, you already know that Snapchat allows users to send short self-destructing photos and videos to friends. What you might not know is that if someone tries to take a screenshot of that snap the sender is notified that the other person took a screenshot of their photo or video. It’s a key part of the applications approach to delivering an ephemeral experience.

Leveraging the screenshot for your brand is a clear opportunity to have your story and message last longer than 5 seconds. It gives you a chance to have your customers capture your snaps and share them with their own connections and networks on social.

When the marketers behind the movie Romeo & Juliet decided to use Snapchat to promote their theatrical release, they decided to think outside the box.

The team definitely followed some of the standard Snapchat best practices such as sharing brand centric content but they took it a step further with a special contest. As a part of their contest, they told users to take screenshots of the snaps that they send them, tweet them with the #RomeoMoments hashtag and be entered to win a special prize.

Looking back at the contest results, there were hundreds of tweets sent and shared with that very hashtag showing screenshots of their dreamy cast. It was a perfect execution that led to both a stronger connection with their fans and the ability to have their fans become walking, talking billboards for their story.

Key Take Aways & Conclusion

1. Visual Marketing is here to stay. Whether it’s Instagram, Snapchat or another network that takes the crown – We can all agree that visual marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

2. While the pan is still hot, no one is going to ignore a Snapchat. If you send a snapchat to a customer who has added you to their friends list 99 times out of 100 they’re going to open that snapchat. If you’ve provided value in the past – That number is very likely to move up to 100%.

3. Snapchat isn’t just for sexting. If you understand what your audience wants and build a persona around their interests; you can craft a compelling and captivating brand experience using snapchat.

Want more? Sign up for my newsletter for updates on the latest on content marketing & growth tactics. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out the entire Snapchat guide in Slideshare form:

About Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to startups to drive results using digital marketing and technology.

One Comment

  • Alicia Williams says:

    Thaaanks! My sister has this app an I am so clueless when it comes to it. This has definitely helped me not only understand it but now I can use it for business purposes myself!

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