Snapchat Can Benefit Small Businesses In Large Ways

By Ann Marie van den Hurk Lexington Herald-Leader.

Is your business interested in connecting with young people? Snapchat could be the social platform to use in reaching this particular demographic.

Because a Snapchat message disappears after a few seconds, Snapchat has a reputation as a messaging platform for teens acting as bullies and adults sharing naughty photos. But the platform is evolving into a storytelling venue for brands, individuals, news media and politicians.

Snapchat has quickly become the fastest growing social media app and is extremely popular with the young Americans, says Caitlin Fischer of lotus823, a New Jersey public relations and digital marketing company. The age range of the majority of Snapchat users is 15 to 25, she says.

WHAT IS SNAPCHAT? Snapchat is a messaging platform for smart phones designed for sharing moments within a closed group. You can take a photo or video, add a caption and send it to a friend. There is an option to add the photo or video to a collection of photos or videos called a "Story." You can share that with some or all of your friends. Your friends may view the Snaps and Story for a set amount of time, and then it disappears.

WHY SHOULD SMALL FIRMS USE SNAPCHAT? Snapchat can be a great tool for small businesses to engage their audience and give them authentic content, says Charlie Gliwa, co-founder of Storytyme Media. Based on his company's experience, he thinks Snapchat users crave behind-the-scenes looks and unfiltered photos they cannot find with any other social media platform.

Fischer concurs, and says that because Snapchat makes it possible to swipe through all stories and updates, a company's audience has the opportunity to really interact with the company, even more so than with other popular social sites.

Snapchat's "My Story" is also unique because, after 24 hours of posting, the update is gone. This means engaged users will check for updates often over the course of the day, giving companies the chance to post unique content continuously.

HOW DOES SNAPCHAT WORK FOR BUSINESSES? Snapchat is a closed environment where Snaps aren't public or searchable. That makes user discovery difficult. It is important for a business to grow its account via influencers or promotional content at stores and through other social media platforms. In terms of engaging an audience, Gliwa says, it is important to understand that because Snapchat stories disappear, content should be current so it can be immediately consumed by the user.

Gary Cooke, social media manager and designer at Serious SEM, puts it into perspective by noting that posts on Facebook and Twitter might last forever, but many people scroll past the first seven to 10 posts before stopping and reading something. The nature of Snapchat is that it gives you 100 percent of your customers' attention for the seconds you have to get your message across.

Since user discovery on Snapchat doesn't exist, it is essential that businesses grow a following.

An organization should utilize other social channels, Facebook and Twitter for example, to drive followers to Snapchat by posting regular content. A major benefit of Snapchat is that content is inexpensive for companies to make, says Fischer, which is ideal for small businesses. In addition, content is short, impulsive and sporadic, which is what users seem to want.

Businesses need to be aware of a couple of challenges with Snapchat. It is difficult to measure return on investment because the number of fans and number of impressions can't be pulled, says Fischer, and it's difficult to find new people because users can't search easily for companies, when compared to other social platforms.

Snapchat is ideal for small businesses when rolling out a new product and wanting to show in a quick sound bite why your product or service is the best on the market. You can use Snapchat to give people a preview of an upcoming product or service and make it feel unique for the people seeing it. Snapchat also works great for contests or giveaways, but remember to check your state's laws regarding those first.

Snapchat is built for storytelling, says Branden Harvey, a commercial photographer who works with brands such as UNICEF, Chevrolet and ABC Family on Snapchat. Harvey says he thinks that, when harnessed with intentionality, it's possible to create a really engaging story for your audience on Snapchat. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Ann Marie van den Hurk, an accredited public relations professional, is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations and author of "Social Media Crisis Communications."

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