Snapchat and Instagram are the two most mentioned social media channels in recent marketing news. Why?
On 2nd August 2016, Instagram announced the launch of its Stories feature, which was very obviously ‘heavily influenced’ by Snapchat Stories that was launched in October 2013 (Dear Instagram, did you even have to use the same name ‘Stories’ in it?!!)
Just to give you an idea of the incredible growth of Snapchat as a social media channel – it was launched only in 2011, and in just over 5 years, it has over 100 million daily users who watch 10 billion videos every day. On any given day, Snapchat says, it reaches 41% of all 18 – 34 year olds in the United States. When you compare that with the Television, which on a daily basis reaches only 6% of the same audience in the same market, then you start understanding the importance of a channel like Snapchat. And note the age bracket: it starts at 18 but goes all the way up to 34. So, it is not just a social media channel for college kids anymore. Snapchat is now being adopted and used heavily by the 25+ year-old generation too. No wonder Facebook (which owns Instagram) was keen to “implement” this feature and get a share of the market & the ad-revenues.
A quick overview of Snapchat and Instagram Stories:
For those of you who are new to both channels, here is a quick overview of how they work:
- The most suitable content type for both channels is: Instant, Temporary & Live visual content
- Both are mobile-only platforms
- Using their mobile apps, users can capture multiple engaging moments of their everyday life, as an image or a video, and share it with their friends instantly.
- Users can choose to make the content public or private.
- Content is available only for 24 hours, after which it disappears.
- The mobile app makes it more fun by allowing the user to doodle on the image or video, add stickers, make funny faces with lenses, etc.
But there is more to these channels from a business angle, which is what I like to discuss in this post. After reading this, you can decide if these channels are suitable for your business.
(For those of you who want a step-by-step technical tutorial on getting started with these channels, check out these very helpful posts from the awesome team at Buffer on Snapchat and Instagram Stories.)
Are Snapchat and Instagram Stories relevant for your business?
Consider the following points carefully before you decide if they are relevant for your business:
- These channels demand and consume constant, engaging, entertaining visual content.
- No matter how much effort you put in creating content, the content will disappear after 24 hours. It simply vanishes!
- There are no URLs that could lead users back to your website. No outbound links. It is a one-way process of influencing your audience.
- There are no advanced analytics to help you measure the exact impact (at least not right now. I am sure this will change soon.)
- There are no search options for the content that is already posted.
- The audience are in-the-moment and get influenced in seconds (or microseconds). So you have very less time to impress them compared to other channels.
- The audience are used to a different type of content and approach. They are used to transparency, openness, spontaneity and being real. Anything too Salesy or too Self-promotional will not work.
But even with all these challenges, if your target audience are on these channels and if your business or product is well-suited for this type of content, it is worth taking the effort, simply because of the high rate of engagement they enjoy. The users in these channels have a great affinity towards these channels and they are passionate about it. They are loyal to brands and influencers who create relevant, engaging and meaningful content specifically for these channels. So, it might be your great opportunity to build your brand and a loyal audience using these powerful platforms. Let us look at some of the practicals things you should consider before you start working on these channels.
How to use Snapchat and Instagram Stories for Business: 5 Practical Tips for Beginners
1. Start with a personal account
Before you start using it for your business, I highly recommend that you get comfortable with the platform by setting up an individual account and understanding how it works from a user perspective. Engage with some existing content creators, see how they respond. Follow the influencers in your industry, competitors and other brands in your category. Get an idea of the types of content being created and shared. This will give you clarity on how you should go about using these channels.
2. Work on your ‘value-addition’ strategy
What value are you going to add to your audience using these channels? Instant images and videos are not just about sharing details like what time you woke up that morning and what you had for breakfast (though that sort of transparency is helpful at times). As a business, you can succeed only if you balance transparent storytelling with immense value addition to your audience. If you can somehow make their life better in someway by what you communicate through these channels, then you have a good chance of standing out in the midst of all the noise and volume. Spend time thinking about how you can add value and in what way you can help your audience. Then come up with a plan to package that as Instant, Live, Temporary, Visual content and post them on these two channels. We have seen this approach produce great results for our clients.
3. Create ‘themes’ for your stories
It is not easy to come up with ideas on a daily basis. Specially in a startup or small business, where there are multiple things happening at the same time. Creativity is a challenge when you have finance, HR, production, sales and other multiple functions that demand your time and attention. This is where ‘Themes’ can help. It can help you streamline your content-creation process well ahead of time. Come up with themes for each month or each week. Then think of content to fit the theme. For example: If you are in the fitness industry, you could choose a ‘recipes’ theme for the first two weeks, where you share health-food recipes on a daily basis. For the next two weeks of the month you could choose ‘fitness gadgets’ as the theme, where you share content about health and fitness gadgets, reviewing them for your audience. Deciding the theme makes it easier for you to come up with ideas on how to create content for those themes. Then you can start Snapping and Instagramming your stories.
4. Be both objective and creative at the same time
Even though these platforms were created for spontaneous sharing with creativity, with an individual user in mind, it is not the right approach for businesses and brands. As a business, you need to be intentional and objective in your approach and in what you share on such platforms. Users can get away with snaps of them strolling on a beach aimlessly and sucking on oyster shells, but as a brand representative, if you or your employees post just that, then you might start losing your followers. You need to approach the posting process with an objective of adding value to them in a way that is relevant to your brand. But you have to do it in an interesting and fun way. This is where you need to learn to balance spontaneity, focus-on-the-goal and creativity.
While you have a set plan on the ‘theme’ that you are going to share, you could combine it with some creativity and spontaneity. For example: In your ‘fitness gadgets’ theme you could still show yourself walking on the beach, but talking about the fitness smartwatch that you are wearing and the various readings that it shows as you exercise on the beach. While you do that you could encourage users to send you a message asking questions about the watch and its functions even as they watch your stories. Its instant, interesting and at the same time focussed on a business objective.
5. Use the advertising options
If you have the budget, and if this is an audience you want to really go after, then I highly recommend you check out the advertising options on both channels. Snapchat has very successful and interesting advertising options like:
Snap Ads: These are mobile video ads where you can add interactive elements below it. When users swipe up, you can take them to your mobile website, install your apps, or sign up for a special offer or newsletter.
Geofilters: When users are in a particular location, they can take snaps and they will see your geofilter, using which they let their audience know where they are. If you are in a retail business or have a mega event coming up, this is a great way to get the word out.
Lenses: This is one of the favourite ad options from Snapchat. With this, you can creatively come up with Filters (like this one from Taco Bell) which is interactive and comes alive when they hold it to their faces. Imagine the brand affinity and connection you can build with your audience once they play with the lenses and snap them out to their audience.
I am sure Instagram is already working on ‘being influenced’ by these Snapchat ad options (and much more) since they have the backing of Facebook’s well-oiled mega advertising engine. If you are already advertising on Facebook, you should soon see options popping up for placing your ads in between Instagram Stories.
These are some of the key items for you to think about before you start using Snapchat or Instagram stories as social media marketing platforms for your business. Hope this helps. If you have any questions, ask them in the comments section and I will be happy to answer them (or find answers for them). You can also share your experiences on these platforms if you like to. Now go ‘Snap’ your way to success. Cheers!