So, almost everyone has figured out by this point that Snapchat was originally created for sexting, as evidenced by the email exchanges included in this article. But the platform — a weird hybrid of Twitter, Instagram, SMS, and probably caffeine, considering how many people are hooked — has evolved into so much more than that. And when a platform starts to get as much attention as Snapchat has received recently, it’s time for marketers to take notice.

But Snapchat is a hard nut to crack. Why is that? Well, let’s take a look:

  • The platform is highly visual and offers very little room for text, which is usually relied on for context and information.
  • Images must be captured using the device on which the app is stored, and this must be done from within the app (no uploading of existing photos).
  • There is no editing feature for the pictures (unless you count the ability to draw on them as an editing feature).
  • It’s impossible to discover new people within the app; you have to know their username or have their phone number stored in your device.
  • There is no native or third-party system for tracking success of snaps other than the basic incoming/outgoing list.

At first glace, these obstacles seem insurmountable. In fact, despite how long the platform has been popular, marketers have turned a blind eye because, quite frankly, it’s not an easy platform to market on. They say it can’t be done.

But here at the 60 Second Marketer, we don’t take no for an answer, so we’ve developed some ways that marketers can use Snapchat to reach their audiences in a way that is effective, in-touch, and — most importantly — measurable.

Before You Get Started…

Before you hook up the app to your intern’s phone and let him start snapping away, there are some things you need to be sure to do — bases that must be covered. Here are four steps to take before you ever send a snap:

  1. Choose your device carefully. Remember, there’s no editing of pictures, and you can’t upload them from your device or the Cloud. Make sure that whatever device you choose has a top-notch camera and focus.
  2. Draft up some policies, and make people sign them. As we mentioned before, Snapchat was developed for sexting. Not that we expect your employees to try to do that from the company account (though some people may try), but it’s important to realize that the idea of an erasable action is a dangerous one. Though we know nothing is actually erased in a permanent and complete way, it’s still a foreign and potentially damaging trap to fall into. Create policies and guidelines that will protect your company, employees, and customers. Then, get that John Hancock on the dotted line so that you’re not liable for any slip-ups.
  3. Determine how you’ll record Snapchat activity. Like with any social media platform, you want to make sure that you’re analyzing what you’re doing to determine future steps. But that can’t happen if you have no record of your activity, and Snapchat won’t keep that record for you. Whether it’s a spreadsheet or a notepad (though we don’t recommend the latter), find some way to keep track of who your snaps are sent to, when they’re opened, and whatever you receive.
  4. Start building your phone list. You may have numbers from your prospect database, or you may have a database from online orders. Whatever it is, start adding these people on Snapchat before you ever send something out. They’ll have to add you back to get your content, so don’t worry about seeming spammy.

Marketing with Snapchat

Alright, now it’s time for the juicy stuff. How should you use Snapchat in your marketing campaign?

Well, let’s first take a look at what your goals are. Do you want to infuse personality into your brand? Highlight company events? Draw your superfans to your online store? Glimpse the behaviors of your fans? Good news: you can use Snapchat to accomplish any of these goals. Let’s take a look at them individually to get some specific ideas.

Infuse Personality Into Your Brand

When company blogs first became a thing, many companies simply posted photos from around the office and from various events. In fact, that’s what a lot of companies still do (though we don’t think that’s a very good marketing tool). But office happenings do have a time and place on social media, and the occasional snap is that time and place.

Take a video of everyone singing happy birthday to your company on your anniversary. Take a picture of the relay team for the charity you just completed. On occasion, use Snapchat to show that you’re a company of people — people just like any other Snapchat user.

Highlight Company Events Using Stories

If your company has a big event, your fans might want to see it. But for those fans who want to see just the highlights and nothing more, stories of events are the perfect way to engage with an event shortly after it has happened.

What are stories, you might ask? We’re glad you asked. Stories are a feature of Snapchat that allow users to post 15 seconds worth of pictures that are viewable for 24 hours. As you may have put together, this is perfect for your fans to briefly re-live events from the previous night, whether they were there or not. By adding fifteen one-second photos, you have a nice (albeit quick) slideshow of an entire night’s worth of fun.

The same feature could be used to update fans about a daylong project. For example, pretend your company partners with a charity that builds homes for people in need over the course of a single day. Throughout the day, you could take a two-second picture of the front of the house to show progress. Then, using the stories feature, your fans could go watch as the house slowly materializes before their eyes.

Draw Superfans to Your Online Store

The easiest way to draw a crowd to a brick-and-mortar store is to have a sale — just look at Black Friday. Similarly, the easiest way to get some seriously heavy traffic to your online store is a killer promo code. But when you want to inform only those who really aim to engage with your brand, what do you do? Well, you send a snap.

Snapchat is the perfect platform to use for this purpose. Not only do your superfans already know how to get to your website (meaning no need for URLs, which Snapchat has no room for anyway), but it’s harder for them to pass it around. This means that you can send an especially highly discounted offer only to those who have taken the time to add you on Snapchat.

Another promo code option is to post it to your story, which makes it visible to all of your followers for up to 24 hours. Or you could send promo codes directly to individual users as a reward for doing something you ask them to do.

Glimpse the Behaviors of Your Fans

Aren’t you curious as to how your customers interact with your brand throughout the day? We are, too. Well, Snapchat is actually the perfect way to communicate that. You see, people are very selective about what they post on social media. But with Snapchat, they can hand-select who sees their snaps. It could just be you if they want it to be, and that’s an attractive concept to the vast majority of social media users. Asking someone to send you a snap of what they’re doing is asking a lot less than if you were to require that they post the same image on Instagram where all their other followers would see it, too.

Taking this concept to heart, you can use Snapchat as a way to see how customers are actually and practically engaging with your brand. Let them send you a snap of something they bought from your store last month. Get pictures of customers actually in your stores. Watch your fans carry out your organization’s mission.

(Of course, you’ll want to incentivize this process in order to get the most bang for your buck. Consider offering a promo code or entry into a promotion in exchange for these images.)

This is, in fact, an excellent way to hold visually based promotions. Are you a clothing company wanting your fans to send you pictures wearing one of your products? Then snap them and tell them that (but keep it short, e.g. “Send pic in product for promo code”), or create a blog post about it. Collect the entries by taking screenshots (remember, the senders will be notified automatically).

Snapchat: the Social Media Tool of the Future

In the end, what better way is there to be social with your fans than to interact with them one-on-one (kind of) in a personal, visual way? Snapchat engages people in a way that no other network does because of its casual nature. When people feel protected and private, they are more themselves, and that’s how they feel on Snapchat. This means that your interactions with fans via Snapchat are some of the most genuine interactions you’ll have shy of face-to-face meetings. Whether you choose to use Snapchat to host promotions or just share goofy shots from around the office, it’s a new kind of tool, and one that we should pay attention to.

About the Author: Samantha Gale is a social media and content marketing specialist working for 60 Second Communications, a full-service marketing agency working with brands around the globe.