Advertising on Snapchat: What can we learn from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube?

If there’s one thing a social network needs to be successful and significant, it’s users. Secondly, it needs a revenue stream. And here’s the thing about a revenue stream, it rarely excites the network’s users. That’s because it almost always involves marketing being blasted to us at full force. However, if the product is great and our friends are there (and stay there), we usually adapt to the marketing that starts appearing in our feeds and eventually just keep on churning on the network, keeping its lights on for years to come.

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Snapchat is running on all cylinders in the “user” category and has been for about 3 years. If you’re a millennial/marketer/social media manager/parent to a millennial, I’m sure you’ve used and/or heard of the channel. It’s not a new network by any means. Snapchat received its first round of funding in early 2012 and is valued at $16 billion. They have recently claimed to have 100 million daily active users.

Top Messaging Apps Excluding China

Top Messaging Apps Worldwide, excluding China

But when it comes to soliciting for brands to be a part of their revenue stream, they’re arguably still in crawl mode. This is because the process for adding advertising to your platform is a delicate one that starts with, “How do we let brands in without ticking off our users?”. In their quest for this answer, they, of course, benefit from those who have come before. Speculating on their next step could give progressive marketers and brands an opportunity to win big when it comes to advertising on Snapchat.

Learnings from Instagram: Hand-select your marketers and teach brands HOW to use Snapchat

Marketers want millennial eyeballs. We’ve all heard it. “Millennials aren’t buying.” “They’re not listening to our brand message because it’s too polished and they think it’s all a lie.” This is where Snapchat holds the golden ticket.

They have the targeted users, and their content is obviously something this audience appreciates and can easily do themselves, as evidenced by their nearly 20 minutes a day spent on the platform. Their users don’t want polished and they don’t expect it here. It feels real and organic and that (mostly) makes millennials happy. In attracting marketers and finding a place for them, this should be a value proposition to a brand. However, it also means you have to find marketers who are comfortable with low-production value and spur of the moment content. If you’ve ever heard a case study or presentation from the team at Instagram, you know they don’t want brands posting crappy content to their network and have historically hand-selected their marketing partners. They want the brands that “get it.” That way, their users still get the content they want and are comfortable with, and the marketers can reach the eyeballs they want in an efficient and real way. (Read: MONEY FOR PLATFORM and FEWER EYE ROLLS FROM USERS! Yay!) Snapchat could learn a thing or two from this model and choose the route of teaching their marketers what content on their channel looks like and how it can be successful. Because, if you simply leave it up to the brand, they’re inevitably going to screw it up. While this is technically the basis for the Discover platform and their partners on that network, I’ve seen several standard ads and movie previews sprinkled among Snapchat’s location-based stories so my guess is that this isn’t currently how Snapchat is envisioning their future in platform advertising.

Social Media Use by Age

Share of Social Media Platform Usage by Age Group, via eMarketer

Learnings from YouTube: Harness and manage your content creators

Millennials also believe their friends. And let’s be honest, we all do. And some of those friends gain lots and lots of friends and become the elusive Influencer. This is where Influencers and content creators are key. Their messages reach and influence MILLIONS each and every day. Marketers want just a sliver of that pie. What we now know is that if Influencers work directly with brands without training or rules, they may use it for evil. Not often, but it happens. It starts by offering so much money/compensation/perks that an Influencer caves to the terrible content they’ve been asked to create. Add to that information that Snapchat isn’t a channel that’s conducive to disclosing compensation, and eventually that will be a hindrance for brands who play fair to even use Snapchat Influencers. You may think this is just an issue for the Influencer, but if you lose credibility in those people you follow, you may open less snap stories, and slowly become less dependent on the network. YouTube previously also had this [awesome] problem of too many wonderful content creators. Instead of leaving all product placement opportunities up to the brand and Influencers, they also negotiate contracts with the content creators and themselves, and vet products and brand opportunities directly to their content producers. Influencers continue to make money and invest their best work in the network, keeping all parties happy.

Learnings from Twitter: Facebook owns milestones, we own events. [Snapchat should own the everyday.]

When users don’t have to overthink a Snap because it only lasts for 24 hours, they’re going to post, and they’re going to post frequently. They’re showing you every part of their day, even the “dumb parts” unworthy of an Instagram photo or Facebook post. Twitter knew it couldn’t compete with the life milestones that Facebook had come to own. They instead invested in events and news. Buying trending topics has long been the coveted ad unit on Twitter and even as the platform changes it’s still one of the best ways to reach users on that network. Snapchat should carve out their ownership of the everyday moments that people share here and determine how they can get brands to be a part of it. Branded filters (ie. text and picture overlays for users) seem to be a step in this direction. Stickers and GIFs are also the revenue model for the majority of global messaging apps, such as WeChat, LINE, and Kik.

What can brands learn from this?

While Snapchat continues to determine the most realistic revenue model for advertising, brands shouldn’t sit idly. Many brands are already experimenting on the channel, and some have already purchased ad units with the Discover platform or branded filters. Brands should continue to rely on their social media marketing team and agency to keep a pulse on what the network really is all about. Don’t be the brand that sticks their ad where nobody wants it.




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