How a Small Business Can Succeed on Snapchat

A large majority of small businesses won’t touch Snapchat with a nine-foot pole. But the tide is slowly turning as more and more recognize the value of its efficient use of imagery and storytelling. Depending on your audience and goals, this seemingly up-and-coming — especially among the younger set — social media platform could be the solution to holes in your marketing plan.

Snapchat is made up of three simple components: snaps, chat and stories. The one that can most beneficial to operations of any size is the story feature, which allows your business to post images and videos, essentially documenting the ins and outs of your day to your trusty followers.

What does this offer to the overworked and world-weary entrepreneur? The answer is twofold:

  1. Exclusivity
  2. Authenticity

Before you start trying to mine these benefits for all they’re worth, you have to consider your consumer base. If you’re marketing to blanket-knitting grannies, Snapchat might very well be a waste of time. On the other hand, if you know your aim is to connect with people between the ages of 18 and 29, then Snapchat could be ideal.

Think of your Snapchat as an exclusive club that anyone can enter. Different than social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, nothing on Snapchat lasts forever. The videos and images posted to it disappear in a prearranged amount of seconds, never to be seen again. This conveys a sense of honesty that is lost in the artfully curated brand sensibilities found online. It adds a literal ticking clock to any entertainment or value a brand’s story creates.

Psychologically, this feeds an almost frenzied sense of loss on the part of the viewer when they miss promotions or inside looks.

Marketing today is more than a simple "product for money" transaction. Consumers, particularly those in younger generations, believe the transaction goes deeper.

Give Your Snapchat Audience a Behind the Scenes Look

Millennials and their ilk have grown up in a society that scorns traditional advertising. They’ve sat through hours of inauthentic—and oftentimes ridiculous—television commercials for products they wouldn’t purchase in a million years.

Snapchat does what no other platform can in quite the same way. It allows you to show your audience a different side of your business, a more personal perspective, and thereby communicate a heightened degree of authenticity.

In fact, Everlane — a San Francisco clothing company with the motto “radical transparency” — favors Snapchat for this very reason: “Snapchat gives us the chance to explore transparency in a completely new way. No fancy cameras. No editing. Just raw, live footage. It’s beautiful, and it’s the platform for the modern generation.” You can see an example of Everlane’s first Snapchat factory tour below.

And the cherry on top is that it does all of this in seemingly real time.

Whether or not it’s true, Snapchat makes it seem like less preparation was put into crafting your image. It conveys spontaneity and spontaneity is fun. Play into your audience’s voyeuristic tendencies by showing them a behind the scenes glimpse of your business.

This can function as an office (or factory) tour, an inside look at an event, "how it’s made" demonstrations, new product reveals or all of the above.

Everlane has even tapped the platform as a recruiting tool (check out the past job application here).

You may be wondering: does that really works?

It’s uniquely powerful because it feels “real”, keeping consumers on their toes and eager to discover more. It also communicates who you (truly) are, as a brand, to the world (something that can serve to strengthen and solidify relationships with existing customers, as well as to drive new business with those who connect with your ethos).

Use Promo Codes They Won’t See Anywhere Else

This is where you can use Snapchat to seek out more direct interactions with the fans of your product or service. A sense of distance between companies and consumers is why promotions on Instagram and Facebook tend to fail in their efforts to secure brand loyalty. Everyone loves a good giveaway or promotion, but not everyone is willing to repost an ad on their own profile to get the goods.

One way to use Snapchat to strengthen your relationship with consumers is to offer promo codes they won’t have access to on other platforms. You can post about the limited time offer on non-Snapchat profiles to draw more people to Snapchat. Then, get a little creative with how you’ll make the rules of the promotion clear. This can take the form of a relevant picture with text stating how they can get the promo code.

Use image or video snaps to ask consumers to act on a certain directive. For example, if they send you a snap showing them using one of your products, then you’ll send the promo code back. Increase the mystery by not revealing exactly what they’ll receive in return.

GrubHub has utilized this approach to great success, earning them a coveted spot as a finalist for the Shorty Awards. They put instructions for how to receive discounted pizza in their story, and then followers could also send in funny doodles for the chance to win $50 in GrubHub orders.

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This promotion performed the dual role of getting customers engaged with their brand, surprising and delighting them with free food — all with relatively little effort.

While these may be “big brands”, this doesn’t mean that your small business can’t employ similar strategies to grow your Snapchat presence — and your sales.

There are risks to any social media strategy and Snapchat is no exception. Make it a weapon in your marketing arsenal if you believe your brand could benefit from authenticity and exclusivity, especially if you’re targeting a younger audience.

About the Author

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Samantha Novick is the Social Media Manager at Bond Street, a company focused on transforming small business lending through technology, data and design. Bond Street offers term loans up to $1,000,000 with interest rates starting at 6%.