Snapchat is something I’ve heard about in passing throughout the social sphere. I was never particularly interested in it, mainly due to the whole sexting debacle, but “it’s chatting but with pictures,” wasn’t an especially appealing sentiment either.

They call him Ghostface Chillah.

For those not in the know, Snapchat is the new-ish kid on the block, a real-time photo messaging service that allows users to send and receive photos and short video clips. The quirk that sets Snapchat apart: users set a limit for how long someone can view that image—up to 10 seconds—after which the photo self-destructs. Poof, gone from your phone, from Snapchat servers.

…well, technically. You can screenshot the image before it’s gone or plug your phone into a computer and find some buried photos in the phone’s memory.

It’s a peculiar and slightly confusing application, and although it’s only recently gained attention, the application has been around for the past year and a half or so. Because Snapchat does not require going through Facebook, Twitter, or other larger middleman, the app can provide some profitable marketing opportunities.

Leveraging the Snap

Snapchat is practically built for games and contests. Users have to interpret messages within the photo’s seemingly short existence. Businesses can use that to start scavenger hunts that eventually lead to discounts and a more permanent medium, like the Facebook page or company website.

The app is also a great way to create buzz for your brand or product. You can give some quick behind-the-scenes images and videos or give users a preview of upcoming products and services. You can use the number of screenshots as a measurement tool for a particular snap’s popularity and redistribution.

A Case Study: 16 Handles

The most prominently successful marketing campaign using Snapchat involved a small frozen yogurt chain called 16 Handles. Their offer: send a snap of yourself tasting one of their frozen yogurt flavors at a 16 Handles location to their Snapchat account. In return, you receive a surprise coupon via Snapchat for 16 to 100 percent off your next frozen yogurt purchase.

The promo that started it all.

It was an interesting experiment, considering that the promo was only offered in 6 of the 41 locations and participants couldn’t view their coupons until they were about to pay the cashier, but one that proved surprisingly successful. The company sent and received over 1,400 snaps in a matter of three days and, more than anything, garnered a ton of exposure. It’s not hard to see 16 Handles, or any brand, taking the same promo model even further in the future.

I only dived into Snapchat a couple weeks ago after some coaxing from friends. The verdict: meh. As someone who is pretty slow and analytical with everything, I found the time limit, at best, a hindrance; at worst, anxiety-inducing. For personal use, I find it a bit pointless, especially when the average user could just as easily share pictures or video via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Vine.

But that’s just me. With its inherent sense of immediacy and urgency and its growing userbase, Snapchat definitely has some potential for brands looking for new marketing avenues, especially among the vital 13-to-25 demographic.

What are your thoughts on Snapchat? Could you imagine your company using it for a marketing campaign? Do you enjoy frozen yogurt as much as I do?

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