Snapchat Marketing: A Definitive Guide for Brands

snapchat marketing feature

When Snapchat changed it’s message sending style from one-to-one to having mass messaging capabilities with it’s My Story feature it completely changed marketer’s ability to speak with audiences. With as many as 200 million people on Snapchat right now, with half of those in the coveted 13 – 24 age group, this is an opportunity that few online marketers should be missing.

The launch of SnapChat Discover, to a limited number of publishers, is a tool that made many brands give Snapchat a second look. Publishers using it are charging big bucks for ads they share, and many are paying these prices for the simple fact that Snapchat is getting them results.

For everyone who didn’t get in on Snapchat Discover, there is the Snapchat Stories feature for your Snapchat marketing efforts. If this is your first time thinking about using Snapchat at all, let alone social marketing, think of using Snapchat exactly as Twitter marketing with pictures only. Snapchat marketing is another opportunity in real-time marketing. You’re also combining the power of Instagram marketing and images. Let’s look at how Snapchat marketing actually works.

Where to start with Snapchat marketing

I won’t bore you to death with the signup process. It’s all very basic as Snapchat marketing isn’t about building profiles; it’s about telling stories. So get ready to not upload a profile image, be prepared to not write a bio, do not look for a verified icon, and there will not be direct clicks as you have no place to upload a URL.

If it sounds like you have nothing to gain with Snapchat marketing you’re too caught up in, this is awkward to say, ‘old’ social media marketing tactics. You’re going to have to get comfortable with the fact you’re part of a 1.0 movement for marketers and wait for Snapchat to give you the chance to upgrade to a more business oriented approach.

Snapchat has two screens that you’ll need to get to know. Your homescreen is on the left, this is where you take photos and videos that you’re going to send. The profile page is on the right, it’s where you can see all of your contacts, friends, and who you an add.

homepage profile page snapchat marketing


To explain what you’re looking at on your profile page:

  • Your ‘score’ is the number of snaps that you’ve received and sent.
  • Your ‘Added Me’ list is, obviously, where your followers are listed. It is not recommended that you ever clear this as you won’t find these names anywhere else.
  • ‘Add Friends’ will be looked at next, but it is where your start building your list of people that your snaps will reach.
  • ‘My Contacts’ is strictly meant for those who are in your phone’s contact list. For a brand this can be a bit odd, but why not start seeding your audience this way?

Snapchat is very basic right now, and that is how you’re going to take advantage of it with your Snapchat marketing.

How to build your Snapchat marketing audience

Building an engaged audience is the goal on any social media marketing platform. Snapchat doesn’t have the ‘Suggested Accounts’ feature of Twitter to help you build your following. Snapchat built itself on people telling one another one-to-one to add them. I still remember my first friend telling me all about Snapchat over two years ago in a one-to-one setting. The fact she was cute had nothing (everything) to do with my initial interest in the app. Most users on Snapchat started this way – their friends are on it.

As a Snapchat marketer you won’t have the chance to go and talk to every single one of the up to 200 million Snapchat users to get them to add you. Fortunately you’re not just a Snapchat marketer, you’re an online marketer. You can talk up your Snapchat account on your website, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter account like @Harleyplays does all the time:

He’s the host of Epic Meal Time, to the uninitiated. Harley is a brand unto himself and he works hard to build his Snapchat up through his Twitter audience with mentions of his handle:

This is how you’re going to build your audience – by borrowing from other social channels. You don’t have to go person to person, you can reach people the same way you’re reaching them now. Yo can also rely on friends telling friends – word of mouth is everywhere and sometimes it doesn’t involve mouths, thumbs only!

Now do you want to know the freaky thing about getting Snapchat adds? The ghost on your profile page which looks like many other ghosts…take a closer look at these ghosts and tell me what you see:

snapchat marketing profile images


A bunch of random dots? Nope. Those are QR codes where all someone has to do is snap a picture of your Snapchat profile ghost and they automatically add you. Did your mind hole just blow up with ideas for promoting your account? Are you thinking of all the possible places that you can put this image and gain followers every moment of every day?

For records sake, left to right those are the Snapchat icons for RyanSeacrest, RoskildeFestival, and Mashable.

Taking your first pictures and videos on Snapchat

Taking pictures and video on Snapchat has been made incredibly easy. You point your camera at what you want to take a picture of from the home screen, and tap on the big circle at the bottom. For video, hold the button down for as long as you’re acting. Taking a selfie? You vain bugger! Press the flip button in the top right. Too dark where you are? The flash icon is in the top left.

Your next challenge is going to be adding text and drawings to your snaps. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Tap on the image, this will bring up a text editing box.
  2. Type in a short caption that will fit on the image comfortably.
  3. Use your finger to drag the text to the best spot on the image.
  4. Tap the big ‘T’ along the top to enlarge your text and make it left aligned. Tap it again to center your text.
  5. No matter how it’s aligned, once your text has been enlarged you can change the color by selecting the text and going to the color palette on the right.
  6. With two fingers you can change the size of the text, or rotate it to better fit it over the image.
  7. For the artists, you can draw on your image to your heart’s content using the pencil icon in the top right corner. This appears immediately after you take the picture so you can get to work on it right away. The best Snapchat marketers may be art majors.

Once you’re done fiddling with your snap, it’s time to send it off or include it as part of your Snapchat Story. If you’re ready to send it off, look for the clock in the bottom left. This will determine how long the image will display for 1 – 10 seconds is the limit. You can now send it to your contacts, or you can add it to your Story – our next topic.

Sharing snaps to your Story

Snapchat gives you two ways to send your image off, and two ways to build your Snapchat Story. The first way to send your snap is by clicking on the arrow in the bottom right. You’ll have the option to send it right away, or add it to your story. Once you add it to your Story all of your contacts will be able to see it as many times as they like for 24 hours.

The other way to add to your Story is by using the button on the bottom in the middle. It is an icon which looks like a square with a + symbol on it. It’s easier for marketers to just push this button.

How you need to start thinking about the My Story feature is as a Twitter Timeline, or Facebook NewsFeed, with pictures. Think of them as entirely visual tweets that only last for 24 hours. Your Snapchat followers will go here, your My Story, to view your snaps for 24 hours in the order you have arranged them. Think 24 hours is too short a time? Here’s a tweet that may change your mind:

That is a pessimistic estimate, some say it could be as high as an hour. Still, 24 hours for a snap to be active is a lot longer! To maximize exposure, tap on your ghost on your profile page. Look for the gear icon and tap it. Under the section marked “Who Can…” find the option for “View My Story.” Tap it and change it from the default, “My Friends,” to “Everyone.” This makes it so everyone on your contact list can see your Stories, not just those you add back as friends.

Snapchat is the next wave of social marketing

That heading may be misleading as Snapchat isn’t so much social media marketing as it content marketing through stories with your friends. There isn’t much in the way of real social interaction on Snapchat, though you can have snaps sent to you in a way that leads to conversations.

The focus of Snapchat marketing is to build and tell stories that get people involved with you and your brand. The real bonus of using Snapchat for this is that you’re right there on that little device that is within reach of their hand about 80% of their waking hours – their smartphone. In closing, Snapchat marketing is about more than just content marketing, it’s also mobile marketing with a heavy image based feel.

Feature image via 360b / Shutterstock

About This Author

Sam is the resident Social Media Strategist at SMMGuide!


You can post comments in this post.

  • This is a great write up to help brands get started on Snapchat. Knowing the nuances of the app will help marketers adopt and adapt quicker. Thank you for sharing.

    Tyler Lawrence 3 years ago Reply

    • Thanks for the comment, Tyler. Feel free to share it around on Twitter and help some other marketers learn about the new Snapchat marketing opportunities!

      Mark 3 years ago Reply

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