Why is no one using Snapchat for B2B marketing (yet)?

Posted on: 2014-06-20 in Resources   |   Tagged: b2b marketing b2b social media digital marketing snapchat social marketing social media

We take a look at why Snapchat is still a B2B ghost town, for now.


Snapchat is many things to many people. For some young users, it's the social messaging app of choice for sending each other self-destructing images of their teenage bits. For cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel, it's a pioneering digital enterprise with bigger plans than selling out to Facebook any time soon. Zuckerberg personally delivered an offer of $3 billion in 2013 but Spiegel didn't give up the ghost, and it's reported Google may even have bettered that with an offer of $4 billion (again, unsuccessfully). Use of the app has grown at an impressive rate, and the founders are clearly confident they can monetise it as more users and brands come onboard. But for B2B tech companies (or even the technology PR agency marketing them!), Snapchat is still a no man's land.

What's all the fuss about?

The rise of Snapchat can be attributed in part to the way its groundbreaking functionality has met user demand - demand for a multimedia messaging app that gives privacy-conscious users the ability to communicate without leaving a trace* and without exhausting those shortening attention spans we keep reading about in articles we don't finish.

*Snapchat messages aren't as ephemeral as we once thought; turns out the data is saved and the government can access it.

Now everyone's playing copycat: Tinder introduced its Moments feature and Facebook, which failed in its takeover bid and its first imitation messaging app, now has Slingshot, its latest effort which was accidentally released on the App Store before it was ready. Whoops!

Brands onboard

Once established as a massively popular user-to-user sharing app, Snapchat caught the attention of brands looking to take advantage of a new social marketing channel and a captive audience. But these have been pretty much exclusively consumer brands, with companies like Taco Bell and fro-yo joint 16 Handles enjoying the most user participation in flash offers and show-to-claim coupon snaps that suit the ephemeral format to the ground.

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Politicians and sports brands are also now using Snapchat to give followers behind-the-scenes content. Senator Rand Paul took to the network like a very awkward fish to water (see his "funny" viral share below), and the New Orleans Saints have been using the Stories feature to bring fans closer to the action.

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The point is, we can't find one example of a B2B company using Snapchat. To figure out why that is, we need to look at the app's features and who makes up its user base.

So how does it work?

The app's features can be broken down as follows:

  • Image and video messaging: the bread and butter of Snapchat, these can be sent to as many of your contacts as possible, for up to 10 seconds and with optional custom edits.
  • Text: add some text to accompany your image/video. Activate advanced fonts for bigger, bolder text and greater control of its position on the screen.
  • Draw: select different colours and apply some artistic flair (see example below).
  • Smart filters: these enable you to add rarely useful data such as date and temperature to your snap (why?) and more fun visual filters. 'Instagram' your snaps by applying various contrast and colour filters. The black and white one, for example, accentuates the boyish good looks of our model David "Triceps of Steel" Jamieson, below.
  • Replay: enables you to replay just one snap every 24 hours. Another step away from ephemerality, the replay option can be a useful tool for businesses snapping coupons for redemption in-store.
  • Stories: this feature gathers all your snaps posted in a 24 hour period into one long Story that can be viewed by all your contacts. The length of the Story varies as snaps expire and more are added, and this feature sees Snapchat veering towards a more fixed news feed-style setup. It also offers more opportunities for brands, as we'll see.
  • Instant messaging: this private messaging feature enables users to have text conversations that vanish (unless deliberately saved) and also live video chat. A flashing blue icon tells you when you're both viewing the conversation.

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Who are the users?

No one quite seems to know how many Snapchat users there are, but we do know that a typical user is between the ages of 13 and 25, is more likely to be female, and takes lots of selfies. At last count a whopping 400 million snaps were sent daily.



Unfortunately, at the moment there is no way for brands to effectively track engagement analytics on any decent scale. This lack of meaningful metrics is certainly a red flag for marketing directors and CFOs looking for proven returns, especially when it comes to such new, unchartered territory. But surveys have given promising glimpses into users' openness to marketing: 45 per cent of American college students said they would open a snap from a brand they didn't know; 73 per cent said they'd do the same for a brand they were familiar with.



How are brands using Snapchat?

  • Offering special deals and discounts: e.g. Karmaloop.
  • Giving sneak peeks or launching products: e.g. LeBron James' endorsement of McDonald's.
  • Running competitions
  • Sharing exclusive, behind-the-scenes content: e.g. the New Orleans Saints.

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To B2B or not to B2B?

There are a few factors that may explain the dearth of B2B brands on Snapchat. Firstly, the young demographic; secondly, the (for the most part) ephemeral and tricky-to-leverage format; thirdly, the fact that many old-school marketers are more fond of using words like leverage than they are of blazing trails in unknown digital territories.

The slow pickup is understandable, but there's a growing sense that self-destructive marketing isn't brand suicide. After all, when Twitter users spend more time on the home page than on individual company pages, how permanent is a tweet in a crowded feed, soon to be squeezed out with the next refresh? And with the development of Snapchat features like Stories, there's growing potential for brands to promote company and product news, give behind-the-scenes peeks and generally encourage consumers to get to know a more personal, fun side of a business.

It will take investment of time and resource, but more businesses will aim to prove Snapchat to be a viable marketing channel. Lasting relationships can be founded on fleeting communications, and it's unlikely Snapchat will be a B2B marketing ghost town for long.

Quick tips

  • Use your other social networks to encourage existing followers to connect on Snapchat.
  • Give followers unique content, be that special offers or sneak product previews.
  • Make Snapchat your consumers' gateway to behind-the-scenes action: share event videos or a video tour of your office.
  • Use the Stories feature to make longer promotional sequences like TV adverts. Taco Bell have done this well.
  • Don't rely on audio when sending video snaps: there's a good chance users won't have the sound on, or they'll be somewhere where they can't hear you.
  • Don't try to be cool. I'm looking at you, Rand Paul.
  • Don't be alarmed if you get sexted: there's a chance some naughty snappers will send you an eye-full. When Lynx promoted an event to followers, they received some candid snaps in response. But instead of blushing they responded with an image of the new Lynx shower gel and a message to clean up their act and take a cold shower. Inspired!

Find this useful? Check out our post on B2B marketing on Reddit too!

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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