Early this month Snapchat announced the arrival of its new Memories feature – an update to the existing app that will allow users to not only save their snaps easily, but also upload pictures directly from their camera roll. Although this is exciting news for many users, who will now find it easier to save and access their favourite selfies, the biggest cheers are likely to be heard from brands. Companies who may have previously struggled with the channel due to inhibitions around the creation of such raw and intimate content, now have the option to upload pre-planned, branded visuals. However, as tempting as it may be for these companies to jump aboard Snapchat’s wave of success, (the app now has around 150 million daily active users), it’s imperative that brands understand the premise of the platform, and don’t just think of it as another social channel within their marketing mix.

The home of authentic, real time content

Up until now, the nature of Snapchat meant that content shared had to be authentic – there were no options to dramatically amend images or footage, and these had to be captured using the app at the time of publication. This meant that the majority of snaps presented an actual reflection of a live experience – offering the viewer a chance to be a part of something that otherwise may have been impossible, and giving them a glimpse into someone else’s life.

Granted, this model meant it wasn’t easy for brands to succeed on the channel. Many have stayed away from the app, daunted by the challenge of creating in the moment content, or unable to publish posts that haven’t been pre-approved by a compliance or regulations team. But many of those who have tried their luck in the Snap-o-sphere have been forced to step outside of their comfort zones, drawing on the instinct and aptitude of their marketing teams to produce engaging content that fits well on the channel, and resonates with their target audience.

Making the most of Memories

The introduction of Snapchat’s Memories feature should enhance this kind of offering – and not replace it. The option to upload images and videos should be drawn upon when necessary, for example when approval for a particular story is needed, or to welcome new followers. Similarly, the ability to save certain snaps mean that they can be repurposed for use on other channels where appropriate, highlighting significant activities or encouraging community growth.

The danger in Snapchat’s latest update lies in brands simply viewing the app as a space for generic brand messages presented in a way that neither fits with or enhances the user’s experience on the app. When it comes to social, one size certainly does not fit all, and networking apps must be considered with as much individuality as channels such as print and television.

Part of Snapchat’s popularity is likely to have stemmed from the fact that content is so genuine and unadulterated. With this is mind, it’s likely that users may be sceptical of brands on the platform, and may need a strong incentive to add them to their list of friends. The only way to combat this is to really put emphasis on good quality content – and this doesn’t mean just replicating material used on Facebook.

If brands are using the channel, posts should be created in line with the app’s penchant for authenticity, and the user’s desire for short-form, easy-to-consume content. Some of the most prominent brands on Snapchat so far have invested in producing stories that put the viewer at the heart of an experience – offering them a glimpse behind the scenes, a first look at a new product, or insights from an influencer. Without investing thought in content generation, brands may find that they cannot amount a solid following on the channel, and could even experience a negative impact on their brand image.

That’s not to say that brands can’t reuse content on Snapchat – in fact, it’s likely that doing so could add credibility to their offering and improve their stories – but only if images/videos used are repackaged for the platform, relevant to the audience, and sit alongside custom material.

Pay to play

It’s worth remembering that brands don’t have to actually create their own account on the app to benefit from Snapchat’s captive audience. Organisations such as confectionary giant Mondelez have partnered with the app to create custom lenses featuring their products to raise awareness among platform users, as part of an overarching marketing campaign. The social messaging app also recently introduced in-snap ads – branded videos that autoplay between user’s stories, offering viewers the chance to interact with them in order to access more detail. On top of this, brands also have the ability to purchase Geofilters – branded artwork that can be added to snaps when users are in a certain area.

A focus on good quality content

With all these options, brands have no excuse to be use Snapchat’s Memories feature to position the app as just another outlet for generic branded communications. If acting as a publisher, a brand must consider what kind of snaps will be best to engage their audience, add value to their experience, and fit with the overall premise of the platform. Published content, be it real-time or repurposed using the new feature, should educate, entertain or enable viewers – without being overly promotional.

Alternatively, if a brand still struggles with this type of content creation, it may be better suited to using the channel as an advertising tool – paying for a place in the space where its target audience are choosing to spend their time. All in all, to truly harness the power of Snapchat, brands must honestly consider their offering, and place themselves as either a publisher or advertiser on the platform accordingly.

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