Snapchat's marketing is clearly worthwhile, but it's unclear just how valuable it is.
Marketing Social Media

Does Snapchat Marketing Measure up against Other Social Media?

Nearly 18 months after it was first unveiled, Snapchat’s advertising platform has become a big hit among brands. Even outside of branded video ads, brands now realize the value of creating organic video for Snapchat marketing campaigns. With over 100 million daily active users who average 25 to 30 minutes of active screen time per day, the social network is far too large to be ignored.

But Snapchat video marketing isn’t like any other video advertising platform. Thanks to the unique design of the network, not to mention it’s high popularity among younger users, brands are forced to create custom content that features a vertical video orientation, which is how Snapchat displays its videos.

For resource-strapped marketing departments, that’s a headache that calls into question the value of building campaigns for Snapchat. A horizontal video is easily deployed to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and virtually every other major video player found online. Snapchat requires a unique approach to content, which increases the need for marketers to see strong ROI.

And that presents its own challenge: Many marketers don’t know how to reap all of that value from Snapchat, with limited analytics tools and a lack of understanding of what qualifies as valuable user engagement. The content and its display platform present unique rules and best practices to follow, and merely using Snapchat requires its own sort of fluency, sort of the same way how Twitter built its own language.

In other words, the value of Snapchat marketing is anything but clear-cut.

SnapchatTapping an Unknown Value

Certain aspects of Snapchat’s marketing potential are inherent to the platform and its features. Unlike other social networks, Snapchat has taken several steps to build a video delivery system that offers much more valuable views than what even the more established Facebook tools can offer.

Through Snapchat, for example, video views are always full-screen and developed for mobile users. Although a new feature allows for pop-up and autoplay videos, the majority of Snapchat video views are the product of deliberate user intent. The intentional nature of these video views is a key asset for the social network, because it suggests that every video view is the product of organic interest and engagement.

Snapchat’s videos also come with a limited lifespan, which some brands use to leverage urgency and immediate action. And while the vertical video might seem like a risk, Snapchat has proven it’s a critical asset, and a point of differentiation from other digital ad platforms; video completion rate on Snapchat is nine times greater than horizontal video views.

For all of this positive momentum, there are shortcomings. Snapchat has offered some tantalizing stats regarding the value of its video marketing solutions, but marketers are still working largely in the dark. Because Snapchat lacks effective analytics tools, it’s impossible to offer specifics on how individual campaigns perform, and whether brands are getting strong ROI from their efforts.

There are improvements in the works, including startup Snapchat analytics companies like Snaplytics, as well as Nielsen’s announcement that it will begin measuring Snapchat ad performance, per Marketing Land. That will provide some much-needed insight, but it’s unlikely to satisfy the appetites of marketers accustomed to advanced analytics solutions built into the platforms they’re using every day.

Broadening Beyond Millennials

Analytics isn’t the only obstacle facing Snapchat’s increased role in digital marketing. As the social network expands, its marketing opportunities will be dictated by its ability to expand its user base. As SocialTimes points out, the social network is growing faster than any other network in history. But much of that progress is coming within a select consumer base, as 63 percent of its daily active users are between the ages of 13 and 34.

For brands aggressively targeting this demographic, Snapchat marketing offers obvious value. But for brands targeting older generations, the benefits aren’t as clear.

Until Snapchat can prove that its active user base is drawing consumers from every major demographic, its marketing opportunities will continue to be viewed as niche: Incredibly valuable in targeting Millennial and Gen Z consumers, but largely irrelevant for older demographics.

Optimizing Video Marketing

Even in a future where users of every age and demographic flock to Snapchat en masse, there’s still work to be done on the part of marketers, and it might be related to the challenges faced in drawing a more diverse user base. To put it bluntly, many marketers simply don’t understand how to make Snapchat marketing work for them. They aren’t familiar with how users engage with content, and often don’t realize how much creative latitude they have in creating their own original content.

As Postano points out, many of the most successful Snapchat campaigns are the ones that use the channel to cut loose. It’s what users are looking for, and it’s the kind of social sharing that the platform is built to promote. Behind-the-scenes looks, goofy content, and relaxed interactions with consumers are what tend to excel on Snapchat, and brands that take too serious a tone may alienate their users by not matching the platform’s inherent tone.

Take, for example, this Star Wars marketing strategy, which won rave reviews for its promotion of the BB-8 toy:

A failure to understand the platform will almost always undercut its potential returns. Snapchat’s value becomes even tougher to pin down, since it lacks reliable performance metrics in addition to a foundation of brand marketers still familiarizing themselves with the platform, which doesn’t mean there’s not great value in Snapchat as a marketing platform. In fact, many experts would agree that it is already essential for brands, even as it continues to grow. But until marketers get more information to pin down ROI and shed light on their campaign performance, marketing on Snapchat will continue to be more a leap of faith than a tried-and-true practice.

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