Snapchat Marketing: Your Ultimate Creative Guide
This guide to Snapchat Marketing is part of our Ultimate Guide series on social media video marketing best practices. Learn more about how harnessing the power of video marketing helps brand’s stand out on other platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to TikTok and Pinterest.
For an app built around ephemeral content, it may seem strange that Snapchat is one of the best social channels to get your video ads seen.
Snapchat’s unique focus on visual content—called Snaps—that can be watched for a limited time is what sets the platform apart from its video-oriented social competitors. An app like TikTok can be a supreme avenue to get your content seen and shared ad nauseum, but Snapchat leverages FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.”
It’s why the most active users on Snapchat are opening the app over 30 times a day. Multiply that by the over 249 million daily active users, and you’ll get a clear picture of the wealth of Snapchat marketing opportunities that exist to connect your brand with your target audience.
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There’s limitless potential for your team to build community and brand awareness, organically and authentically, by leaning into this insanely popular platform. This will be especially important as brands of all sizes look to enhance their Snapchat presence in the coming year.
This guide will give you an overview of Snapchat marketing strategy, the types of ad placements you can utilize, as well as creative best practices and tips to help keep your brand top-of-mind on this ephemeral social platform.
What is Snapchat? Platform Overview
Like so many social media platforms before it, Snapchat began on a college campus. First conceived as Picaboo in 2011 by Stanford students Reggie Brown, Bobby Murphy, and Evan Spiegel, the core functionality of the app has never really changed. When you share a Snap—whether it’s privately or publicly—the video or image will automatically disappear after it is viewed. There’s no way to record messages or save videos and pictures offline. What you see on the app is where it stays, if only for a brief moment.
The Benefits of Ephemeral Content
The user benefits of Snapchat’s unique approach to content are best expressed by co-founder Evan Spiegel:
“With most photo apps on the market advertising ways to make photos prettier or more stylized, we thought there was an opportunity to do something different. We wanted a place to share awkward selfies and funny photos with our friends. And after hearing hilarious stories about emergency detagging of Facebook photos before job interviews and photoshopping blemishes out of candid shots before they hit the Internet, we knew there had to be a better solution. Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion…to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.”
What the app gave its users at launch was a modicum of privacy and control over their content at a time when that wasn’t exactly possible. It became like a digital extension of passing notes during class. Now instead of discreet slips of paper shared behind a teacher’s back, they could relay those messages safely via Snapchat.
Snapchat’s ephemeral user experience is the reason why the app has exploded in the past decade, with over 4 billion Snaps created–and 18 billion viewed–everyday. Users flock to the app because it provides something no other social platform can: greater control over who sees their content, and for how long. Snapchatters don’t have to worry about cringy or embarrassing videos lingering around on the internet. On Snapchat, users can create personalized content that’s meant to be watched quickly, before disappearing even quicker.
As the social landscape becomes even more saturated with new apps and content, Snapchat continues to hold its own, thanks in part to its ever-evolving user base. They’ve developed a loyal following among Millenials and Gen Z who are attracted to the platform’s playfulness and ability to connect friends together. As we’ve seen since 2020, older generations are starting to get in on the fun too. Baby Boomers are even seeing an increased presence on the app in recent years.
Still, if you are a youth-oriented brand, or want to engage a wealth of young users, Snapchat is the channel to do it. It may even be the only platform you can reach some young consumers on because 1 in 3 Snapchatters aren’t found on any other social channel. At a time when privacy updates are changing the ways marketers target consumers, you need to rely on Snapchat video marketing as a new avenue to convert and retain diverse audiences that are becoming harder to reach.
Leveraging Emerging Trends
Beyond the conceit of ephemeral content—which has now been adopted by other social channels like Facebook and Instagram—the platform has leveraged two major emerging trends to continue establishing its own niche: AR (Augmented Reality) and Snap Originals. AR has been a huge boost to the app’s appeal, infusing the Snap environment with the spirit of imagination and experimentation.
Snap Originals, the platform’s vertically-aligned original TV-style programming, has grown in popularity. The diverse set of series—which include scripted, reality, and documentary-style shows—are increasingly appealing to the interests and content consumption habits of the app’s core demographic. Big-name celebrities like Kevin Hart and Will Smith already have shows on the platform. According to SocialMediaToday, we should expect to see Snapchat—and studios and publishers—put a greater focus on Snap Originals in 2021.
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Video Ads Bring a Riptide of Growth
Snapchat describes its ad platform as a way for brands to connect with consumers “that’s conversational, non-intrusive, and feels organic to the platform.” Since Snapchat’s audience is filled with the next generation of consumers, having a presence on the app will grow brand awareness and nurture loyalty with a young audience. If you capture their attention now, they are more likely to look to your brand as a leader in the future.
When Snapchat launched its ad platform in October 2014, its first official video ad was a trailer for the horror film Ouija. The sponsored content (known today as Single Video ads) acted like any other Snap (it disappeared after viewing) but what the experiment really did was prove the power of the platform. According to Universal Pictures, the trailer netted millions of views, helping push the film to the top of the box office when it opened later that month. Universal realized that the film’s target audience lived and breathed on the app, so rather than having audiences seek out their content, they took the content directly to them.
The successful experiment emboldened Snap to continue growing its offerings to include a suite of placements that help any brand—regardless of size—reach the audiences that matter the most to them.
One of the biggest reasons why you need to be advertising on Snapchat is that it’s establishing itself as a full-funnel solution for any brand or organization, regardless of its size. But as a budget-conscious marketer, you may be asking yourself, “How much is this all going to cost?” With proper planning, not as much as you may think.
Snapchat says that “Businesses of all sizes can launch advertising campaigns on Snapchat with as little as $5 a day” but that price will increase based on a number of factors, from your objectives, campaign duration, and marketing goals.
Let’s dive deeper into Snapchat’s video marketing ad placements to help you get the wheels turning on how to cost-effectively harness the power of video marketing on the app.
RELATED: Snapchat Video Ad Specs & Placements
Snapchat Ad Specs and Placements Types
As the platform continues to grow and diversify its over 200 million daily active users, it should be abundantly clear why Snapchat video marketing must be a major pillar of your social media strategy.
All of its uniqueness aside, Snapchat does share one major commonality with the other social media platforms that marketers love. If you want your brand to stay on the cutting edge of what trends are hot in social media’s saturated content landscape, you must prioritize generating a stream of fresh, relevant video ads, optimized for performance, to make an indelible impression on your target audiences.
Here are the four main Snapchat video marketing ad placements your brand can leverage with high-quality video content.
Snapchat Single Video placements are fullscreen video ads that appear in between or after various content, including User Stories, Publishers, Creators, and Our Stories.
Single video ads are great ways to grow brand awareness and drive engagement. Snapchat allows you to add attachments to your videos that act as call-to-actions, driving the viewer off the platform to visit a website, download an app, watch a long-form video, or interact with an AR lens. Because this placement appears full screen, viewers will only see one video ad at a time, meaning your content will get a user’s full attention. Be aware that these videos can be skipped, so prioritize a thumb-stopping hook to keep your audience engaged.
Video Ad Specs
- Aspect ratio: 9:16
- Max file size: 1 GB
- Video length: 3 to 180 seconds. Snapchat recommends video lengths of 3-5 seconds for this placement. If you’re including an offer, it’s recommended that you mention it within 2 or 3 seconds to drive action.
- File type: .mp4 or .mov and H.264 encoded
Avoid placing logos, text, or graphic elements in the top and bottom 150px as they will interfere with app elements. Snapchat also warns of prompting any swiping behavior, especially within attachments like web view. You don’t want a Snapchatter to accidentally swipe out of your content!
Snapchat Story Ads
Snapchat users can find new content via the Discover tab in the app. Snapchat Story Ads allow advertisers to place a branded tile in the Snapchat Discover section that opens into a “chapterized” collection of 3-20 images or videos, creating a branded content experience. This placement lets you take your customer on a journey, telling them a story while showcasing your product or app.
Video Ad Specs
- Aspect ratio: 9:16
- File size: 1 GB per single video
- Video length: 3 to 10 seconds per single video for a maximum total of 180 seconds
- File type: .mp4 or .mov
Want to energize your audience even more? Try a UGC-style (User Generated Content) video where the talent is talking directly to the camera to increase view-through rates. For a more low-lift approach, consider repurposing Single Video ads and including them as part of a Snapchat Story Ad. Unlike other ad placements, Story ads do not support attachments.
Consider using stop-motion animation as a strategy to quickly grab a viewer’s attention.
Snap Originals is Snapchat’s in-house creative studio that publishes long-form original fiction and non-fiction programming designed for mobile consumption.
According to Snapchat, Snap Originals reaches 75% of the U.S. Gen Z population. The Commerical’s ad placement will appear between Snap’s curated content and games.
Because Commercials appear in a different content experience than other placements within the app, you have the potential to reach a wider assortment of audiences who primarily use the app for Snap’s original content.
Video Ad Specs
- Aspect ratio: 9:16
- File size: 32 MB or less
- Video Length: A Standard Commercial placement is 3 to 6 seconds long and non-skippable. An Extended Play Commercial is 3 to 180 seconds long—only the first 6 seconds are non-skippable.
- File type: .mp4 or .mov and H.264 encoded
- Creative must be live-action, motion graphic, or stop-motion animation. Brand creative feels natural in this environment.
- Videos must have sound
Commercials on Snap Originals programming are the only non-skippable video placement available on the platform. This means you have the chance for your advertisements to tell a fuller story, with a beginning, middle, and end.
That said, a fuller story doesn’t mean a more complex one. Snapchat recommends keeping your narrative simple, creatively revealing a “payoff” by the first five seconds to keep viewers engaged.
Like Single Video ads, you can include attachments with Commercials, but they are restricted to just Web Views, Long Form Videos, and AR Lenses.
Snapchat lenses, not to be confused with Snapchat filters, are an Augmented Reality ad placement that allows users to play and interact with brand creative. Lenses are the perfect placement to increase visibility and encourage further engagement with your target audience. This ad type allows brands to harness the unique playfulness of augmented reality through a singular brand experience.
This is the most interactive placement Snapchat offers as it turns your message into an immersive experience, blurring the lines between native video content and sponsored advertisements. Know that lenses require your brand name or logo to be visible on-screen; the benefit is that when Snapchatters share a video made with your lens, your brand identity will be shared along with it.
There are two main types of lenses:
- Face Lenses
- This lense recognizes the user’s eyes, mouth, and head, transforming their faces into creative characters like puppies or aliens. These can also be used for Snapchatters to test out products virtually, like trying on new jewelry from a fashion line or a pair of glasses from an eyewear eComm store.
- World Lenses
- This lens uses the same technology as Face Lenses to transform the real-time environment in a regular Snapchatter’s lens. The user can use their rear-facing camera to superimpose AR on the video, like placing popular characters into your everyday surroundings.
This face lens QuickFrame created for McDonald’s demonstrates the unique ways lenses can inspire creative interaction.
Snapchat Marketing Best Practices
With such a distinct focus on inspiring creativity in their users, when marketing on Snapchat, your campaign ads must be visually dynamic and appealing to grab the viewer’s divided attention. To help their content creators ideate campaigns, Snapchat for Business put together a list of the best practices they personally preach. Those high-level insights include:
- Your Product is the Star. Put your product front and center into your ad creative so that viewers know instantly what you are promoting.
- Drive urgency: Front-load your videos with relevant messaging that inspires users to act and engage with your ad.
- Sound-on Experience: Sonic elements are important on Snapchat, so utilize creative sound to make your videos feel relevant and native to the platform.
- Lean Into Links: Add relevant attachments to your Snap ads to drive conversions and engagement, whether it’s through a link to an online store or an app install.
- Leverage Audience Insights: Use the analytical capabilities of Snapchat to have a well-rounded understanding of the audiences you’re reaching. This will be vital as data privacy changes go into effect later in 2021.
We’ve identified a few of our own creative best practices that can further support your Snapchat marketing strategy and campaign objectives.
Adopt a UGC Campaign Look
Snapchat is a platform built on user-generated content, so if your creative concept involves on-screen talent, take a UGC-style approach. Focus your creative on making ads that feel like they were created for the app. This kind of content speaks in the visual language of the platform, which is key to appearing native and retaining users’ attention.
When casting on-screen talent, have your target audience in mind. Talent that reminds users of themselves will perform better because it inspires relatability and authenticity.
This video from Betterment took a UGC approach to make their ad feel native while demonstrating the benefits of their offering.
Keep It Simple and Short
Out of any social media audience, Snapchatters probably have the shortest attention spans. This isn’t to say that they are a distracted audience—rather, immediate payoffs and instant gratification are a hallmark of the platform.
Snapchat is a fast-paced environment focused on microcontent. That means the sweet spot to drive action on the platform is 0:03 – 0:05. But short and simple doesn’t need to be boring! Combine seconds-long story arcs with visual pizzazz to capture attention and delight your audience.
This video from Omaze shows how b-roll and still photography with animation can enhance your ad creative and make it pop.
Be an Early Adopter of Snap Originals
With an expected increase in investment of the offering, Snap Originals is poised to grow significantly in the coming years.
Ad placements on Snap Originals include a First Commercial buy launched in 2020 that ensures your ad will be the first a user sees on any Snap show they watch. Because Snap Originals are a TV-style viewing experience, users are conditioned to expect advertising, making it a welcome environment for branded content.
Snap Originals also have high production value, so high-gloss creatives feel natural here in a way that might feel foreign in other parts of the app.
Snap Originals are hospitable to traditional brand creative, optimized for a vertical 9×16 orientation to feel native to the app.
Test Different Content Types and Styles
Just like the ephemeral nature of its content, trends on Snapchat disappear as quickly as they appear. As the platform’s dominant creative styles are in a constant state of flux, your brand must always retain the core creative ethos of Snapchat: a sense of play.
Embrace experimentation in your creative approach on the platform by trying various content types and styles. Snapchat is hospitable to pretty much the whole array of visual styles—from live action and animation, to AR.
Adopt a test-and-learn approach to find which content formats and styles resonate most for your brand with your particular audience.
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Drive Performance with Creative Testing
The goal of a modern-day video marketer is to create a platform- and audience-specific assets for every campaign they run. This couldn’t be more true than on Snapchat. Its ad placements have the potential to capture a wide assortment of users, just so long as you are creating videos that will resonate with your core audience.
Fine-tune your creative approach on Snapchat with a multivariate performance marketing testing plan. The insights you surface from your testing plan will help you shape and sharpen your creative for future campaigns, increasing your ROI in the long run
Additional Snapchat Marketing Creative Best Practices:
- Be Sensitive: The past year has been a hard one, and we’re not yet out of the woods. Be sensitive to consumers’ mindsets and rethink your value props to fit contemporary lifestyles.
- Be Authentic: Have you ever seen the meme “How Do You Do, Fellow Kids?” If you are a brand, this meme personifies everything you should not do when attracting an audience. It’s imperative that your brand remains authentic, especially for younger demographics. If what you are putting out there smells phony, your audience will be the first ones to sniff it out—especially on Snapchat.
- Put Fun First: Playfulness is a hallmark component of the platform. Keep your creative light-hearted, fun, and to the point.
- Remain Present: Don’t let your brand bounce from the platform after one creative. Snaps’ core demographics are loyal followers, with 32% of users not found on any other app. If you want to capture their attention, your brand must push to have a commanding presence on the app.
Snapchat Marketing: The Takeaway
Teens that use Snapchat have grown up in an era where media and technology have shorter life cycles. From the revolving door of new social platforms and iPhone models, young generations have a keen understanding of the phrase “nothing lasts forever.” On Snapchat, that idiom is practically a rallying cry.
But with a consistent and engaging video presence on the platform, you can make sure your brand message doesn’t disappear from a viewer’s mind as quickly as a Snap.
As the world turns a corner past the COVID-19 pandemic, Snapchat can be an impressive channel for your brand to stand out in “the next normal.” Use your video ads brand messaging to reach a wide range of audience demographics, setting yourself as a creative leader as consumers gain spending potential and fall back in love with their favorite brands and products.
The wide net that can be cast with Snapchat video ads will also be vital in the coming changes to data privacy set to rewrite the social media marketing and mobile advertising playbook. It’s going to be a bit of a wild west for a while, but by leaning on the unique targeting capabilities of video marketing, your brand will be able to surface creative insights that will give you a clearer picture of the wants and needs of your audience.
In the highly competitive content landscape of social media, Snapchat is the ideal platform to break through the noise, scale your audience, and make a mark. Be bold in your creative strategy and invest in your brand voice and image to establish a hallmark experience that consumers can associate with your brand. Combine that with a creative eye hungry for innovation and you can start generating mesmerizing, high-performing video content with a low cost of video production that will give your organization an advantage in our rapidly evolving digital world.
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