Confused by Snapchat? Check Out Our Top Three Tools and Learn How to Use Them

Snapchat Logo

The narrative isn’t even new anymore; a few college guys build an online messaging system from their garage aiming to revolutionize how users communicate.

In September 2011, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown created Snapchat, a temporary image and video messaging app for iOS, and now, Android. Over the past four years, Snapchat has evolved into a multimedia platform encompassing user-to-user images and video, chronological user stories, location-based public stories, and sponsored ad content, with over 100 million daily active users. Snapchat’s primary user base is young and highly engaged; 60 per cent of 13 to 34-year-old smartphone users use Snapchat, and 60 per cent of daily users create content every day. Businesses can use Snapchat in a variety of ways, including snap stories, sponsored lenses, and live stories.

Have we already lost you? Let’s do a quick terminology break down of what the kids are saying these days:

Snaps: pictures and videos taken on the users’ iPhone or Android camera that can be sent to certain friends of the user or posted to a story (see below).

Snap stories: a series of photos and/or videos posted by the user that can be viewed by all of the users’ friends in chronological order.

Lens: filters added on top of a users’ photo or video to distort or otherwise alter the image, a la Apple’s Photo Booth.

Live Story: chronological photos and videos taken by users, often in the same geographical region or featuring similar content, that are combined by Snapchat staff into a cohesive story.

Now that we are familiar with the terminology, let’s get down to business.

Snap Stories

Having a Snapchat account and posting snaps to a story is owned media, meaning the only costs associated are production-based. Snap stories have proven to be an effective tool for reaching consumers, as 48 per cent of users view snaps and/or stories from brands at least once daily.

Soul Cycle posted this snap to their story on July 7

Soul Cycle posted this snap to their story on July 7

Snap stories, including rapid-fire Q&As, behind-the-scenes moments, and more personal content appeal to a young demographic. The fleeting nature of Snapchat also means this platform is ideal for sneak peaks into product launches. Users of this platform are drawn to learning more about the ‘inside scoop’ but want it delivered in a short period of time. If a brand can deliver that, there is further motivation for the user to engage with the company.

Soul Cycle, for example, invites instructors and staff to ‘snap’ their day and share it to the Soul Cycle Snapchat account. Instructors share their pre-workout playlist curation, post-workout snacks, and Q&As with riders and other staff about favorite music and spinning ‘moves’. By sharing the personal lives of their instructors, Soul Cycle is building relationships, and in turn, loyalty and trust with their clientele.

Keep in mind that sharing the same content on Snapchat that was posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media won’t be effective. Snapchat demands an authentic and realistic insight into the company, as opposed to the more curated content typically shared on other social media platforms.

Sponsored Lens

On June 29, Disney's The BFG sponsored a Snapchat filter

On June 29, Disney’s The BFG sponsored a Snapchat filter

As described above, a Snapchat ‘lens’ is a filter placed on top of a users’ photo or video to further enhance the content. When a company buys a lens, a custom-designed filter will be available for Snapchat users to overlay on top of their photos and share with their friends. Sponsored lenses are unique because they engage the user with the product or service.  They place the brand within the user’s daily life and experiences and prompts the user to share the brand’s story. This form of advertisement is more effective than simply scrolling past or absentmindedly watching an ad. So far, Snapchat’s sponsored lenses have been popular with movies’ opening weekend; users can post a photo with a custom lens similar to the movie’s promotional poster and share it with their friends.

On World AIDS Day in 2015, Snapchat partnered with (RED) to create a lens that would benefit in the fight against AIDS. Every time a user sent one of the 3 unique lenses to their friends on Snapchat, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $3 to (RED). The campaign experienced tremendous success, with over 14 million Snapchatters getting involved, including celebrities like Jared Leto and Jimmy Kimmel, who helped to create the lenses. The campaign raised both money and social awareness about AIDS, especially within the younger demographic. The campaign also had further effects, as users were 90 per cent more likely to donate to (RED).

RED Snapchat Lenses

The 3 filters created in partnership with (RED) for World AIDS Day in 2015 via

Snapchat also provides the opportunity to take sponsored lenses one step further and allows brands to create sponsored geofilters, or lenses that can only be accessed in specific locations. Examples range from small scale areas like stores and restaurants to larger scale areas like cities and national parks. Geofilters are a great way to increase engagement while visiting a specific location. Retail brands struggling to see in-store presence can use a geofilter to merge traditional and digital spaces. Tourists also find geofilters appealing as they are a unique visual way to share where they are visiting.

Attendees of Toronto’s Blue Jays baseball games can access the custom geofilter exclusively from the Roger’s Centre. Just before and throughout the game, a filter with the live score of the game and a custom-designed filter of a cartoon pitch is available to users. Like the sponsored lenses, the Blue Jays geofilter can be shared user-to-user or user-to-friends through his or her story.

Live Stories

Live Stories Picture

The ‘News’ Live Story is displayed below the Eurotrip Story after it is viewed

Live Stories are a collection of images and videos recorded by users that are then combined into a single story. Stories are made visible by geographic region and can range from red carpets to sporting events to conferences. As Live Stories are curated by users, companies don’t need to dedicate time or money to producing content. Further, the inclusion of user-generated content increases the story’s authenticity, which is key to Snapchat and social media in general, as it is difficult to differentiate between user and brand content unless it is highly stylized. The Oscars, Coachella, and the NHL Draft are a few examples of Snapchat Live Stories.

Clearly there are many ways to use Snapchat to promote brands and businesses. Whichever method suits your company best, the most important quality is authenticity. The more ‘insider access’ and raw footage provided, the more engaging users will be.

Do you use Snapchat regularly? What are your favorite features? And finally, how is Snapchat used differently by brands compared to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and any other social media sites?

(Posted by Megan)


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