This blog post is intended to delve into one of the more ridiculous and popular social media crazes of the past five or so years: Snapchat. It’s so stupid. But it’s also my everything. 

Snapchat is possibly the weirdest social media trend in history. It is self indulgent, intrusive, impractical, and I am still wholeheartedly addicted to it. I would like to think I am above having a conversation with someone based entirely around selfies, but here I am, a social media cultivated narcissist who is unable to stop.

I have been asked by plenty of people (admittedly, mostly my parents and people that are around their age) what Snapchat is and what the appeal of it is. It’s hard to come up with a response for this.
I was introduced to Snapchat by a classmate of mine in my sophomore year of college. I remember the exact moment— we were in a math class for “creative” students (that was their way of saying, please at least understand how multiplication works) and my friend downloaded the app on my phone and explained it to me. This memory is so vivid for me because it was an incredibly distinctive WTF moment. An explanation of this app is the first hurdle in understanding it.

What it is (I guess):

If you ever want to play a fun game with a Snapchat user, ask them to describe what it is out loud. Even if they are able to nail down a definition, it is likely to sound pretty ridiculous. My attempt at it went as follows:

You are able to send pictures to people for up to ten seconds at a time and you can write messages on the pictures or draw on top of them. You can also send normal chat messages but those don’t save either. Most people use just the photo messaging. Then your “story” is your way that you can send a 10 second picture message to all of your contacts.

It sounds like gibberish reading it back, yet I I summed it up as succinctly as humanly possible. Even the app description sums up Snapchat as the following:

Enjoy fast and fun mobile conversation! Snap a photo or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend. They’ll view it, laugh, and then the Snap disappears from the screen – unless they take a screenshot!

Great. Sounds really practical, right? People joke that Snapchat is best used inappropriately, sending pictures and messages that one would not want saved or held on to for very long. This isn’t untrue— it’s the perfect way to be safe and sneaky so long as the messages go to the correct person. However, what seemed like an app for sneakily sending certain types of “pics” and messages that would surely need to never be seen again has taken up popularity for, well, everybody in my social media obsessed generation. 

How it’s relevent for people in marketing:

Snapchat is highly personal and gives a lot of focus on the user, which is why I think millennials like it. I don’t want to generalize every millennial as an attention-loving, over-sharing, addicted-to-social-media crack addict. That being said, a large chunk of us fall into this mold. For the most part, a sense of individuality and intrigue is what keeps us addicted and coming back. So posts go on Snapchat— a series of selfies, videos, and pictures of whatever someone may choose.
But here’s the marketing element: Snapchat includes a fun little feature that may make it more interesting to those seeking to market through it— filters.

These bad boys are a relatively recent addition to Snapchat, showing people their location and Snapchat-designed artwork that goes along with it. Malls have filters. So do airports. So do music festivals. A filter reminds someone of their location and their proximity to a certain business or neighborhood. It brings a name to a person’s attention that it may not have before. It also makes something as simple as a location fun and interactive for the app user.

In addition to filters, there’s one other way that Snapchat brings in outside sources that are shared with all users— it’s a live “story.” Users, or the people behind the events being shared are able to post pictures and videos that every Snapchat user receives. Users are able to choose whether or not they open it. That being said, chances are they may be curious. Here is an example of what the current live feed is as I create this post. 

The series of snaps included in a live feed are all centered around a particular place or event. The app basically becomes a mini publicist as it takes businesses and events by storm and updates users on them in real time. All the snaps used are positive, fun-loving, and likely to feature those ever present filters. Even Jeb Bush’s campaign is featured up there (I checked it out and that is for sure one person I would never expect to be on Snapchat.)  It costs a bit of money and sponsorship, but the live stories get names out there and they give a certain je ne sais quoi of cred to the subjects featured.

This is where Snapchat is insanely helpful to those trying to market. That cred that shines through this admittedly dumb and addicting app. The way to take on social media marketing is to infiltrate what is used daily. Someone’s brand or even their community presence can enter the mind of the millennial (and younger) through this app. 

So I suppose, that’s why this is important. The app is pretty ridiculous, I will give you that. But it’s changing the way that we are communicating — constantly updating and giving live feeds of our day to day life. It’s one of the most real forms of social media in the sense that it’s constantly being used in very personal ways, showing us the way that we hope to be shown.