Snapchatter: is Snapchat worthwhile for your business?

In the digital age, where nothing is ever truly lost or forgotten, there is a peculiar sort of demand: a service that lets digital content exist and be viewed for a short time, after which it is completely erased from existence. That might seem unusual, since we love our backups and cloud storage and 3.5-inch floppy disks, but viewed as a service for young people, it makes perfect sense.

Teenagers and young adults have grown up with Facebook, and appreciate that everything they say exists forever, waiting to be discovered in the wrong context and make them look terrible. They also like to share photos of a certain variety with one another, and having that variety of photo exist forever is inherently risky business. Enter Snapchat, the love child of Facebook and those tapes from “Mission: Impossible” that melt/explode when they’ve been listened to once. Users upload photos, video and articles that are deleted within 24 hours and can carry on with their lives like the whole thing never happened.

As the service has become more popular, Snapchat has tried to leave behind its somewhat promiscuous roots (though the app frequently acknowledges that anything can be captured in screenshots) and is slowly becoming a mainstream service used by not only the 18-34 year old demographic (which is still the largest subset of users by a wide margin), but older adults, too. With more users pouring in, it’s only natural that marketing departments follow them onto the service.

Is it useful for your business, though? Like most social media matters, that depends on two very important questions:

Do you have an audience?

Building up an audience is key for any service, but the question still remains whether you’ve got an audience that’s likely to enjoy up-to-the-minute content (that also disappears), and whether you’re willing to pour time into building that audience up. Snapchat has plenty of users, but it’s not Facebook, and it’s not in every single pocket in America, let alone small town markets. That said, the “blink and you’ll miss it” nature of Snapchat makes for users that are more tuned in, and there’s the added benefit of having Facebook’s business-killing algorithms nowhere near your campaigns, both of which might make Snapchat effective as a marketing tool.

Do you have content that fits the service?

If you’ve got live events happening at your business that you want to make followers a part of, Snapchat might be right for you. Because posts come and go, there’s a more inclusive nature to Snapchat as a service — nobody wants to miss anything — and playing into that sense of community can be a lot of fun. It’s not likely that you’ll be planning any private content, but it’s also possible to use the service to set up secret sales and contests exclusive to your followers, and the come-and-go posting style allows for much more casual activity. Want to show your followers a behind the scenes look at your business, post video from the office Halloween party or get the company CEO to tell a joke to the audience? Snapchat’s perfect for that kind of loose, casual content.

Of course, the best way to tell if it’s good for your business is to download the app and give it a test drive. Snapchat is free at the App Store and Google Play, so just like the service itself, you can take a consequence free tour before getting invested (and after about 24 hours, all evidence of having ever done so will self destruct anyway).