Why Snapchat Is Frustrating The Hell Out Of Marketers

Snapchat. It’s the darling of the social media world. Other social platforms want to be it (ahem, Facebook), and brands want to be on it. With 100+ million daily users, most of them highly coveted Millennials who are not yet jaded by the app’s relatively new ads, marketers’ ears are officially perked.

For brands with fairly deep pockets, that’s no problem. A minimum of about $50K opens the door to Snapchat’s suite of advertising products — video ads in Live Stories and Discover channels, custom geo-filters and the $650K-per-day branded face lenses.

But what about brands with shallow pockets? They can create their own organic presence on the app and go the traditional “earned media” route, consistently publishing content and gradually building a following.

This shouldn’t be too hard to manage, right? We’ve been doing it for years on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., but Snapchat presents a pesky set of challenges for brands itching to jump on board. 



It throws a wrench in processes

Brands and their agencies have gotten pretty good at managing social media. What was once incredibly messy, unchartered territory is now a well-oiled machine with processes that dictate who creates, reviews and ultimately approves content before it’s published. 

But this becomes incredibly difficult with Snapchat, where photos and videos can’t be created in advance and uploaded to the app when it’s time to publish. This means that the client or designated “approver” can’t see the final creative product unless they’re with the team who’s capturing the content. Sketches, storyboards, mock-ups or sample photos/videos might suffice, but brands will have to put a higher degree of trust in agency or influencer partners.

The alternative is brands managing Snapchat internally, as GrubHub and Benefit do. In theory, this removes several steps from the content development and approval process, but it also changes the client/agency relationship. Like brands deciding to take social community management in house in recent years, Snapchat has the potential to impact the degree to which brands rely on agencies for social execution.

It demands a different creative mindset

The irony of Snapchat is that it looks so easy. The content itself is, after all, fairly rough by traditional design standards.

Snapchat aside, the caliber of social media content coming from brands has improved; we’re getting better at efficiently creating Instagram photos and Facebook videos that strike that fine balance of looking just slick enough to get peoples’ attention but not so slick that it looks like a print or TV ad.

However, that level of production would not only look out of place on Snapchat, it’s also simply not possible. With only a mobile phone’s camera and the basic editing tools in the app, brands are inherently on the same playing field as every other Snapchat user. They need to largely ignore what type of content has worked for them on other social channels and put a lot of effort into looking effortless.

It’s off-limits for certain brands

For many brands, an organic Snapchat presence simply isn’t an option. Alcohol brands, for instance, have no way to ensure that underage Snapchat users don’t see their snaps (about 60% of users are under 24.) Without an account bio like those on Instagram or Pinterest, brands don’t even have the option of disclaimer language that states that their account is intended for users 21+.

Similarly, brands in highly regulated categories, such as financial services or healthcare, or those with very stringent approval protocols likely can’t take advantage of Snapchat in an organic capacity.

Those verticals aside, might Snapchat be a land grab for challenger brands? While big-name category leaders are fumbling to wrap their arms around the platform from an organic perspective, brands that aren’t hand-cuffed by processes and bureaucracies and are willing to roll up their sleeves are likely those that will succeed on Snapchat.

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