If you’ve read Mary Meeker’s recent Internet Trends report, you already know Snapchat has become the second-largest social network and its growth shows no sign of slowing.
To many content marketers, Snapchat is an enigma. It’s both an app and a social network — with behavior that’s markedly different than what you’d typically see elsewhere. Also: the posts are ephemeral, and engagement tracking is virtually non-existent. Unless you have upwards of $700,000 to throw down on a sponsored filter, Snapchat is a tough nut to crack.
Luckily, while most brands have been tight-lipped about what’s worked for them, publishers and broadcasters have been freely sharing their successes and failures. Here’s what I’ve been able to glean from public comments made by The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera and MTV:
Be laser focused
Surprisingly, the decidedly unhip Wall Street Journal was an early participant in Snapchat Discover. For the uninitiated, Snapchat Discover allows users to view a collections of snaps — called editions — that are largely published by media outlets. Early on, the WSJ was releasing editions that contained eight disparate stories. But social media editor Sarah Marshall told Digiday they quickly recognized they were editorially taking the reader in too many directions. The WSJ has since zeroed in on stories relating to three key verticals: business, markets and technology.
Get to the point quickly
Marshall also commented that the WSJ was wrong in their assumption in how long they had to tell a story. With top snaps being capped at 10 seconds, the WSJ editorial team figured they had 10 seconds to tell a story. What they learned, however, was that users swiped through snaps very quickly, so a strong upfront hook was required to keep viewers engaged. Once they’d made adjustments to what they published — and how quickly they got to the point — the WSJ saw people spend around 30 seconds with each snap within an edition.
Snapchat isn’t Facebook
According a Mashable, Snapchat users are watching more than 10 billion videos a day. The mistake Marshall said the WSJ initially made was directly porting their Facebook video strategy to Snapchat. On Facebook, they were seeing high engagement levels with muted, captioned videos. This makes sense considering 85% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound off. On Snapchat, however, the video preference is completely different — more than 2/3 of all videos are watched with the sound on.
Serious content can work
International news network Al Jazeera has also been using Snapchat to deliver content. At first glance, it seems like an odd fit. While Al Jazeera is known for its hard-hitting journalism, Snapchat is commonly associated more with frivolous content. Ziad Ramley, lead social media producer, told Digiday the broadcaster decided to take a counter programming stance early on. The news org didn’t want to talk down to the Snapchat audience, it wanted to expose them to something new. This strategy has paid off according to the feedback they’ve received via comments.
Don’t assume video views will equal followers
One thing that Ramley cautions is you shouldn’t assume that lots of views will lead to tons of followers. When Snapchat prominently features Al Jazeera’s Live Stories, its content is watched by millions. But as recently as last week, Ramley stated their channel only has about 6,000 followers. This is what’s prompted the Al Jazeera team to be more focused on programming for its base vs. the entirety of Snapchat. While your results may vary, Ramley has identified a couple of sweet spots. For videos between 1 1/2 minutes and 2 1/2 minutes, Al Jazeera is seeing a 70% view-through rate. Also, when publishing snaps, Ramley has discovered that those with text throughout have up to a 90% retention rate.
Use other platforms to determine engagement
While Snapchat just announced a partnership with Moat to improve its reporting, a recent Adweek story shared MTV’s current workaround. While the broadcaster can tell how many people looked at a piece of content, the network wanted more qualitative insight. Noticing that much of its Snapchat audience was sharing screenshots of its content on Twitter, MTV started to record what people were saying. Producer Cory Midgarden said he takes it all with a grain of salt, as its Twitter audience is overwhelmingly positive regarding Snapchat content. While he commented that only 1 in 50 comments are negative, the response does allow them to understand what resonates with its most passionate followers.
Though its likely your brand won’t be launching a Snapchat Discover channel anytime soon, that doesn’t invalidate the insights from these media outlets. Many of their comments reveal how Snapchat users behave, something brand marketers have struggled to understand. In some ways, they even disprove commonly held stereotypes. So whether you’re a content creator just starting to embrace Snapchat — or a seasoned user looking to refine your efforts — what’s above should help eliminate the trial and error most brands go through as they determine how to utilize this hot property.
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