5 Snapchat hacks for small businesses

Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social networks out there, and is now used more than Twitter. There are over 100 million users including 30% of all US Millennials. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to join Snapchat, it just might be right now.

Big brands – from Amazon and the Food Network to celebrities like DJ Khaled and Kevin Hart – are already onboard the Snapchat train. Taco Bell, one of the first brands on the platform, ran a sponsored lens for Cinco de Mayo that earned 224 million views and has put together great organic content for Valentine’s Day, National Taco Day and more.

But between the expensive price tags for ad buys and the overall confusion behind the platform, small businesses have been reluctant to invest in a Snapchat strategy. Unfortunately, if you fall into this category you might be missing out on key opportunities on the platform.

Here are a few ways you can start using Snapchat to support your social media marketing plan.

1. Humanize your company.
Teens are using Snapchat to "be themselves" and brands should follow suit. Find ways to show off your company culture and the things people already love about you by sharing snaps to your account’s Story. Snapchat doesn’t need to be completely polished. Quick snapshots that give your fans a behind-the-scenes experience can do wonders.

Another way to humanize your company is through direct engagement with your followers. Find ways to encourage people to send you photos, and then respond with text or visual chats. You can even screenshot messages and then repost them on your story or your other social media channels. (I’d suggest asking them for permission before resharing.) Think of this as a "reverse Snapchat" approach.

Consider how different members of your staff can get involved, too. Encourage everyone to follow you, and if certain employees seem especially excited about it, offer them the chance to take over the account for a day so your fans can get the inside scoop on your brand.

2. Offer exclusive content and promotions.
People use and interact with Snapchat in unique and intimate ways. So what you post should feel the same.

Rather than sharing the same content that you post on Instagram or Facebook, reward your followers with content that is exclusive to the platform. This is easier than it might sound. For example, show your shop’s food being prepared in the kitchen, or take a quick video of your product photo shoot for a behind-the-scenes sneak peek of your creative process. This lets your fans see the process that went into that next Instagram photo, which can evoke a special feeling.

We love to be the first to hear about something, so whenever you can give your Snapchat followers an exclusive first look -- do it! And remember that it's all in the delivery. So instead of taking a picture of your printed coupon and posting, paint it onto a canvas to make it artsy and unique. They'll feel honored, will spread word and you'll gradually attract a larger following.

3. Buy sponsored Geofilters.
When advertising was first introduced on Snapchat, you only heard about huge brands like McDonald’s taking part. Besides being untried, it was also just too expensive for most brands to take advantage of.

On-Demand Geofilters now offer an inexpensive and (potentially) highly-effective opportunity for local small businesses to engage their audience with Snapchat ads. And when used effectively, they don’t even really feel like ads.

The easy-to-use dashboard walks you through creating or uploading a design (make sure you comply with the guidelines), mapping a geofence, choosing dates and times, and then paying for the ad. The amount you pay depends on the location size and amount of time you want the graphic to be available to users. You might spend $25 for a Geofilter around your store for one day.

The best time to take advantage of a geofilter is during an event—think grand openings, holidays, or even city-wide celebrations. The best way to make sure your audience uses the geofilter is to make sure they know about it. So promote the Geofilter on your other channels or put up signs in your store to let your customers know about it. You could also consider incentives, such as a prize for one random user who snaps a photo that includes the filter.

4. Expand your reach with micro-influencer takeovers.
Unlike other social mediums like Twitter and Facebook, Snapchat doesn’t recommend business accounts for users to follow. So one of the best ways to expand your fanbase on the platform is to tap other users’ audiences.

The easiest way to see how this works is to witness it for yourself. Spotify is one example that I enjoy. Follow their Snapchat account and start checking out their daily Story posts. Throughout a typical week, they’ll have half a dozen bands and singers come to their NYC office to play sets and meet with their team, and a lot of times the band will actually "take over" the account for a few hours, which accomplishes a few things:

  • Content generation – It takes the pressure off you creating content.
  • New followers – You can get a follower boost when the host promotes the takeover to their own account’s followers.
  • Exclusive content – Give your followers a unique and new perspective of your brand.

Small businesses can take this approach by focusing on micro-influencers. These everyday influencers are likely already in your contact list -- they’re your regulars who bring friends with them, your frequent social media commenters, and the trusted local experts who people look to for what’s new, tried and true. These local influencers carry more trust with the people you want to reach, and they might even be able to tell your brand’s story better than you can. Approach them with the fun and unique opportunity to "hijack" your Snapchat account for the day and schedule these power users to take over on a consistent basis.

5. Don’t forget to cross-promote.

Use your other channels to let people know about your Snapchat account. You can occasionally feature Snapchat teasers so your Facebook or Twitter followers will want in on the action. You can generate a scannable Snapcode here to use in these posts. Use a follow link, too, that looks like http://www.snapchat.com/add/YOURUSERNAME and allows mobile users to quickly add your Snapchat account as a friend.

As a final thought, don’t forget to tap the Snapchat "experts" around you for assistance. Snapchat’s interface is notoriously confusing which has led to slower adoption by older generations (which I’m assuming was intentional). If you’re not sure how to use some of the app’s features, just ask your kids or a teenager you know to show you the ins and outs -- and then you might just be the first of your friends (or peers in your industry) to join the Snapchat craze!