Snapchat and Instagram in 2017: What Marketers Need to Know
When my local AMA chapter asked me to lead a breakout session at an upcoming workshop on Snapchat and Instagram, I was of course delighted. These two platforms represent the leading edge of content marketing in 2017, and it’s important that we all understand how they serve our marketing objectives.
Before I go any further, I’ll share the presentation with you. Take a flip-through and join me below to get the scoop on these two dynamic and rapidly evolving platforms.
Signs of the Times
The first thing my breakout group talked about was how these two platforms represent the evolving practices and expectations of social audiences.
Both focus on visual content. Photos and video are taking over the social web, and both Instagram and Snapchat are built around the sharing of that social content.
Both emphasize “in the moment” marketing. Ever try to pre-schedule a Snap? You can’t. Instagram allows scheduled posting to some degree through apps like Later, but these apps only sends you an alert when the post is due; you still have to make the final tap.
So, what does this mean, other than a pain in the badonkadonk for busy marketers who’d rather set it and forget it? I believe it’s a reaction against the “campagn-ization” of the social web. Today’s users want to see real, raw, present-moment content, not canned messages that were uploaded two weeks earlier.
Both embrace “ephemeral content.” Now that Instagram has created Instagram Stories (more on that below), we had to come up with a term for content that disappears in 24 hours, and “ephemeral content” seems to be the moniker of choice. As one attendee pointed out, it’s the social web’s way of tapping into FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). In other words, if users aren’t checking out your ephemeral shares on a daily basis, they could be missing out on some golden content for good.
Snapchat: What Marketers Need to Know
Many of us think of Snapchat as a newish platform, but it actually came on the scene back in 2011, quietly chugging along until its moment arrived.
The other key date in Snapchat’s history is 2014. That was the year Mark Zuckerberg offered Evan Spiegel $3 billion for his quirky little platform. Spiegel declined, and that decision is coming back to haunt him. Stay tuned …
According to the latest research from Mediakix, 60 million people in America currently use Snapchat, and 60 percent of those folks are between the ages of 13 and 25. So yeah, it’s a young user base, but it’s evolving:
- The number of users 25 and older is growing at twice the rate of younger age groups.
- 50 percent of new users are over 25.
- Snapchat users over 25 access the app 12 times a day and spend an average of 20 minutes interacting with the platform.
Snapchat: What Marketers Love
If they have the stomach for in-the-moment content, marketers find plenty to love about Snapchat. The ephemeral nature of a snap, for example, gives marketers the freedom to play and experiment, because hey, it’ll be gone in 24 hours. (Be warned: People can still take screenshots, so don’t get too crazy.)
But what marketers love most about Snapchat are the geofilters. Brands can (for a fee, of course) create filters that automatically pop up in certain places and at certain times, like this NBA filter for the Rockets-Thunder game:
Snapchat: What Marketers Hate
So, what do marketers find less than lovable about the little white ghost? Several things:
- Since there’s no context-based search function, users either need to know your precise handle or be able to snap your snapcode to follow you.
- There’s no liking, commenting, or sharing.
- The only data available is the total number of views for any given snap.
- Videos are limited to 10 seconds (although marketers have gotten creative about stringing together micro-videos to deliver a longer message).
- There’s no way to upload saved content; everything has to go through the camera.
Marketers to Watch on Snapchat
- Cisco (handle: WeAreCisco) has done a great job allowing “takeovers” by team members across the company to share snaps from their work lives.
- HubSpot (handle: hubspotinc) brings its signature goofy humor to the platform by sharing a daily dose of puns, like this one:
- IBM (handle: IBM) recently commemorated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by snapping a string of videos in which a deaf software developer led a tour of the company’s Accessibility Center.
Snapchat: To Sum Up …
- It’s perfect for connecting with younger audiences, although the user base is starting to mature a bit.
- Geofilters are an ideal tactic for creating buzz around events.
- Branded filters (like Starbucks’ recent Unicorn filter) let you place your brand in users’ real-time snaps.
Instagram: What Marketers Need to Know
Believe it or not, Instagram is just a bit older than Snapchat, having come on the scene in 2010. Unlike Snapchat, when Zuckerberg came calling, Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger didn’t say no, selling the platform for $1 billion in 2012.
Instagram’s latest numbers place its user base at 600 million, with 400 million daily active users. According to the Pew Research Center, 28 percent of all U.S. adults use Instagram, and 59 percent of those users are 30 and younger. However, one-third of users (33 percent) are in the 30-49 age group, a prime target for many marketers.
Instagram: What Marketers Love
Unlike Snapchat, Instagram allows users to upload saved photos, a blessing for marketers who like to share graphic messages, like my visual writing tips:
Like its owner Facebook, Instagram also offers marketers the chance to increase visibility by promoting, or “boosting” their posts.
Instagram: What Marketers Hate
Sure, there’s lots to love in Instagram, but not everything about the platform sets marketers’ hearts to flutterin’. For example …
- The Instagram desktop app is minimal (although Snapchat’s is practically nonexistent), forcing marketers to use the mobile app for uploads and other key tasks. Not a deal-breaker of course, but it can be frustrating.
- There’s no sharing function on Instagram, although users can share posts on Facebook.
- You’re free to share URLs in image descriptions, but they won’t be live links. Some marketers work around this by adding content-specific URLs to their bios and adding “see the link in my bio” to descriptions.
- As we mentioned before, there’s no pre-scheduling, although some apps will let you set up your post and send you an alert when it’s time to publish.
Marketers to Watch on Instagram
- Wells Fargo taps into the rich history of the company by sharing vintage photos.
- Intel highlights its drone technology by sharing eye-popping videos from Coachella and other high-profile events.
- MailChimp shares fun, creative depictions of its logo in whimsical formats. (Lite Brite, anyone?)
Instagram: To Sum Up …
- It’s perfect for targeting millennial audiences, especially women.
- It taps into a broader audience than Snapchat.
- It’s ideal for creating and expanding brand awareness; just don’t expect tons of traffic from it.
In Fall 2016, Instagram upped its game by launching Instagram Stores, a Snapchat clone that took the social world by storm. By January 2017, Instagram Stories had hit 150 million daily users, while Snapchat’s number of average unique viewers per story had decreased by about 40 percent.
To complicate matters further, in March 2017 Facebook launched its own Snapchat clone, Facebook Stories. (Remember what I said about Snapchat’s rejection of Facebook’s offer coming back to haunt them?)
Snapchat, however, is refusing to go down without a fight. Just a few days ago, the platform launched World Lenses, a unique augmented reality feature that adds 3D elements to any environment via your rear-facing camera.
With Snapchat, Instagram, and now Facebook all in the mix to dominate the ephemeral content market, who will reign supreme?
When I interviewed Frank Danna about this issue a few weeks ago on the Content Marketing Podcast, he pointed out that Instagram Stories didn’t just incorporate features people wanted — it homed in on the features Snapchat users have been asking for. If Snapchat is going to survive, it’s going to have to, as the Kinks say, give the people what they want.
And while I would never bet against Facebook, I have to wonder if Facebook Stories will find itself the odd man out in a space that may only have room for two. We’ve seen that the Facebook user base is aging, which begs the question of whether a critical mass of Facebookers will even care about this ephemeral content thing.
As the saying goes (or is it a curse?), “may you live in interesting times,” and today’s marketers certainly do. The best we can do is keep our eyes and ears open, identify opportunities early on, and give things time to work before we pass judgment.
Find out why Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, had this to say about The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN:
“A simple yet effective guide to an approach that most businesses get flat out wrong. Do yourself and your business a favor and take a deep dive into this book. You won’t regret it.”
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and author of the book The Content Marketing Coach: Everything You Need to Get in the Game … and WIN!