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When it comes to social media marketing and advertising, the top channels have long been Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Before this trifecta became cemented as the foundational pillars of social media marketing, the field was barely a thought for most companies.

Now, new major players are stepping in to try their hand at breaking the advertising norms and opening better ways for brands to communicate and engage with consumers. Instagram, Pinterest, and perhaps most surprisingly, SnapChat have all risen dramatically in popularity and have sported accompanying radical new approaches to advertising.

SnapChat is the most interesting of the group, in part because of its slowly expanding range of advertising services, and in part because of its previous position as a niche gimmick for teenagers. It’s truly come into its own, and now it’s leading a semi-revolution in advertising.

The Power of SnapChat

SnapChat has enormous power over young demographics. It currently boasts over 100 million daily active users, and that number is consistently growing. Over 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 38 are SnapChat users, with 37 percent of users falling between the ages of 18 and 24.

If you’re marketing to young people, there’s no hotter platform, so what is SnapChat doing to take advantage of this market?

Real-Time Content Consumption

Part of what has made SnapChat so popular is its penchant for real-time content creation and consumption. Its original format forced users to make and read “snaps” quickly; you can only send a snap just after you’ve taken it, and the people receiving it only have a handful of seconds to view it before the snap is gone forever.

This has created a unique mentality for the platform that ultimately ends up favoring advertisers:

  • Users are hungrier for content. SnapChat feeds into a kind of instant gratification that keeps users anticipating more and more content, especially since the bits of content they do receive are quickly and easily consumable.
  • Users pay more attention to content. With a built-in time limit, people on SnapChat have a higher tendency to really invest in the content they’re viewing, even if that content is advertising. Engagement rates on the platform are phenomenal.
  • There’s less white noise to worry about. Users don’t “filter out” as much content because SnapChat has produced a richer environment for its creation and distribution. Compare that to Twitter, which was become overloaded with spammy, fake, and empty messages in recent years.

Most marketers aren’t using a real-time strategy for their SnapChat advertising, but they’re reaping the benefits of the system nonetheless.

Vertical Videos

Jeep was a major brand that sparked headlines back in February, when it aired a vertically framed ad as its Super Bowl spot. Now, it has a SnapChat account, and is regularly posting vertical videos—like most other advertisers on the platform.

The move toward a vertical video is a significant departure from the norms of previous social media platforms and generations. Horizontal videos have been more popular, even though they’ve forced users to turn their phones to the side in order to view them, or else see a miniature version of the video.

The vertical angle, even though it mandates an entirely new approach to ad creation, works seamlessly with the existing social functionality of the app.

Nielsen Interest

Back in February, Nielsen announced that it would begin collecting data on videos viewed on SnapChat, to help brands compare their effectiveness in the social marketing realm to the world of television advertising. Currently, Nielsen is collecting data on videos in SnapChat’s Live Stories feed and in specific publishers’ Discover channels.

However, it plans to also integrate Sponsored Lens and Sponsored Geofilter ads eventually. It’s collecting and reporting on data like how many people viewed the ad, how long they viewed it for, and which demographics they belong to.

SnapChat already reports on much of this data, but the fact that Nielsen is getting involved is a sign that it’s a major platform worthy of third-party notice. It anticipates big things from SnapChat.

Challenges to Overcome

Even though SnapChat has done an impressive job at attracting a young demographic, challenging the norms of modern advertising, creating an environment with higher engagement rates, and earning respect in the broader advertising community, there are still some challenges for it to address:

  • Not everyone markets to youth. Part of SnapChat’s power is its ability to reach a younger generation, but not all businesses are interested in that generation. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube still dominate in markets over the age of 25.
  • The vertical video is unpredictable. Vertical videos seem “cool” and seamless now, but they may just be a fad dictated by the current shape of mobile phones. It remains to be seen how SnapChat may adapt.
  • No options for small businesses. In a Facebook marketing campaign, you can set a budget as low as a few dollars per day. That isn’t the case with SnapChat—it costs tens of thousands of dollars for most campaigns.

Looking to the Future

There’s no question that SnapChat is doing interesting things in the social advertising world, and it’s likely challenging its competitors to make similar strides forward.

However, there are still some major obstacles for the platform to overcome if it wants to establish itself as a new pillar in the social media marketing world. If you’re a current fit for SnapChat advertising, relish in it; otherwise, sit back and keep an eye on the platform as it inevitably continues to grow.

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