Advertising on Snapchat: What Marketers Need to Know

Pop quiz: In which digital space can you find the exact location of a friend, attend a virtual concert, send pics and texts that only last as long as you want them to, peruse digital content generated and shared just for specific audiences, and peek into the lives of celebrities? Snapchat, of course!

While the platform is sometimes dismissed a non-essential advertising channel, brands looking to reach younger audiences—as well as those seeking to be at the forefront of augmented reality (AR)- and metaverse-related activations—would do well to keep an eye on Snapchat. And while the app’s parent company, Snap, has been having an up-and-down couple of years from a performance standpoint, its AR-focused vision for the future and unceasing popularity with Gen Z and millennials offer distinct advertising opportunities to social marketers.

What led to this moment in Snapchat’s history, where does the app stands today, where will its future lead, and how can advertisers make the most of their Snapchat spend? Read on to find out.

A Snapshot of Snap’s Ups and Downs

Since it arrived on the market, Snapchat has seen some serious ups and downs (welcome to the wild, wild world of social media!) When it hit the app store in 2011, its offering was unique: Picture-based chat functionality that gave users the ability to limit the amount of time a recipient was able to see their message.

Snapchat then because first social app to popularize AR with the introduction of lenses in 2015, which allowed people to use a variety of filters that altered their appearance, has since fueled hours of wonder and hilarity as people experimented with making themselves look (arguably) more attractive (who remembers their flower crown filter era?), less attractive, and just plain ridiculous.

All together, Snapchat was the fifth most downloaded app of the 2010s—and Meta found that threatening enough to offer a $3 billion acquisition deal in 2013, which Snap declined.

Fast-forward to today: While the platform has continued to see strong user growth, its ads business has faced a turbulent past couple of years. 2022 was particularly difficult, as the company lost two of its top ad executives, laid off 20% of its employees and restructured, and saw its Q3 net losses almost quintuple year-over-year. Importantly, this didn’t happen to Snap in a vacuum—Meta and X (formerly Twitter) also experienced revenue losses, restructurings, and mass layoffs. And on the upside, Snap appears to have benefited from X’s decrease in traffic last year: while traffic to X’s ad portal decreased by 19% year-over-year in October 2022, traffic to Snap’s ad portal increased by 47%.

Even still, the core of Snap’s revenue troubles likely stem from the fact that Snapchat functions mostly as a chat app, which has made it harder to monetize with ads than it is for other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok.

So, does that mean advertisers should ignore Snapchat? Not at all! The app offers a consumer base that’s particularly engaged, with the average user opening Snapchat over 30 times per day and spending over a half hour on the app every day. And, when done well, Snapchat ads can prove particularly engaging: The travel app Hopper found that Snapchat users booked flights four times as often as customers brought to the app from other platforms. Even more, some exciting things may lie in store for Snap as it further differentiates itself with a renewed investment in AR.

Snapping Into Focus with Augmented Reality

As an AR pioneer, Snap is well-positioned to differentiate itself as a leader in the field. This could prove to be huge for the company (and for advertisers), as AR is set to explode in coming years:

While Snapchat’s current AR functionalities are mostly entertainment-focused, there’s significant room for development of more revenue-driving use cases, such as social commerce.

The big takeaway? While Snap has struggled to bring in consistently high ad revenue in recent years, the course it’s charted towards AR innovations could mitigate some of its struggles to monetize the platform. Of course, there’s a lot of uncertainty here, as these new AR features could take years to develop and refine. Still, for future-forward brands who want to be on the frontlines of advertising innovation while connecting with a highly engaged audience, testing and learning on Snapchat could pay off in a big way.

Snap up Revenue with These Snapchat Advertising Tips and Strategies

Let’s say you’ve made the decision to start working Snapchat ads into your marketing mix. What creative is most likely to resonate? How do you make the most of your investment? And how can you work Snapchat into your cross-channel campaigns? Read on for our top recommendations:

Make Your Snapchat Ads Blend In

Similarly to TikTok, Snapchat rewards advertisers who make their ads feel native to the platform’s specific environment. Snap recommends using ads that last for five-to-six seconds, don’t come off as overly polished, and are designed for users watching with sound on. Creative that features user-generated content (UGC) can be particularly impactful.

Take Advantage of Snapchat-Specific Features

Snapchat also provides several unique offerings that advertisers can leverage to take their campaigns to the next level. A few to consider:

  • Running short on time (or just looking to experiment with Snapchat with minimal effort)? Instant Create allows advertisers to automate the creation of an entire campaign by uploading a single picture or video.
  • Once you’ve got Instant Create down, try Advanced Create, which offers more granular options and a broader scope for customizing your campaign.
  • Tap into the Snap Audience Network (similar to Facebook’s Audience Network) to expand the placements of your ads beyond the Snapchat app in a privacy-friendly way.
  • If your business has a physical location, make sure to add it to the Snap Map so that users can see it when they peruse the map. You could even encourage Snapchatters to create UGC at your business to further raise exposure.
  • Keep an eye on Snapchat’s new My AI feature, which uses OpenAI’s GPT tech to create a chatbot experience for users. While no formal ad placements have been rolled out yet related to this feature, the company has started testing sponsored links, which the chatbot could include in the conversation when relevant.

Weaving Snapchat into Your Cross-Channel Campaigns

As with any advertising channel, your Snapchat spend will typically be most impactful when you’re leveraging the channel as part of a cross-channel—or better yet, omnichannel—campaign. With a cross-channel approach, advertisers can reach their audiences at complementary touchpoints in the spaces where they spend their time, providing a smooth and more unified customer experience.

Of course, managing a cross-channel campaign comes with its own unique set of challenges, and hopping in and out of lots of different platforms can create the very opposite of a smooth and unified experience for advertisers, depriving them of a clear and easy way to gauge the success of one channel versus another and creating barriers to shifting spend based on performance. One solution for marketing teams here is to leverage an omnichannel advertising platform, where advertisers can track the performance of all their campaigns (including social platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, TikTok) within a single interface, providing a single source of truth and eliminating the time-consuming need to switch back and forth between platforms.

Best Practices for Advertising on Snapchat: Wrapping Up

While Snap (like all social media companies) has had its share of ups and downs, it’s never stopped innovating and adapting to consumer and technological trends. And while plenty of competitors have come and gone, Snapchat keeps users coming back day after day, and year after year. With that loyal audience and the brand’s commitment to leading the way in social media AR, Snapchat offers some enticing and unique opportunities to social advertisers.

Want to make the most of your Snapchat spend? Then you’ll want to be a video advertising expert. Check out the Video Unleashed Guide for a deep dive into everything marketers need to know.

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