In my day job running a digital consulting firm, I frequently received a variation of this question, "as a marketer, why should I care about Snapchat?" In fact, I've received this so often that I figured a bit of Snapchat 101 would be helpful for those of you who haven't used it for marketing purposes--yet.

Snapchat is a text-, photo-, and video-messaging app that sends messages that typically disappear one to ten seconds after they're received. It was launched in 2011 by Stanford University fraternity brothers Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown. Now based in Los Angeles, Snapchat made headlines recently when its potential worth was estimated around the $19 billion mark. The app has more than 200 million active monthly users and counting. Most of them are under the age of 25; 71%, according to one source. Roughly seven out of ten users are women.

It's clear why the app attracts a younger audience: it's a new enough trend that it's yet to be corrupted by parents or cluttered with advertising, and the lack of a digital footprint is attractive to many. However, businesses can use this aspect of Snapchat to their advantage. Even though the content disappears, it's not unlike the way a tweet or Facebook post gets lost in the large volume of content users see every day.

Snapchat has swiftly become a global messaging phenomenon, but it is more popular in some markets than others. GlobalWebIndex, a digital market research study, examined the markets for Snapchat and related social messaging apps, WhatsApp and WeChat, in terms of usage by adults. GWI reports that "Snapchat is something of an exception to the prevailing geographic pattern, though, with mature Internet markets accounting for the majority of the top 10. Usage among teens is also much higher than these overall adoption figures." Whereas apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are popular in specific markets, Snapchat has managed to penetrate a global market.

Snapchat has evolved from a solely photo-sharing platform to a content consumption platform with an increased focus on marketing and advertising. But exactly how large is the Snapchat audience? Compared to popular photo sharing platforms Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr on the basis of number of photos shared per day, the current number of users, the age of each company, and photos shared per second, Snapchat came out on top despite being the youngest company (Photoworld). This data reveals that Snapchat's 200 million and growing users share 8,796 photos per second--even more than WhatsApp, even though in comparison it is a much larger network.

While other platforms like Facebook and Instagram also have a larger user base (1.39 billion and 300 million users, respectively), Snapchat is still the destination for photo and video sharing. Even veteran sites like Flickr have been surpassed by primarily mobile photo sharing platforms. If this data is any indication, an increasing number of users will look for simple, niche applications that will allow them to snap and share photos on the go.

Looking for more on Snapchat and its importance to marketers? My firm, Firebrand Group has put together one of our "Orange Papers" focused on the topic. It covers Snapchat 101, Snapchat best practices, and case studies you can follow to better connect with Snapchat's rapidly growing user base. You can access it here.