The latest social media channel to receive a lot of attention from digital marketers is Snapchat. That's for a very good reason.

According to Bloomberg, Snapchat has 150 million daily users - more than Twitter.

So why would you take marketing on Twitter seriously but not on Snapchat?

That question is especially relevant if you're marketing a product or service that's of interest to millennials. 

According to eMarketer, almost three-quarters of those 150 million daily users are 18- to 34-year-olds. The 35-and-older crowd make up just about 30% of Snapchat users.

The same study found that 30% of U.S. millennials access Snapchat regularly.

According to comScore, Snapchat reaches 11% of the U.S. "digital population" (people who are at least moderately tech-savvy).

As we've seen with other social media channels in the past, the population of Snapchat users is likely to grow over time. It's best to get on board with Snapchat marketing before your competitors do.

What Is Snapchat, Anyway?

If you've never used Snapchat for marketing, you might not even know what it does. If you had to compare it to any other social media channel, it's probably most like Instagram.

There's a twist, though. When people take pictures (called "snaps") and send them to their friends on Snapchat, those images don't hang around in a timeline forever like they do on Instagram. Instead, they're deleted after at most 10 seconds (the exact amount of time is determined by the sender).

You're also not limited to sending just pictures with Snapchat. You can send video as well.

You can also send "stories." Those are collections of snaps and videos that are broadcast to all followers instead of individual users.

As a digital marketer, you'll probably focus on stories more than snaps.

Beyond that, Snapchat works like other social media channels. You can follow people and they can follow you back.

And that's where your journey on Snapchat begins: finding followers so you can promote your brand.

How do you find followers on a social media channel populated predominantly by millennials? Let's go over a few ways.

1. Let People Know You're on Snapchat

It's not as easy to find people on Snapchat as it is on other social media sites. Of course, that also means it's not very easy for people to find you.

That's why you have to go out of your way to let people know that you're on Snapchat. Use your existing social media channels (where you hopefully have a following) to advertise that you're on Snapchat.

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says that you have to grow your Snapchat following "the old fashioned way," adding that you'll need to do so "without any sort of app-to-internet infrastructure. You have to use other methods to grow your account. For example, when I was growing Wine Library, I didn't expect to grow fast on sheer discovery in the hopes that someone would stumble into the store. I used print advertising, radio, direct email, email marketing, and Google AdWords, to let people know where my business was. The best way is to use other platforms to help create awareness and direct people to your Snapchat."

One particularly cool idea is to use your Snapcode (that's your digital signature on Snapchat) as your Avatar on other social media channels. People who want to follow you on Snapchat can just download your avatar and follow you using the Snapcode.

Also, add your Snapchat handle to the "About" section of your blog. Put it at the end of your blog posts as well. That way, if a post goes viral, you're advertising your Snapchat handle to thousands of visitors.

2. Follow Likeminded People

You can borrow a page out of the playbook you used for Twitter and apply it to Snapchat. Follow likeminded people and some of them will follow you back.

How do you find likeminded people on Snapchat? Use Ghostcodes. It's a discovery service that allows you to search for fellow snappers who share your interests.

It's another app that you'll need to download but it's worth it if you're just getting started on Snapchat.

3. Use the "Add Me" URL for Mobile Traffic

Snapchat, like Instagram, is predominantly for a mobile audience. That's because it's an app that runs on a smartphone or tablet.

At the beginning of this year, Snapchat gave a late Christmas present to all digital marketers who use the social media app. The company delivered an "Add Me" URL.

As Paul Ramondo notes: "This feature allows users to copy their 'unique URL or instantly share it through other channels.'  When tapped on a mobile device, the URL 'opens a preview of your profile on Snapchat with an Add button.'"

In other words, you can add a link on your website that enables mobile Snapchat users to add you as a friend with just the click of a button.

If your website receives a lot of mobile millennial traffic, be certain to use the "Add Me" URL. That will make it easier for them to follow you on Snapchat.

4. Host a Contest

One way to gain a following with any marketing channel is to host a contest. Snapchat is no exception.

According to Business Insider, 58% of college students would be most likely to purchase a brand's product or service if they were sent a coupon on Snapchat.

As Neil Patel notes: "This means that the good old social media giveaways will be effective on Snapchat. But, the one-on-one interaction platform is even more primed for conducting contests and offering special perks."

Why are contests better than simple coupons?

"Because you can leverage Snapchat's inherent urgency (ephemeral content) and personal touch, to keep your audience engaged," Patel says.

One of the easiest ways to hold a contest is by asking people to send you a snap showing how they're using your product or service. The most creative snap wins the contest and the grand prize.

You could also ask your followers to view your story and answer questions to earn discounts and other freebies.

Finally, you could just ask people to post images related to your industry and then pick random winners every month.

Wrapping It Up

Snapchat will likely become an important part of digital marketing within the coming years. Use it now to promote your brand and you'll almost certainly have a distinct advantage over competitors who are still focusing on older social media channels.

Published on: Jun 8, 2016