By Alicja Gados

Do you use Snapchat? Or do you consider it to be just an app for those technologically savvy millennials? You may be overwhelmed by the app, or not even understand how it works.  The latest update will make it easier to use, and has incredible applications for branding, much like Instagram.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat has enjoyed a relatively fast rise to notability in the digital and social media tech world.  Launched in September 2011, it already features 100 million daily active users.

Snapchat is a social network where users can send and read 140 character messages. It allows you to share short snippets of your time: your post is shown only 1-10 seconds maximum. Personal chats are available only once, and then they disappear once your audience has viewed it. Snapchat also has ‘Stories,’ which are viewable several times, but only for a maximum period of 24 hours.

The app allows you to take photos and videos, and add captions. You are very limited to how much you can add on a caption: only 31 characters. To bypass this, say it on video and say your caption out loud. You can adjust the amount of time your photo will show up on the Story list, and then you can share it with a specific individual or as a story, viewable for 24 hours. 

Initially, the app was popular among pre-teens to instantly post whatever content pre-teens post, not always socially appropriate. Because the posts expire, it encourages kids to post whatever is on their mind or they feel like posting, without that data being saved in a long line of text for their parents to discover.

Why is Snapchat so popular?

Snapchat was created to address the issue and stress presented by longevity of personal information on social media as shown by increasing ‘untagging’ of certain Facebook photos to avoid negative association hanging around on the internet forever, such as in the face of job interviews. It’s nice if you just post something that you feel like posting, and not have to worry about regretting posting it later. Posts won’t follow you around forever, and this is what makes it so popular.

Snapchat is one of the most addictive apps out there. As of February 2016, users were watching a staggering 8 billion videos daily! In fact, there are over 100 million daily active users in developed countries, and even more worldwide. Of those, 60 per cent actually contribute content in ‘Stories’ and photos. This is a high level of active engagement. In terms of all social media users in the US, nearly one fifth of these users use Snapchat.

A bit more impressive data: every second, Snapchat users share 9 photos.  Daily video views top out at a total of 10 billion. The proportion of people who like it because their content expires, or disappears, is roughly a third of all users.  It’s a huge draw contributing to the popularity of the app.


Snapchat is an image messaging application software product created by four Stanford University students.  The main idea was to allow users to communicate with images that disappear shortly after being viewed.  Met at first with a bit of skepticism from their peers, the product was eventually rolled out and became a very quick success, and continues to grow at a staggering rate even given the highly competitive selection of social media products. 

How it works

The app is used mainly for creating multimedia messages called ‘Snaps’ that can be edited with various effects, filters, text, captions and drawings.  ‘Snaps’ consist of photos or short videos.  Also, these snaps can be filtered in the ‘Story’ and ‘Discover’ functionality.

Story and Discover functions

In a ‘Story’, a semi-public story thread can be either private or public. The story can be viewed by invited users (unless it’s public) for a set period of time specified by the user, given a range of only 1 -10 seconds, after which it expires and disappears.   

Stories are displayed chronologically as they are posted.  Each story is posted for 24 hours.  You can also post ‘live stories’, which allows users to post on-location at specific events, like hockey games, baseball games, concerts or music festivals to contribute to the overall story of the event.   Last year, this function surpassed the popularity of private ‘snaps’ posting, and is currently the most popular feature of the app. 

The ‘Discover’ function was introduced last summer, and it contains ad supported, short form content from major publishers that are seen between half a million to one million times per day.  The Discover service has grown the service from merely providing photos into creating chronological arrangements of photos and text, or ‘stories.’ This gives the app a primary focus on entertainment.

Traditional chat function but with full attention

There is also a direct messaging and video chat feature. This competes with traditional messaging products such as Facebook messenger, but is unlike those chat programs in one important way, by giving a positive indicator of getting the persons’ full attention, rather than a negative one. 

Virtually all chat programs have a ‘negative’ indictor, meaning the ‘online’ or ‘available to chat’ means the person is there, but may not want to talk to you. And the person wanting to initiate the chat sees that. The Snapchat difference is that the indicator is positive, meaning a user is here and giving you your full attention. This is called the ‘Here’ function, and is said to prevent awkwardness that can come from other chat apps with typing indicators.

Recently, the latest version of updates was released. Called “Chat 2.0”, the update includes voice chat, video and audio notes and stickers. The latest upgrade allows you to access video and audio conferencing, the ability to post notes and share your recent camera photos. Users can easily move between text, video and audio chat modes as desired.

The new changes move the company into a broader sphere of tech users, ones that allow them to compete with WhatsApp, Facetime and Skype. 

SnapChat for brands

Not just for the kids: Snapchat is serious marketing business.

You may have noticed that the brands and influencers you like to follow may mention their content on Snapchat.  Bloggers, editors and entrepreneurs love Snapchat because of how easy going it is, and not everything must always be perfectly styled like it does on Instagram. It adds a bit of realism to those creative brands, showing how an idea is curated and can help you optimizes your brand. 

The fact is that Snapchat has engaged users extremely well. The high level of engagement will be a huge draw for advertisers, particularly for brands.

Creating a community is much easier now that we have social media, and Snapchat is no exception.  Snapchat can be great for your brand. Users are a technologically sophisticated bunch, which makes the social media platform attractive for business: 75% of these users purchase products online.

Thanks to the Discover and Stories functions, brands like Coca-Cola, General Electric, National Geographic and CNN are using it to connect to their fans. There are 100 million people using it daily. Compare that to twitter, with 320 million monthly active users.

When planning your Snapchat and other social media strategy, be sure you know what your brand is about and how you want it to be seen by your fans.  Read more on why and how to involve your employees in your social media strategy.  

Learn more about Snapchat here.

Further Reading

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