Snapchat_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

Snapchat is a social networking platform that allows users to send each other images or videos, called snaps, which then disappear after a short time period. Hugely popular among younger people—more than 70 percent of users are under the age of 25—Snapchat can also be used effectively by small businesses for marketing purposes.

The social aspect of Snapchat is similar to Twitter; you can follow other Snapchat users, and they can follow you. You can only send snaps to people who are following you, but when you do send a snap, there’s a much higher chance that the snap will be opened, generally within seconds of receipt, says Craig Smith of DMR, a digital marketing statistics website.

That’s good news for small firms that want to use Snapchat to help bolster their marketing efforts. Snaps can inform and entertain customers about a whole variety of topics and can be used by businesses of all types. Here are some of the ways Snapchat can be used to help build your brand:

Show off your merchandise

Use a series of snaps to show off your merchandise “in action.” This can be ingredients being prepared and combined into a restaurant meal, or apparel and accessories coming together to create a stylish outfit. Snapchat allows senders to caption their snaps with text and graphics. Use this caption as a call to action.

Snapchat_PQ.jpgMystery discounts

Reward your customers with a discount sent via Snapchat when they’re about to check out in your store. Some retailers have had great success in varying the size of the discount, leaving shoppers feeling excited about how much their bonus savings are going to be. Use of discounts in this way can help to increase the number of Snapchat followers you have, as people have to add you in order to receive the savings.

Customer service

Snapchat is proving to be a very powerful customer service channel. Create two- to 10-second videos illustrating the answers to your company’s most frequently asked questions to have an instant response ready when a customer snaps you a question. Use Snaps to provide directions to your store, showcase exactly which items are included in the latest sales event, and even to explain a special ordering process.

Why Snapchat matters to small business

Snapchat has 100 million active users, who create over 400 million snaps every day. Snaps are shared enthusiastically, with one in every eight snaps being shared at least once. For a small business, this is an exciting way to get images of your merchandise or incentive offers in front of multiple people quickly.

Snapchat also has the added benefit of relevance: while young people are using Facebook to stay connected to family and friends, it’s not where they look for fun things to do or merchandise they’d like to buy. If you want your younger customers to pay attention to what you’re saying, use Snapchat.

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