Snapchat is reminiscent of a handful of fairly recent social media ‘flashes’ that, on further consideration, seem to have real vision behind them. Certainly, the mobile aspect of Snapchat is aligned with our vision of social media in the years to come: we’re taking it with us and it must enrich our experiences as we go.

The basic building block of Snapchat is the ‘snap’: a short-lived photo or video that can be edited to include filters, effects, text and even drawings. In the Wikipedia article on Snapchat, founder Evan Spiegel notes that the app is intentionally designed to free users from the urge to create and maintain an ‘idealised online identity’ which takes ‘all the fun out of communicating.’ So yeah, sometimes ‘communicating’ can be a little too fun?

But credit Snapchat with grabbing the attention of millennials – who, by the way, at something like 80 million people in the US – make up the largest generational cohort ever.

What began as a private messaging and image app for teens may be growing into a promotional/marketing tour de force, as Snapchat has completed deals with media giants like the NFL and NBCUniversal. These partnerships are reliant upon recent product features like ‘Stories’, ‘Geofilters’, and ‘Discover’ that  hold great promise for brand promotion via User-Generated Content (UGC), but have yet to capture the imagination of users who, for the most part, prefer Snapchat’s basic features that allow them to choose how they share messages with friends.

A Snapchat ‘Story’ is a chronological compilation of snaps. ‘Live Stories’ is a feature that allows users to add snaps to a curated story (sometimes surrounding events like concerts and sporting events) that is made available to all users. ‘Official Stories’ are created similarly to Twitter verified accounts, where notable figures and celebrities (and brands?) share their content exclusively. Interestingly, Snapchat’s primary user base (Gen Y and Gen Z) virtually ignore these features that are brands’ key to reaching these audiences. (See the entire Dashburst article and infographic here.)

Here are a few more interesting observations from Newscred about Snapchat user behaviors (from a survey of 100 Snapchat users):

  • 54% use Snapchat daily, 32% use it 2-5 times per week.
  • A majority of users ‘rarely or never’ use branded features like ‘Stories’ and ‘Discover.’
  • 64% of Snapchat users do not follow celebrities on the app. Take that, Kardashians! Strike one for influencer marketing to millennials.

So, will acceptance as a mainstream marketing/promotional channel ruin the appeal of Snapchat to its primary user base? Like it has for other (not to be named) social media marketing channels? Let’s take the question to the #SMXChat community:

Q1: Users say they like Snapchat because it’s fun. Do you think keeping it fun & making money are mutually exclusive?

Q2: How can Snapchat bridge the gap between users’ needs & advertisers’ wants?

Q3: The millennial cohort is a key market, yet it’s so averse to marketing. Can this paradox be resolved? How?

Q4:  Is success with users embracing, generating & sharing branded content critical to Snapchat’s success?

Q5: Does acceptance of Snapchat as a brand marketing channel ruin its appeal to its primary users? What then?