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Snapchat, Marketers and Teens

Posted by Scott Halstead on 9/27/2017

Sitting at the dinner table one night recently, my son Austin looked up from his phone to answer my “what the heck are you doing over there that’s so important you can’t communicate with us during a meal” question. “Sorry, I’m keeping my streaks alive on Snapchat,” he tells me. Perplexed, as I am with much of my son’s mostly digital social life, I asked him to explain. Turns out, one of the most popular trends on Snapchat is to earn a “Snapstreak”.

Snapchat, launched in 2011, has become insanely popular with today’s teens (really anyone under 25), and is infamously a platform that allows users to share content with friends that lives for a few seconds and then gets deleted. In a nutshell, a Snapstreak happens when you and another friend have each sent Snaps (videos, pictures, etc.) to one another at least once in a 24 hour cycle for 3 consecutive days, at which point, you and your friend earn a fire emoji next to your names. After 10 days and onward, you’ll see both the fire icon, and a number representing the amount of days you’ve been on a Snapstreak. A pretty brilliant strategy if you think about it, since it keeps users engaged and continuously opening the app day after day.

To me, this all seems like a giant waste of time, to Austin it’s a way of life. The validation of serious friendships with his classmates who are all so very much aware of the social politics of high school. And I think it’s become borderline an addiction. He is so enthralled with keeping streaks up with his friends, on a recent trip to Maine he gave his girlfriend his Snapchat login so that he could keep his streaks going. One in particular that’s lasted a whopping 267 days.

As with most social media platforms, activity on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter often times is a way of showing off how many friends you have acquired and talk to. It validates your social standing. Snapstreaks take it one step further as proof of how many committed friendships you are involved in.

And while it seems well, a bit contrived and forced, such is life in this digital world. Austin tells me, “really Dad, it’s just a way to get closer and stay in touch with friends.” And it seems to be accurate, because as I dig a bit further and inquire who his streaks are with, they are all well, close friends.

For marketers, Snapchat has been an elusive channel to try to tap into since users can’t interact with brands the same ways they do on other social platforms. For example, brands can interact via sponsored “lenses” and brand filters or by getting invited into personal chats. Recently the NFL did a Snapchat point of purchase promotion where you snap a code on a promotional bag and unlock a team content video — an effort to attract a younger generation of fans to the sport.

I am always looking into new engagement touch points to incorporate into my client’s marketing campaigns. Getting a brand involved in Snapchat allows for interaction with a younger generation on a platform they are fluent in. It also helps a brand to stay relevant with younger consumers.

The biggest marketing takeaway from all this? Always make an effort to keep up with the ever changing social media landscape, and pay attention to what your kids are into. Especially at the dinner table. They are going to be much smarter, and far more tech-savvy than you ever will be.

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