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Snapchatting your way through holiday promotions

Snapchat’s unique features make it perfect for a social media holiday blitz.

You don’t need a big marketing budget to target shoppers this holiday season. And it’s not too late to promote last-minute deals or events, thanks to social media.

If you haven’t tried Snapchat for your business promotions, the holiday shopping season is the perfect time to start. You can use it to maximize exposure, promote sales and perhaps even capture a new audience. In fact, Marketingland estimates that 32 per cent of shoppers are turning to social media to research holiday purchases this year.

Why Snapchat?

You don’t need a big budget, for one. And the social media site has 178 million daily active users around the world. These active Snapchatters spend an average of 30 minutes (or more) in the app each day, according to Snapchat.

What makes Snapchat ideal for the holidays is its temporary nature. All posts disappear after 24 hours, so it’s a useful tool for promoting time-sensitive deals and flash sales or events. It also makes customers (or potential customers) feel like they’re ‘in the know,’ armed with insider information.

Get started

If you’re only vaguely familiar with Snapchat, here’s how it works: You take a ‘Snap’ — a photo or video — which you send to your followers. That Snap is self-destructing though, as it will disappear after 10 seconds of people opening it.

That’s just the beginning, as you can get creative with your Snaps. For example, you can create your ‘Story,’ which is a collection of your Snaps that you pick and choose to tell a narrative around your brand. Stories also only last 24 hours.

Snap Filters allow you to add a creative and sometimes wacky overlay (say, based on a holiday) and can be a fun way to spice up your Snaps. You can also make use of Snap Lenses, which allow you to add animated special effects to your photos and videos.

There are myriad ways you can use Snapchat during the holidays, particularly for promotions. You can highlight flash sales in your Story or offer incentives only to Snapchat users. You can even use the app’s geofilter to market to customers within a certain vicinity of your brick-and-mortar store, helping to generate impulse buys and perhaps even recruit new customers.

Get engaged

It’s not just about promotions. For many people, the holidays are stressful, so providing top-notch customer service can help to bring those customers back after the holiday shopping season is over.

Snapchat can be used to engage customers with your brand and gather feedback. You can even offer incentives related to your latest Story to boost in-store traffic. And Snapchat’s version of instant messenger, called Chat, allows you to engage directly with customers (messages disappear after they’re viewed).

It’s also a great way to personalize your brand. For example, you can introduce customers to your store associates through quick videos or create curated gift guides (great for last-minute shoppers). After all, building a loyal fan base is more important in the long-term than getting a few extra one-off sales.

Know the ins and outs

If you’re new to the platform, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, there are different types of stories — Snap Stories are collections of images, Live Stories revolve around special events, and Stories on ‘Discover’ are curated from media outlets.

Unlike other social media sites, content is vertical. So, you can’t repost a video from Facebook or YouTube (which offer horizontal content). That means you’ll have to tailor content specifically for Snapchat, so it’s worth checking out how various media outlets are creating videos on Discover.

Start advertising

You also have the option of creating ads, via Snap Ads — these are quick videos that pop up between stories. However, advertising on Snapchat isn’t free, so you’ll need to put aside some budget for this.

With Snap Ads, you can include features such as an email form or newsletter sign-up. If you want to promote holiday deals, for example, you can include an option for customers to visit your online store. 

You can choose from more than 300 built-in audiences (based on criteria such as where they shop and what they’re interested in) or target customers by demographics such as age and location. There are even Lookalike Expansions, so you can market to Snapchat users who are similar to your existing customer base.

If you want to have a little fun (and there’s no better time than the holiday season), try Sponsored Lenses, which allow customers to interact with your ad through fun, whacky or whimsical animations. If done well, they can go viral and help your brand gain visibility with a new audience. (In 2015, vomiting rainbows were all the rage). Again, this feature isn’t free, so you’ll have to work it into your ad budget.

Dig into the data

Snapchat also offers analytics via Snap Ads so you can track impressions, average screen time and completion rates for videos. The newly released Snap Pixel allows you to track conversions from Snap Ads — you can even watch stats in real time using the Snapchat Ad Manager.

Maybe you hadn’t considered Snapchat as a marketing tool for holiday promotions, but it’s not too late to start — and not too late to make extra sales, find new customers and boost your fanbase. And if this abundance of ways to interact isn’t sounding like much of a snap, then just start small and focus on one way to engage. Your audience will grow with time, and you may find entirely new ways of connecting with fans.

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Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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