Snapchat is not just another slightly different social media network. It was released in 2011 by Stanford University students Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown. The difference between Snapchat and the other social media networks lied in its time-constraint for photo and video shares, called the Snaps.

Every Snap had a life span of just few seconds until it erased itself. Yes, you could always use a screen shot, and yes, in the beginning it was used for that purpose we all thought of.

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In 2014, according to Pocket-lint news as many as 700 million photos and videos were shared on Snapchat per day, according to The Verge article Snapchat was the #3 free app downloaded from the Apple App Store, and according to Statista’s Age Distribution Chart for Snapchat 31% of the users where between 18 to 24 years old and only 19% were over 25.

Snapchat is a fast growing social media network mostly popular among the Millenials. Since I myself would fit in the “over 25 group” as well as you, I presume, I must admit, up until recently, I had a hard time understanding the point and use for Snapchat.

Our Attention Spans are Getting Shorter

Only recently I have discovered the AJ+ site on Facebook. It is an English speaking (there is also Spanish speaking version) all-digital news and current events channel by Al Jazeera Media Network, launched in the September of 2013. What I liked about this site are the short video news, usually not longer than 30 seconds, describing the most important information about the most important news, sometimes even in the form on infographics, which I am a fan of.

Even though I’m sure there are many similar news channels, this is the first one I noticed. And I liked it at first glance. Its straight-to-the-point approach really hit the chord with me and with many people, which doesn’t surprise me. In this fast paced world, where many people unfortunately don’t have the time to sit and watch the news, let alone read the news, media outlet that provided video version of headlines and the most important information on certain topic is just what the viewers needed.

Snapchat launched something very similar, its channel called My Story, with the goal of spreading user engagement and offering a new sort of TV programming. Users are not limited to short Snaps with life span of just few second. They can now create a limitless amount of 1-10 second video clips that will be played consecutively and tell the user a short story. After 24 hours these Snaps will be erased, same as any other Snap. It is easy to see how this new feature can be used by sport media brands, franchises and teams alike.

This new feature allows sport media brands to share the highlights of the sport events and even their own sport shows as they happen in real time on Snapchat. And who doesn’t want to see on their smart phone the short highlights, from the game you had to miss, only few moments after they happened, or a shorter straight-to-the-point version of your favorite sport show you didn’t get to see.

The Humanization of Brands

Every My Story Snap from a followed brand arrives on the follower’s Snapchat smart phone app exactly the same way as any other Snap from a friend does, to a private conversation thread, accompanied with a notification about a received message from a certain user.

New Orleans Saints were the first NFL franchise to open their official Snapchat account in October of 2013. Saints’ Web/Social Media Manager Alex Restrepo singled out the perception of the Snapchat Snaps as a personal message from the team as the most important aspect of Snapchat communication between the brands and followers/fans:

You see people saying, ‘The Saints snapchatted me.’ We’re not really Snapchatting them; we’re just adding it to the story, and they’re seeing the story. But they see Snapchat as a personal messaging app, as opposed to being a social media outlet. We had (TE) Jimmy Graham give a video shout out to them. Sometimes the players even take the phone and do it themselves. When it’s a direct message from a player to the fan, I think that goes over well.

Restrepo added that he has sent the Saints’ followers photos from practices, press conferences and the team’s locker room. This impression of private connection separates Snapchat from Facebook and other social media outlets. This raises the communication and marketing possibilities to a whole new level.

Restrepo also pointed out another important part of humanization of the Saints’ brand via Snapchat. Unlike on other social media platforms, Saints’ Snapchat following is in great amount thanks to fans telling fans:

They dramatically increase on game days. People are with their friends and friends are talking about what we send and that’s when they add us. That’s the number [screenshots of Saint’s Snaps] that I want to see high, because if you take a print screen, that means you’re going to share it and help promote the account.

Customers of any brand tend to respond really well to the human approach of a brand. When you add the emotions sports generates to the human approach, that has the impression of personal and private, you get a campaign with a potential to create a lifelong following.

Philadelphia Eagles, the second NFL team to create a Snapchat account, realized this opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Their Digital & Social Media Director Linda Thomas started their Snapchat life with a “12 Days of Snapchat” series, featuring Christmas themed Snaps of players.

Thomas knew that Holiday events and sales always hit the jackpot among the customers, or in this case fans, and it was the perfect way to start the Snapchat existence of their brand.

But Thomas sees the emotional connection with young fans as a very important opportunity provided by Snapchat:

If we can get fans engaged while they’re young, it’s easier. If we can reach them in a media that works for them and that they can connect with, it just makes it all that much easier for them to carry the Eagles brand and what we’re looking for as far as fan engagement.

This way every club can help the young fans to become lifelong fan, the type of fan every club wants to have in great numbers. And what better place to achieve that, then on a social media platform so popular among the Millenials as Snapchat and on a social media platform with a feature as perfect for personal connection with the fans as Snapchat’s My Story.

Tamara Wilson, social media director at dbray Media Inc. also sees the imperfection of Snaps as a huge bonus in personal approach to the followers:

Snapchat helps to humanize brands, because there is less pressure to create the perfect post, users are encouraged to add drawings and captions to the photos and videos they upload. This allows brands to show off a more ‘personalized’ side of their Business.

Snapchat and Sports Media Success Stories

Chat Sports’ Snapchat morning show Quick Hitters provides breaking news and top headlines in short, straight-to-the-point video form. Their followers count raised tenfold in just the first month “on the air”. Director of Brand Marketing and Quick Hitters host Suzi Alvarez explains their success:

Modern fans are on-the-go. They can’t be tied to SportsCenter’s slow-moving queue. I’m excited about the movement we are creating—toward fresh, fun news that gets right to the point. We continually find ways to lower barriers to participation, so that as our audience grows in size, it also grows in loyalty.

It is the same concept AJ+ uses, but provided on a much better platform.

Chat Sports’ approach is not just changing the approach to the TV programming, it also gives more importance to the fans’ participation and it eases up fans’ involvement in creation of the material.

Recent NFL MVP vote provided plenty of original Snaps, from Lambeau Field tailgating to Russell Wilson-themed wine tasting party. Each of those Snaps called the viewers to cast their votes by simply screen-shoting the image of their vote. As Alvarez explained, this way they accomplish with ease the growth of their fan base, in both size and loyalty.

USA Today is not the first media outlet you would think of if somebody would ask you to guess which brand is another Snapchat success story. Their approach to news can’t exactly be described as “Millenials friendly”. Yet, according to Social Media Editor Tanya Sichynsky, their Snapchat profile is just that.

They changed their approach to target the audience which doesn’t read their printed or digital editions to find news and other information. USA today knew they will struggle to find their usual audience on Snapchat, if they remained their usual selves, so they changed their approach and switched their attention to a new demographic, in an attempt to create a whole new group of USA Today readers.

Sichynsky also points out the fast pace of Snapchat, and its role in changing of the nature of news:

Content you’re creating is all the more valuable because the user cares enough to sit through it. Viewers are required not only to follow an account, but also to select that specific story from a large list. If they want to save valuable information or funny visuals for later (as they often do), they must screenshot in a matter of seconds.

Sichynsky calls the USA Today’s Snapchat approach as “unfiltered” and “unedited”, making the brand appear more human. And at this point it is clear that humanization of brands is just what the audience wants. Thanks to their approach, Sichynsky got the opportunity to proudly proclaim how their followers count spiked due to newsroom polls and coworker trivia games.

Creativity is Always Awarded

Sport brands, either sport media brands or team franchises will hardly have to make a switch USA Today had to make, because people of all ages always loved, and always will love sport. We all share the memories of crucial events, whether big wins or painful defeats. These moments will never leave us.

In today’s sport media market, broadcasters pay huge amounts of money to secure the TV rights for the live events. Market is more competitive and more global than ever, so it is the key to find the new ways to be better than the competition.

Snapchat’s modus operandi, with Snaps that disappear after a certain amount of time, creates excitement and sense of urgency followed by need for fast reaction.

This makes Snapchat the best platform to offer the followers coupons or giveaways with short limited lifespan. Coupons or giveaways can be easily delivered in the matter of seconds and there is no possibility of confusion over expiration date, since these coupons on Snapchat will disappear themselves.

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A frozen yoghurt chain, 16 Handles, achieved success with their discount coupon codes. They sent the coupon codes to their customers and asked them to send back the Snaps of themselves eating their product. The discounts awarded to the customers that send their Snaps, ranged from 5% to 100% and they were used by showing the Snap with the code to the cashier.

In the span of just few days since the start of this campaign, 16 Handles exchanged more than 1,400 Snaps with their customers. Apart from the promotional success, they also had enough information to the built the list of users interested in their promo material, for future campaigns.

In 16 Handles case, customers were much more comfortable to send back their pictures, since all the pictures were exchanged only in a private conversation between the certain customer and 16 Handles account.

New York Rangers smart phone application provides the similar discount deals, only with arguably slightly better scheme. Every time the New York Rangers win the game, they send their fans via the official application a promo code for Papa John’s Pizza, which grants the fans a discount of a certain percentage. That percentage depends on goal margin and importance of the game. This way New York Rangers fans which use these coupons, connect the joy of their team’s success with Papa John’s Pizza. It creates a double success in a promotional campaign made for Snapchat’s My Story.

As it was described before in the words of the New Orleans Saints’ Web/Social Media Manager Alex Restrepo, teams can also use Snapchat to send their followers behind the scenes coverage of the team, as well as previews and teasers of new Saint’s merchandise and which will create a buzz around the new product even before it hits the shelves. This way the fans get the impression of involvement and exclusiveness and on that impression the brands can build customer loyalty.

If the brand sends the picture and treats its followers like personal friends impact can be every brand’s dream.

Taco Bell used that same approach when they wanted to inform their customers about their new product, Beefy Crunch Burrito. At the time they realized that the best platform to reach their goal is Snapchat, and they have not looked back since.

Future is Bright

The expansion of diverse social media platforms forced the change in approach to either of those platforms, by the sport franchises and clubs. Every social media platform is different and brands’ media experts have to approach them in different way, posting original materials in different ways to secure that the fans/customers see the need to follow the brands on every social media platform. San Francisco Giants’ Social Media director Bryan Srabian sees the importance in this approach:

You really have to understand your fans and what does well, because there are really special moments where you only get one opportunity to share something, and you have to decide whether to use Vine or Instagram or something else.

When social media originally appeared and gathered massive influence, it changed the relationship between sport brands and fans forever. Now, when Snapchat offered to the marketing, and to sport marketing in particular, the ideal platform to communicate with the fans, it seems that in the future Snapchat will be the social media platform where the sport brands will attract the fans. Especially when you consider that Snapchat will not go anywhere anytime soon. It is a company whose CEO Evan Spiegel two years ago rejected $3B offer from Facebook, only to be proven right when current value of Snapchat is $16B. Snap!

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Photo: Youtube Screenshot

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