THE BLOG
11/02/2016 12:00 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2017

How to Use Snapchat to Market Your Small Business

For the last couple years we've been hearing about Snapchat, and now people have figured out how to make money from it, so it's not just for the kiddies anymore. While currently, the majority of Snapchat users are aged 13 to 34, its reach is starting to skew older as the social media app gains popularity and hits the mainstream as video and photo sharing service. More than 100 million people open the app every day, which makes it a marketing option worth some serious consideration especially if you want to connect your brand with millennial customers.

Here are a few basic techniques that will have you looking like a pro on Snapchat.

Focus on Your Followers
It may seem counterintuitive to center your Snapchat shares around what your followers are doing online, but it's great for engagement. Who doesn't love to be the center of attention, especially when it's from a brand like yours? Food delivery service GrubHub is a great example of a brand doing this right. One of the early adopters of Snapchat, the brand soon realized the benefit of engaging followers and letting them be the focus of updates.

Hold a Snapchat Contest
Snapchat users are an interactive bunch, and by holding contests or giveaways, you can get them to spread the word about your brand for you. Make sure the prizes are drool-worthy, and the contest entry rules simple. You could ask followers to snap a photo of them using your product, or go with a holiday theme, like dressing in their scariest Halloween costume, and you choose a winner.

Provide Exclusive Content
When followers get sneak peeks or insider views into your brand that non-followers don't get access to, they feel special. This might come in the form of unveiling a new product before it hits the shelves, going behind the scenes at a big event, or even getting your followers' opinion on which direction to take your product line.

Use Short URLs
To drive traffic back to your website, you'll want to include a link to it on Snapchat. Alex Charfen, an internationally recognized speaker and business consultant, says to keep the URL short, easy to use, and easy to spell.

"Since your content is inherently time sensitive (and will disappear), make sure that when you use these URLs, you feature them in 3-4 snaps in a row. This gives your audience time to react. Interestingly, I've found most people take a screenshot in my third or fourth snap featuring the URL."

Keep it 100
Snapchat users love photos and videos that are raw and unscripted. While elsewhere online, some small business brands are spending a lot of money on video marketing, remember that Snapchat is different. While you might plan out what you want to do or say in your video, don't stress over making it too polished, otherwise you may alienate your audience, who expects amateur experiences they can relate to.

Let Someone Take Over Your Account
Sometimes the best marketing you can do on Snapchat is throwing the keys to someone else. Kaleigh Wiese, Founder and CEO of Garment-Exchange.com, a peer-to peer marketplace that allows women nationwide to rent their clothing, says her brand regularly invites users to take over the company's account to share their personal brands and promote the community of fashionistas within Garment Exchange. "Snap content from within the office can be a bit redundant, so this keeps fresh content appearing to our followers," says Wiese.

Take Over Another Brand's Account
Another way to get exposure on Snapchat is to take over another user's account that targets your demographic. It's a great way to build a connection with an audience who might not otherwise know about your business. Ecommerce shop Twill took over Shopify's Snapchat account for a day, and let viewers into a day in the life of Twill. "We first started with an introduction and passion behind Twill. Throughout the day we recorded live feed of our blanket drop offs to local organizations so our customers see how they are helping their local community," said Zac Halloran, CEO and Founder of Twill.

Try Sponsoring a Filter
While Snapchat filters that turn you into a superhero or an animal are fun for users, they also pack a punch when it comes to marketing your brand. David Lieberson, Senior Account Executive at Finn Partners, says that creating a custom filter for the ASK DC (Assault. Services. Knowledge.) app had phenomenal results in encouraging thousands of late night revelers to download the app and stay safe when partying. "Whenever the filters were live (9pm - 1am) I believe we saw a marked increase in traffic to the website and we saw increased download numbers throughout the end of the summer." The filter was used more than 300 times (in Snapchats and Snapchat stories) and viewed by 15,700 followers, and only cost a few hundred dollars.

My rule of thumb online is that you need to be anywhere your best target audience is spending the majority of their time online. If your audience is using Snapchat find unique ways to engage them there. Don't assume you know the culture of Snapchat. Study it! Make sure to emulate other brands who have proven success on the app as well as trying your own innovative ideas.

This blog was originally published as How to Leverage Snapchat to Boost Your Business on www.succeedasyourownboss.com