Should Associations Take Snapchat Seriously?
It would be understandable for associations seeking gravitas and influence to dismiss Snapchat as a lightweight social media platform. After all, the primary appeal is that communiques disappear after a few seconds, leaving no lasting — or incriminating — record.
Yet if CNN, National Geographic and Yahoo News find the effort of reaching out to the Snapchat generation worthwhile, there are almost certainly benefits for associations that want to experiment and reach a younger audience.
Groups like the Association of Surfing Professionals have already established a strong presence. And why not? Thanks to the brevity and immediacy of its format, Snapchat messages are opened by an unprecedented 90 percent of people who follow the sender.
A Solid Experiment
While associations building a social media program have very good reasons to focus on Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat is a great option for organizations that want to try something new.
“It’s all about finding fun, creative ways to bring the fans closer to the athletes and events,” the Association of Surfing Professionals told Mashable last year. “What’s exciting about Snapchat is that very few things have been done before, leaving lots of room for experimentation and innovation.”
The association uses other formats, but found Snapchat extremely valuable for its live events, and has already drawn thousands of followers.
“Surfing lends itself well to a platform like Snapchat because the content is visually appealing and constantly changing,” the organization said. “When a major swell pops up somewhere in the world we can call on one of our athletes to document it live with Snapchat.
“Although we can run similar campaigns on other platforms, the finite lifespan of content on Snapchat makes it feel more immediate, organic and exclusive. Through social media our fans feel more connected to the sport, but Snapchat really allows them to feel like they’re best friends with pro surfing, connecting them directly to the athletes and events they love.”
At this point, nobody should be surprised that youth-oriented social media platforms eventually get taken seriously by companies and organizations. Facebook started with an audience of college and university students.
Snapchat may be headed the same way. It started out in 2011 on the rebellious premise that young people could send captioned images and video to friends to make them laugh, which would then disappear.
Now, the platform has deliberately become a little more mainstream, introducing Snapchat Discover earlier this year, which enables selected editorial partners like CNN and National Geographic to share video narratives on Snapchat channels that don’t expire for a full 24 hours.
And brands like Taco Bell are already enjoying commercial success with Snapchat, reaching their millennial target audience by creating ‘Snapchat Stories’ that get opened and shared.
‘Word of Mouth’
Of course, most associations will naturally feel more comfortable offering weighty thought leadership pieces and white papers. But social media likes, shares, retweets and followers are now a crucial part of influencing policy discussion and growing membership.
Associations seeking to interact with and influence the millennial generation may have to expand their thinking still further, recognizing the somewhat counter-intuitive fact that the immediacy and built-in disposability of Snapchats are actually what makes them enticing and influential, with more than a billion views a day.
In a way, this phenomenon has been around forever. We used to call it word of mouth.