I’m going to say something controversial about Snapchat marketing strategy here, but it needs to be said.

Snapchat is a flash in the pan. It won’t be an important content marketing tool.  At least not in the way that Twitter and Facebook are.  There. I said it. You heard it here first.

Now, some people will have an angry reaction to that statement.  Some people will disagree for good reasons (that’s OK).  Some of those people are thought leaders that intend to make money teaching people how to use Snapchat (that might be less OK).

But here’s the thing.  The Emperor has No Clothes.

I am NOT SAYING that Snapchat will fail as a company (although I think that is a real possibility given their demographic and the buzz kill that monetization will bring).   I am also NOT SAYING that Snapchat is uncool.  In fact, it’s cool as hell.  It’s fun too.  That’s where the excitement is coming from around Snapchat today.

However….

Unless fundamental changes are made to Snapchat at its core, the phenomenon is not going to be important for marketing and the web economy over the long haul. It’s fun to play with, but if you are spending time worrying about having a Snapchat marketing strategy, you can stop now. Again, you heard it here first.

My Re-engagement With Snapchat:  Looking for my Snapchat Marketing Strategy?

For the last several months, I’ve been playing around with Snapchat. I’ve actually been a Snapchat user for years, but I never really took it seriously.  After all, old guys like me think that Snapchat is a tool that young people use to do inappropriate stuff when their parents are not watching.

From my perspective (until just a few months ago), the app was a toy for kids.

But with the recent announcement that the fledgling service was serving up 10 billion video views a day, and with all the buzz at Social Media Marketing World (SMMW), I figured I had better take another look.   After all, this is the data that people are pointing to when they talk about the reach of Snapchat (and it’s potential importance).  At SMMW it seemed like all anyone wanted to talk about was Snapchat.

I still wanted to ignore it.

But there was another (perhaps more important) reason that I started playing with Snapchat again – my friend Cliff Ravenscraft started getting serious about it. In fact, he released a nice tutorial about how to use use very confusing iPhone client (the client is really poorly designed in my opinion).

I wanted to see what Cliff was up to, so I played along too.  Did I need a Snapchat marketing strategy?

I have to admit, the thing is fun to play with. I like it. But it’s not important. Here’s why.

3 Fundamental Problems With Snapchat (That Must Be Fixed)

After playing with Snapchat for several weeks, it became instantly apparent to me that Snapchat will never be a critically important on-line marketing tool in the way that Facebook and Twitter are now essential. There are at least three reasons for this, and they are as fundamental as breathing.

Issue 1: No sharing

Viral marketing is as old as the hills. If you are old like me, you remember the Faberge Shampoo commercial where viral marketing was explained to TV viewers as part of a viral ad campaign (how META).  In that commercial, Heather Locklear or some other supermodel tells two friends about Fabrege Shampoo, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on.

That Shampoo thing is just like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.  How many times have you gotten a ping from a friend two cubes over who said “Hey Man!  You HAVE to check this out.  It is SO cool!!”  SHARE!   Sadly, many times it’s just a cat video.  Except sometimes it’s that cool Zach King Star Wars Cat Video.

But I digress…

The problem with Snapchat is that, unlike Twitter and Facebook and almost every other social media platform, you cannot share in a viral way. That means that the reach of Snapchat will always be linear. If someone creates something amazing, about the only thing you can hope to do it screenshot it. It’s such a big limitation, that you will see people recording Snapchat stories “warning” their viewers that something cool is coming and begging them to “get ready to screenshot”.

This seriously limits Snapchats reach and therefore limits Snapchat’s use as an efficient marketing platform.  In fact, Snapchat content is designed to disappear.  It’s content “un-marketing” — and that brings us to fundamental issue #2.

Issue 2: No Archive

One of the great things about content marketing these days is all of the extremely helpful content that gets generated. Almost everything you could want to know or learn is available on the internet – much of it because of content marketing.

Snapchat itself is a content creation and distribution engine, and if you use it for marketing, you are doing content marketing.

But you cannot archive Snapchat content.

Got a brilliant idea? Don’t put it only on Snapchat, because it will be gone in 24 hours. The practical impact of this is that most great content marketing material will not work well on Snapchat.

Tutorials, How To’s, Product Reviews and other excellent traditional marketing collateral is essentially useless on Snapchat unless you happen to post it at the exact moment the content is needed by your viewer.

AND, since the content is gone, there’s no organic search traffic.  And also no sharing on other platforms like Facebook.  Now I know that there are some (shaky) third party solutions for capturing snaps.  But that function is not inherent in the platform, so archiving will be implemented by a tiny portion of Snapchat users.

Traditional content marketing pieces depend on three things – loyal readership, sharing, and organic discovery. In this regard, Snapchat is a one-legged stool.

snapchat marketing strategy -- a one-legged stool

Issue 3:  Random Gaps and Other Issues

There are lots of other things that bother me about Snapchat, but most of them can be fixed if Snapchat people choose to do so.

  • The user interface is not intuitive
  • There is no desktop client
  • There is no good way to do a call to action
  • There are no “easy”low barrier“ interaction methods like ”Like“ or ”Favorite”
  • There is no way to import content
  • There is no way to schedule content

Bottom Line: Snapchat will never be a Tier-One Marketing Platform

There are some really good things about Snapchat. First and foremost, it’s fun. I like to play with it. But there are lots of days when I don’t get around to watching the stories of people that  i follow. What did I miss? That’s part of the problem – I will never know.

It’s is a good way to “connect with your audience” if that’s where they are (12 to 17-year-olds or whatever).  And connecting with your audience it important, especially if you need them to know, like and trust you.   But the reach is still limited by the fundamental concept of the tool itself.

So, the bottom line is this. Snapchat is super cool, but because of the fact that valuable content “disappears” from the platform and can’t be shared, Snapchat will never be very important from a marketing perspective.

EDIT:  May 6, 2016
Not, I did get a response from a friend of mine (a snap, actually)  indicating that he had already closed sales via Snapchat.  The implication was that Snapchat is an effective marketing tool.  I don’t dispute the idea that people will get to know, like and trust you via Snapchat.  And we know that once that happens, followers turn into customers.  My comments here have to do with the fact that the content that led to that sale is gone forever.  In order to get a new sale from a new follower, you have to create new content.  This is opposed to content that was “out there” forever and could send you customers and sales forever.  That’s why I say that Snapchat is a “linear” marketing tool.  Snaps cannot go viral.

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