The Power of Snapchat

Anyone who has been on Snapchat in the past week could probably tell you of the epic romantic saga of Brown Girl and Harvard Guy, two Ivy-league students who, exclusively through the use of Snapchat, found each other and went on a blind date that was dubbed “The Boston Tea Party.” The whole story could be found on the main Snapchat page and people filmed their own reactions to this harrowing tale as it unfolded in real time.

I don’t know exactly whatever became of Brown Girl and Harvard Guy in the aftermath of their whirlwind encounter, but what I can clearly see is what is becoming of Snapchat. Once simply a mechanism for sending temporary pictures and grotesque selfies, the company has evolved into a useful public relations tool, and more companies are starting to take notice.

This article from Crenshaw Communications talks about how companies have started to use Snapchat in a variety of ways, from partnering with celebrities to utilizing it for tutorials and promotion, all in an effort to reach everyone’s favorite age demographic: Millennials.

ian-thomas-jannsen-lonnquist-for-the-new-york-times

Image by Ian Thomas-Jannsen Lonnquist for the New York Times.

So, how are companies reaching Millennials in addition to other key groups? The answer for some may lie in the use of geofilters. Ragan’s PR Daily wrote about how using geofilters can help companies target consumers based on their location, a move that has been shown to expand their reach and promote engagement.

The companies that use Snapchat are not the only ones that are noticing. Business Insider reported that the company is set to go public as soon as March at an estimated worth of $25 billion dollars, and other websites like Instagram are copying its most popular feature, the “story” and incorporating it into their own platforms.

But beyond just its financial success, I see Snapchat’s influence in the way my peers and I interact with companies and with each other. While many companies use Snapchat for their shameless promotion in the form of filters that range from mildly adorable to horrifyingly distorting, I’ve found that the ultimate appeal of Snapchat is in that it’s just fun.

That’s right, I contend that the reason Snapchat is growing as a PR tool is because it’s fun. Yes, it gives companies a direct line to consumers and personalizes the user experience, but when I’m actually using the app, it’s fundamentally because it feels good to morph my face with my dog’s and send it to my friends. And when I see people like Michelle Obama and brands like Taco Bell using this app in their own ways, it feels like it puts us on the same level. Traditional media, and even apps like Instagram, elevate famous figures and companies beyond our reach, whereas Snapchat humanizes them and brings the brand to us instead of the other way around.

This feeling that I’ve had when using Snapchat is the same thing I observe in people around me, and when factoring in the clear success the app has had financially, there is a recipe here for incredible success in relationship building. I believe that if Snapchat continues on its positive trajectory, public relations practitioners would be wise to truly learn how it works and understand how its users really think beyond just the numbers.