Ins & Outs of Snapchat Video


There once was a time when marketers could safely ignore Snapchat. That time has passed. Snapchat has been making moves to appeal to marketers, and it might be worth your while to stop and consider if you would benefit from using their platform.

On the other hand, not all marketers have the same needs.

No matter what changes Snapchat makes on the back end, their audience skews very young, and very casual. If you’re trying to appeal to an audience of 18 to 34 year old consumers, Snapchat ads will likely work great for you. If you’re trying to raise awareness among B2B executives, well, you might be pumping a dry well. On top of that, the particular way Snapchat displays ads makes it useful solely for the very top of the funnel, so dollars spent on Snapchat aren’t being spent taking care of customers who have moved beyond the Awareness phase.

If all of those caveats haven’t scared you off, it’s worth reading this article and taking a closer look. Snapchat has made some interesting decisions with how they run their platform, and it’s exciting new ground for video marketers. It’s also worth learning more because Snapchat is so new still, and the moves they make might appear elsewhere.


Snapchat began life in 2011 as an instant messaging app which allowed users to send captioned photos to each other. The recipient could view these photos for a very limited time before they self-destructed. Shortly after its inception, Snapchat added the capability to send videos and plain text. After a short bit of media outrage over the potential salacious applications teens might use the platform for, people got used to the benefits of Snapchat’s privacy and impermanence. They’ve also added fun embellishments on the formula, with things like Filters and Lenses, which we’ll discuss later.

It’s been growing ever since.

Snapchat is very open with its usage statistics, in an effort to court marketers to their new “Snapchat for Business” capabilities. Here are some highlights: the service has 173 daily active users, who watch 10 billion videos per day. The average user opens the app 18 times per day, and active users will spend more than 30 minutes per day on the platform. That equates to a lot of opportunity for potential marketers.

Brands who want a piece of that pie can use Snapchat in two main ways. You can create an account for your brand and attract organic followers by creating bite sized content on a frequent basis. Optimal content strategies for the Snapchat audience are out of the scope of this article, but there is a lot of advice online for ways to plan out campaignscompose Snapchat stories, and work with influencers. The latter is especially important because Snapchat culture, like Instagram culture, is very personality-based.

Brands can also use Snapchat’s advertising tools to create something more in line with traditional ads, which is what we’ll discuss next.


Snapchat ads are served to users as they view their friends’ stories. More accurately, they appear between the stories. A Snapchat story is a series of images or videos that users publish to be viewed in sequence. The ads take a form that looks very similar to the Snaps that users generate: full screen photographs or videos with some text overlays. Users can instantly skip these interruptions if they choose to.

Brands can make their ads a little bit fancier than normal Snaps, though. It’s easy to build in Calls to Action (CTAs) that let your viewer engage immediately by swiping upward. You have a few options for what will appear below your video content.

Web View: Your can link to a mobile-friendly website that stitches seamlessly to the bottom of your Snap. This website can include more information about your pitch, or serve as a way to push viewers further down the funnel by gathering information. Snapchat has made it dead simple to fill out forms on these web page, since the app will instantly fill in the relevant information (i.e. the e-mail address associated with the user’s account).

App Store View: You can reveal your app’s listing in the App Store (for both Android and iOS) in the area below your Snap, allowing the user to download and install your app without even leaving Snapchat. This feature comes with some pretty granular tracking, which will provide you with useful information on your campaign’s effectiveness.

Long Form Video: You can link your Snap to a longer piece of media that will play immediately once the user swipes up. This is useful for companies that want to use their 3-10 second Snap as a teaser for a longer video like a trailer or commercial.

These CTAs account for most outcomes you would want to encourage. It’s clear that Snapchat wants to make it as easy as possible for viewers to act on the ads that they serve, which makes those ads much more valuable to marketers who demand results. And remember, even though there isn’t a B2B audience here, B2C marketers can get a lot of benefit from these tools.

It’s worth considering how powerful Snapchat filters and lenses can be. These aren’t directly related to video marketing, but they can be a part of a broader Snapchat strategy.

A Filter is a static graphical overlay that decorates a photo or video. These can change based on a number of factors, including the user’s location. The standard built-in filters include overlays that say what State or City you’re in. Things like that.

A sponsored filter by McDonald’s. Do you want fries with that snap?

A Snapchat Lens is a little more involved. Lenses morph and alter the image of the user in fun and interesting ways. A popular sponsored lens overlaid a Starbucks cup on a video, tracking it to the user’s mouth.

This Lens turns users into their favorite X-Men. Too bad it couldn’t make the movie better.

The goal of sponsored Snapchat Filters and Lenses is to spread awareness of your brand by getting users to make content for their friends, with your brand front and center. For this to be effective, you need to either offer something very entertaining or very useful. Or you need to already be a brand that people have affection for.


In 2016, Snapchat worked with a research firm called MediaScience to determine how effective their ads are. The resulting whitepaper paints a surprising picture. Their methodology compared Snaps to ads on different platforms, and measured ad effectiveness through eye tracking (to measure attention) and electrodermal activity (to measure emotional response). Some key figures include that Snapchat ads are 1.3x more effective than YouTube ads, and 1.5x more effective than Facebook ads.

Most shockingly, purchase intent after watching a Snapchat ad was 2x higher than both television and YouTube (a jump from 5% purchase intent to 11% purchase intent.

MediaScience attributes this success to the fact that Snaps take up the entire screen of the device. Interestingly, the effectiveness of the ads wasn’t harmed by the fact that users can skip them immediately if they aren’t interested.

If these figures are tempting to you, and you’re sure you can find an audience on Snapchat, it’s very easy to get started.

The guidelines for Snapchat video are simple. Your content should be a vertically oriented 9:16 video (a regular widescreen video, tipped on its side). Video content should be 3 – 10 seconds long. There are more technical and encoding particulars, but those are the broad strokes.

What’s interesting is that the form factor of a Snap places different demands on the content. When you’re planning or designing a video, you need to take the orientation and length into account. You have a vanishingly small amount of time to make an impression. More notably, once the video finishes playing, it disappears forever.

This means you should take one of two paths: Either make your content memorable, funny, or valuable enough to make an impression in the limited time you have, or drive very aggressively toward a conversion so the viewer takes action right away. Remember, that action will be to drag the video upward and follow your CTA.

Once you’ve made your content, you use Snapchat’s web tools to upload it and build your campaign. These tools will look familiar to anyone who has used the business services of sites like Facebook or Twitter. You can designate your audience, schedule your campaign, then measure and optimize it.

Snapchat’s audience selection tools are incredibly powerful. They gather a spooky amount of data about their users, and use that to make their ads more valuable. This includes personal information, along with location data and device data. You have five different options for determining who will see your ad.

Design Your Own: Snapchat gives you some basic options for selecting an audience by target demographic, using factors like age, gender, parental status, device type, household income, and parental status.

Predefined Audiences: Snapchat provides over 300 prepackaged audiences that you can select from. Each of these fall into one of four categories, based on simple descriptors. You can target people based on their lifestyle, shopping habits, media viewing habits, and visitation habits (i.e. what stores they physically visit).

Audience Match: If you already have a corpus of audience data, including information like email addresses and device IDs, you can upload that info anonymously to Snapchat. The platform then seeks out the Snapchat accounts associated with that data. This is useful for retargeting a message that was already sent by email or through another app.

Lookalike Expansions: Using your Audience Match data as a seed, Snapchat will automatically tune your targeting to find audiences that look similar to the audience you currently have.

As you’d probably expect, Snapchat provides a ton of analytics to let you measure the efficacy of your ad spend. If you can think of it, they probably measure it. And you can adjust your campaign mid-flight to maximize your return.

The fundamentals of Snapchat’s nature as a phone app mean that there’s one powerful use case that might be of use to you: Snapchat is incredibly powerful for businesses with brick and mortar locations. Targeting by very specific geographies can help you push your audience into your stores and inform them of deals. The geographic targeting that Snapchat allows likely won’t be too interesting to businesses that operate solely online.

Snapchat is more than just the instant messaging app that your teenage relatives use obsessively. It’s a novel way to communicate, and there are huge opportunities for brands that want to get in front of its particular audience. If you’re a B2B marketer, all of this information might just serve as a curiosity for you. It’s unlikely that you can gain a lot of ground by spending money on a Snapchat ad.

However, B2C marketers should really pay attention to the moves that Snapchat is making. The tools that they make available to advertisers make it very easy to drive action and conversion, or raise awareness of your brand. Approached correctly, Snapchat gives you an inroad into your customers’ lives that is unlike anything you’d find elsewhere.

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