If you’re wondering whether to jump on the Snapchat train, it’s worthwhile taking a look at where it’s been and where it’s going. If you’re just wondering what the Snapchat train is and what it means for hotel marketers, I wouldn’t be too concerned just yet.
It’s certainly been interesting to watch how Snapchat has developed over the years. What originally started as a simple app for people to send photos to each other that would expire after 10 seconds—never to be seen again—has turned into…um…well, to be honest it hasn’t really changed. Although they did release some ridiculous sunglasses so you could upload your entire life to Snapchat, so there is that.
In any case, the biggest change that hotels (or any business, for that matter) might care about is that brands are starting to utilise Snapchat for their own greedy, money-making purposes.
After all, if no one watches TV anymore, why not invade their social network to get them to notice us? Why not put up weird, stupid videos that those cool young guys and gals will really love? Why not bring our brand to those younger people who sleep all day and party all night?
HIDE AND SEEK
It certainly sounds cool, but in practice, it’s just never worked that way. The only guys who’ve used Snapchat to genuinely enhance their brand have had millions of dollars behind them and teams of marketing guys to push it. The biggest problem for Snapchat marketers in the past has been discoverability.
Unlike Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or YouTube or the other 346,930 social platforms, Snapchat hasn’t allowed any real way to discover new content. There are no hashtags, there are no categories, and the only way to find new stuff has been to browse through Snapchat’s “Discover” section.
However, Snapchat’s Discover page only features select news and pop culture partners like ESPN, Cosmopolitan, MTV and Buzzfeed. This is nice to keep people in the app, but it certainly doesn’t help you as a hotel owner at all.
A quick Google search for “Snapchat for hotels” brings up articles talking about the successes of the Marriott and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, among a few others. But what use is this to you if you aren’t a top-tier brand? Like I said, it’s inevitable that these big brands will start campaigns and competitions to push their name to as many users as they can.
Most smaller hotels, motels, B&Bs, lodges and resorts have neither the time, nor the money, nor the experience to bother with Snapchat. Not only that, they are unlikely to garner any large enough audience to make it worthwhile. And NOT ONLY THAT, there is simply no way to find your hotel on Snapchat without knowing your username or finding your Snapcode somewhere.
In fact, I completely agree with Jenny Mudarri of Wistia about the uselessness of Snapchat for business. She recommends small businesses avoid Snapchat as a marketing channel. As we’ve discussed, the lack of any way to discover new people to follow is Snapchat's biggest downfall.
Like Mudarri puts its so succinctly:
"Even if you do happen to build a small following on Snapchat, these individuals are probably already superfans rather than potential customers.”
I get it though—you want to seem cool. You want that “in” with the elusive “millennial”. Just for the record, however, I’m apparently a millennial, and I do use Snapchat, but I can’t really see myself actually adding a hotel. It’s just not really what I’m interested in. I use it to send stupid stuff to friends and play around with the Snapchat’s ever-changing library of Lenses when I get bored.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t add brands if they put up interesting content. And I’m also not the best example of a millennial, partly because I can’t stand the misuse of to/too/two and the fact that “literally” actually means "figuratively" now. As I’ve said, the main problem with Snapchat is that users can’t just browse for new, interesting content.
But are things set to change?
DISCOVERING A NEW WORLD
In a January 12, 2017 article on TechCrunch, Josh Constine revealed Snapchat’s new plans to very soon introduce search features into the iOS and Android apps. In fact, it’s already rolled out to some Android users, and will soon be available to everyone.
Apparently, Snapchat is adding a universal search bar at the top of the app to quickly discover content, including your friends, current conversations, as well as content on the Discover page.
Snapchat is certainly not the easiest-to-use app in the world, largely because of its reliance on swiping gestures to navigate between all the screens without much on-screen help as to what goes where. This may have been a purposeful UI decision to keep out the older folk, who tend to prefer large on-screen buttons with bold text to navigate through an app.
Snapchat has certainly made inroads to that end, adding real buttons to tap for each screen, making the UI far more discoverable. But I digress.
With this new universal search, it certainly makes it easier to quickly find conversations and friends, wherever you are in the app. According to TechCrunch:
"Improved search could be a huge boon to brands, businesses and influencers hoping to build their Snapchat audience. Previously, Snapchat only offered a fractured search interface, with boxes for finding specific conversations, accounts to follow and Stories or Discover channels scattered in three different places.” (Emphasis mine)
However, I’m not so sure about this. While it sounds nice, the user still needs to have added your brand, or at least your brand needs to be really discoverable—and by that, I mean, your Snapchat username needs to be basically the name of your hotel—or this is really no “boon” at all. Just adding a search box to the entire app doesn’t really help with the discovery of new content, it just helps find the same content more quickly.
Perhaps more interesting (and certainly far more speculatively), Constine mused that this universal search could pave the way for "new revenue opportunities” suggesting that "Snapchat could potentially let advertisers pay for sponsored placement atop search results, or as suggestions in the search interface.” And I certainly don’t completely disagree with this.
As Constine also says:
"As Snap Inc. heads toward a 2017 IPO at an expected valuation around $25 billion, it needs to prove it has plenty of different ways it could earn more money in the future.”
These search improvements are obviously the first in a well-mapped plan to monetise Snapchat, which appears to so far only have relied on larger brands to buy sponsored Lenses, as well as individuals to purchase Filters based on their location.
WHAT’S THE OUTCOME?
Ultimately, Snapchat remains an interesting beast to watch out for. The way I see it, Snapchat just isn’t the most effective marketing tool at the moment. Not only can it be difficult to get your head around, it tends to be confined to use by only young audiences who are really only there to communicate with their friends.
Also because of the lack of discoverability or any real analytics, it can be frustrating to work out if your time spent on Snapchat is returning much, if anything at all, for the investment of time you spend on it.
Obviously this is just one guy’s opinion, and I know that there will be hotels and others in the travel industry making Snapchat work for them. But as a general rule, Snapchat just doesn’t have the discoverability and analytics prowess of some of the other platforms out there.
There’s no doubt this will change later in the year as Snapchat looks like to monetise their platform, because there’s also no doubt of the enormous potential it has for marketers. Unfortunately for most hotels, that time has not yet come.
Nick’s background is with visual media, most notably photography and graphic design. His experience with composition, colouring and storytelling led him to his latest role at Raving Digital. He also dabbles with recording music, so he understands how important audio is in any video.
He’s worked at everything from checkout chick to business analyst to pizza chef, but somehow his loyalty lies with telling great stories with brilliant visuals and even brilliant-er sound.
As the director of photography, he’s often behind a camera, but then he’s also back in the studio splitting hairs over the amount of green in the shadows or the stereo spread of the room tone.