Snapchat for beginners: a nonprofit’s guide

Of all the social media platforms out there, Snapchat tends to be the most misunderstood – and consequently avoided – by marketers. It’s hybrid nature (is it a chat app? A photo tool? A news source?) makes it confusing to people who aren’t regular users. But if you’re looking to target and build meaningful relationships with younger donors, then Snapchat is a platform you need to wrap your head around, stat. Here’s why:

Snapchat fast facts

  • It’s cornered the youth market. In Australia, Snapchat’s primary users are aged 13-24, with 25-34-year olds coming in second. Internationally, the figures paint a similar picture. If you want to talk to Gen Zs and Millennials, then this is the place.
  • Users are highly engaged. 50% of Snapchat users log in daily and spend 25-30 minutes on the platform every day. That offers brands on Snapchat much greater visibility than other social media channels.
  • User generated content dominates. 60% of content on Snapchat is generated by users, indicating again that users are engaged on a much deeper level. They aren’t just reading, liking or sharing others’ content, they are content creators in their own right.
  • It’s an untapped opportunity. Recent figures indicate that only around 1% of businesses use Snapchat to promote their campaigns. Compare that to the number of brands of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube and you can see why you have far greater chance of successfully delivering your message via Snapchat.

How it works

At its core, Snapchat is a mobile messaging app through which users send temporary images to other users which typically only last a few seconds and then become inaccessible. It allows users to edit and customise their images via doodles, emojis, fun text and a range of constantly changing photo lenses, and now also offers video, audio and text chat. The relatively recent addition of Snapchat Discover provides users with a feed of the latest news from friends, influencers and media sources they follow.

Where Snapchat differs from other social networks is that interactions between users are all private – and the number of followers or connections you have is not visible to others. But you’ll still need to build a following to gain traction. The best way to get the ball rolling is to promote your newly-minted Snapchat account to your existing social media fanbases and encourage them to connect with you.

Four ways to use Snapchat

Ok, so you’ve created your channel and you’ve let people know about it. What’s next? Here are five ways you can start using Snapchat to communicate and build relationships with donors.

1. Use the Snapchat Stories tool.

Snapchat Stories are a way to publically share a series of snaps with all of your followers. They’re ideal for telling bite-sized short stories about an event or moment and typically last 1-2 minutes. Unlike private messages, stories expire after 24 hours and can be viewed again and again during that time. Importantly, you can also see how many times your story has been viewed and get a sense of whether it’s hitting the mark. Use them to show supporters what goes on behind-the-scenes, provide exclusive content, spotlight an event or individual donor’s efforts.

2. Send tailored messages to your supporters.

Because you can’t preview the content of a Snapchat message before it’s opened, the open rate on snaps is extremely high. This makes it a great tool for communicating with supporters. The key here is not to overthink it: a simple photo or video message providing encouragement or thanking them for their support can be highly effective and help to strengthen their relationship with your cause.

3. Create your own personalised geofilters.

These are photo filters which are only available to users within a designated location. They can be customised with text and artwork to promote your cause or event and, unlike sponsored filters which are prohibitively expensive for the average charity, geofilters are completely affordable. For as little as $20 a day, your geofilter can be seen by every Snapchat user within your set location and – this is the clincher – everyone who views a story or message to which the filter has been added. In this way, a filter that is only accessed by a few hundred people has the potential to be seen by a much wider audience.

4. Collaborate.

Grow your fanbase on Snapchat by collaborating with influencers who are active on the platform and can help to spread your message. Find out if any of your existing ambassadors already have a presence on Snapchat that you can leverage, or reach out to influencers who have shown an interest in philanthropy or your cause and ask them to collaborate with you on a Story.

5. Invest in Snap Ads.

Snap ads are short ads uploaded to the platform and which appear between snaps in the Stories, Live and Discover channels of the app. In keeping with the ethos of Snapchat, ads last just 10 seconds, but advertisers can then drive users to Snapchat Discover for more info.

Quick tips for Snapchat success

Embrace silliness. Because snaps disappear after just a few seconds, Snapchat naturally lends itself to being fun and candid. Obviously, a playful tone isn’t appropriate for every cause or event, but if you can find a way to embrace this aspect of the platform, you’ll gain instant kudos with users.

Offer exclusive content. Snapchat users like to feel special so providing them with content they can’t access anywhere else is a big thumbs up. Think behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive conversations with influencers.

Keep it unpolished. This isn’t the place for slick production values. The best brands on Snapchat aim to mimic the way that users themselves use the medium – and in doing so ensure they retain an authentic edge.