In an instant, a precious moment could disappear forever. Therein lays the beauty of Snapchat. The self-destructing photo/video sharing app has quickly become one of the most popular; infusing the spontaneity of good old-fashioned conversation with a modern twist. Snapchat is used by teens and young-adults who want to engage in social media, without risk of being haunted by a digital after-life.
After sending a “snap”, it self-destructs in less than 10 seconds, never to be seen again. Fascinated by the app’s wild popularity, companies are searching for ways to utilize Snapchat as a communication tool. The concept of expiry encourages user engagement, which can be employed to distribute sneak-peeks or “exploding coupons” to loyal consumers. Sadly, Snapchat is infamously known as the “sexting app”... something companies must carefully consider before associating their brand with something so risqué. Oh Snap!
Contributors: Madeline MacKenzie & Sarah Jesty
So... What Exactly is Snapchat?!
Snapchat has quickly become one of the most popular mobile apps. Once downloaded to your iPhone or Android Smartphone, you can “chat” with friends through photo and video messaging up to ten times faster than MMS.  What makes Snapchat unique is that the “snaps” self-destruct after only a few seconds, disappearing forever.  The only way these messages can be seen again is if you are quick enough to take a screenshot, after which a notification is sent to the sender.  Snapchat is all about fun, and bringing back the spontaneity of good old-fashioned conversation, with a modern twist.
"There is value in the ephemeral. Great conversations are magical. That’s because they are shared, enjoyed, but not saved.”—Team Snapchat
Snapchat was created in the spring of 2011 by two undergraduate students at Stanford looking to develop an app so their friends could cyber-socialize, with no lasting record or repercussions. They wanted to save people from having to scramble to delete or untag embarrassing pictures, which could potentially tarnish their online reputations forever.  The app was launched in September 2011 with zero media coverage, but by January 10th, 2013, millions were using Snapchat.  In early February of 2013, it was the second-most popular free photo and video app for the iPhone, behind YouTube and ahead of Instagram. 
What External Trends and Market Forces does Snapchat Accommodate?
Desire for Privacy
One of the key external trends accommodated by Snapchat is the user rebellion against forms of social media, like Facebook, which continuously build online permanent records of its users. Most social media sites warehouse and monetize their users’ data, leading to the creation of a “digital afterlife”.  Users’ justification for privacy concerns vary drastically, with some young people worried about potential employers gaining access to incriminating photos or posts, and some parents worried about their young children’s pictures being used without their knowledge.
Its accommodation of privacy via its self-destructing photos, along with its popularity among teens and young adults, has led to Snapchat’s notorious reputation as “the sexting-app”.  Though the Snapchat creators deny any intentional connection between the app and “sexting”, their introductory marketing materials used pictures of pretty girls in bikinis, and there was a disclosure on the app warning of “Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity.” Regardless of whether or not Snapchat was intentionally developed for “sexting”, it has definitely accommodated society’s increasing value of privacy and protection of online reputations.
Desire for Personal Connection
Another trend affecting Snapchat’s popularity is the ever-increasing desire for personal connection. One high school Snapchatter said, “I was thinking about it today, how next year when I go away to college it will be nice. You actually get to see the friend’s face for a quick 10 seconds. It’s more personal than a text.” Snapchat accommodates a deeper personal connection than can be achieved by simply sharing a photo, as it invites another person into the present as opposed to remembering the past. 
Similarly, co-founder Spiegel wrote the following on the company blog: 
Decreasing Consumer Attention Span
Consumers’ attention spans are decreasing, and the length of advertisements must shrink to match. On average, about 5% of an audience viewing a 15-second commercial will give up on it. The number jumps to about 6% for 30 seconds and 6.5% for 60 seconds.  The decrease in attention span is accommodated by Snapchat, with each picture or video message existing for only a few seconds and engaging the user through gamification, as they must interpret the message within a matter of seconds. 
How does Snapchat Complement the Marketing Communication Mix?
Target Audiences Addressed with this Tool...
Snapchat’s user base is 13-24 year olds, with their parents increasingly using the app. However, their parents use it mostly to communicate with the kids, and not amongst their own social circles.  As a large part of Snapchat’s popularity stems from the fact it doesn’t warehousing user data, there is little information about the typical user; creating a challenge when attempting to segment a market.
Additionally, as you must be a registered contact of any user before you can send them a snap, it is especially difficult to target different products/services to specific segments. Unless the consumer has sought out your contact (i.e., from your company website) is difficult to target specific users.
However, within the identified age range (13-24), we can infer that the typical Snapchat user is social and trendy. We can also assume that, as they require a smartphone in order to use the app, they are likely quite affluent, or come from an affluent household.
Businesses whose product/service appeals to the Snapchat user audience is are likely to achieve more success using Snapchat as a promotional tool than those which do not. For example, Canadian Tire’s target audience is not likely very populated with Snapchat users; however, a frozen yogurt shop in a student neighbourhood may want to consider this as an option, as their target audience is in the appropriate age range, and is likely fairly affluent and trendy.
Communication Objectives Achieved with Snapchat...
Snapchat founders see potential in partnering with brands to distribute sneak peeks of their products/services, such as a preview of a new movie or a glimpse of an upcoming line of clothing. They also want to explore the use of “exploding coupons”, which expire after a certain amount of time.
In these capacities, Snapchat can satisfy 4 communication objectives:
- USER ENGAGEMENT: The expiration of a snap can raise user engagement, as the image or video is only available to the user for a few seconds before “self-destructing”. It is imperative that consumers give the message their undivided attention in order to process and remember the message delivered by the snap.
- BRAND RESONANCE/RELATIONSHIPS: Companies can build brand resonance and relationships by distributing "insider info" to ONLY the most loyal consumers. When promotional campaigns are run through Twitter or Facebook, anyone can copy the information and circulate it to others, diluting the novelty of the information. Sending snaps ensures that the preferential treatment is given only to the target consumers, making them feel more connected to the company.
- ALTER EVALUATION CRITERIA: As Snapchat raises awareness that other companies are warehousing and monetizing users' personal information, consumers may begin to only register for notifications from businesses that do not require personal data. This would put businesses using Snapchat at a distinct advantage.
- RAISE AWARENESS: Companies can raise awareness among current and potential Snapchat users (i.e. the young and trendy demographic), building a Snapchat consumer fan base. Current users will continue to use snaps to obtain information about new product/service and potential users will desire to become an “insider” to company promotions. 
Synergies with Other Tools & Media
has deliberately tried to differentiate itself from all other
forms of social media, it seems wise that co-founder Evan Spiegel has stated
that Snapchat will never allow sharing with other social networks. After all, “the kids like SnapChat because it's NOT Facebook,"
insinuating that a main part of Snapchat’s appeal is its distinctness for the
Consumers who are registered on a company's website can add their Snapchat handle to the company’s profile, allowing the company to send them snaps with offers.  Companies can find other ways to promote their Snapchat username, and provide incentives for people who add them to their Snapchat contact list. In this way, there are synergies between Snapchat and company websites.
Snapchat also has high potential for synergies with movie or song teasers, as its purpose is to share brief images and short video clips. Fans could have exclusive access to the first movie teasers or clips from unreleased songs. This synergy satisfies the production companies, the stars/celebrities, and the fans/consumers, by building hype about a new movies or song.
Risks & Barriers for Adoption
As snaps cannot be shared easily among Snapchat users, marketers are deprived of the social-media metrics they typically use to judge users’ engagement with a brand campaign, and have no way of evaluating their marketing tools. 
Facebook’s copycat program, "Poke", is the main competitor for Snapchat, which may have greater appeal to marketers because of its compatibility with such a successful social media platform .
There is a risk of tarnishing the associated company's brand through association with “sexting.” Snapchat has already been connected to numerous allegations that the purpose of Snapchat was for “sexting” among young users.  Companies may be reluctant to associate themselves and their consumers with a negative connotation.
Limited Target Audience...
Though millions of people are using the Snapchat app, this audience is limited (13-24 year olds). Companies using Snapchat as a communication tool would be excluding members of the population which fall outside this specific demographic, as well as those users within the demographic which are not using Snapchat.
Ads Could Hinder Snapchat's Popularity...
It is possible that part of Snapchat’s main appeal is that it doesn’t have a lot of advertising. By using it as a marketing communication tool, users may lose interest.  Snapchat users may become frustrated with having to view an advertisement before accessing their snap, taking away from the “instant/in the moment” video or picture.
Real World Example
16 Handles, a New York fro-yo chain, rang in the New Year with what is being called “first brand Snapchat campaign”.  They decided to use Snapchat because their “core user is a Snapchat user." The novelty innate to the use of Snapchat excited customers, who were asked to send a snap of their fro-yo purchase to the 16 Handles Snapchat accounts, at which point the company sent them a point-of-sale coupon in the form of a snap.
This snap acted like a virtual "scratch-and-win" coupon that you would get upon purchase at the register, such that the consumer had to commit to their fro-yo purchase before knowing the exact amount of their discount (ranging from 15%-50%).  The creative tactics for this campaign were both affective (to evoke feelings of excitement and overall positive associations with the 16 Handles brand) and behavioral (to develop a liking for the brand by eliciting trial of the product).
Using Snapchat for coupon promotions is an effective hybrid solution between the scratch-and-win coupons of yore, and the e-coupon of the 21st century. Because the snap expires after 10 seconds, there is no risk that the consumer is going to pass the coupon along to their friends, as they could with an e-coupon, and the immediacy and surprise associate with the Snapchat promotion is much more appealing to the younger demographic than scratch-and-win coupons.
 "FAQ." Snapchat.com. Snapchat, Inc., 2012. Web. Feb. 2013.
 McDermott, John. "Brands Experiment With Photo-Messaging Service Snapchat, Facebook Poke." Adage.com. Ad Age, 4 Jan. 2013. Web. Feb. 2013.