Instagram, Vine and Snapchat, with their growing popularity, are enabling brands to use short-form video to engage consumers, but there are pitfalls to be wary of in the trend for instant marketing.
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Snapchat, Instagram video and Vine let people create video to share short snippets of their lives with friends and followers. But when brands become involved it could open them up to both risks and rewards. Although marketers are used to short advertising spots on TV, is this new trend towards instant marketing - content lasting less than 15 seconds delivered via social media and mobile - worth it to get the message across?
Snapchat has been surrounded by negative press as people have used it to send explicit imagery. Users send pictures via mobile that can appear from between one to 10 seconds then disappear from the recipients’ phones once opened, although people can screen grab images if they are fast enough.
Lynx, MTV UK and Doritos are just some of the first brands to try out the apps as a marketing tool, sharing short videos and exclusive pictures to drum up interest around products, launch events and the brand in general.
“We are fully aware that Snapchat is popular but it does have a slightly seedy ‘sexting’ reputation for some,” says David Titman, senior brand manager at Lynx, which tested the app last month. “Being aware of this means you know what you might be getting yourself into.”
When devising strategies, we listen to our social audience first. Before using Snapchat, we interacted with fans on social to gauge relevance
Working with its digital creative agency, TMW, Lynx trialled Snapchat by sending core fans exclusive content about a secret Lynx launch party, including behind-the-scenes pictures of host and television presenter Charlie Webster on a photo shoot and photographs of her completing a space-themed assault course. The brand also asked the audience to share their own images and had a response prepared for any inappropriate images sent.
Titman says: “For any potentially seedy messages we created a brand response showing an image of Lynx Deep Space shower gel saying, ‘we think you might need a cold shower’, although interestingly we didn’t need to worry as the huge inbound response was kept clean.”
The level of risk can depend on the brand and the audience. MTV is also using Snapchat to drum up interest for the next series of its reality TV show Geordie Shore. As both the show and the TV channel have a ‘cheeky’ persona, the use of Snapchat did not pose a huge risk (see Q&A).
Jo Bacon, vice-president of marketing, creative and publicity for MTV UK, says: “For us as a youth entertainment brand we felt there was very little risk. We were very knowledgeable about the platform and knew how best to use it to ensure we create relevant messaging to our fans, as we do across all our platforms. We constantly sense check our content before it goes live and being Geordie Shore we have a little more creative freedom to be cheekier than most brands.”
Meanwhile, O2 is taking a trial approach to Snapchat on a smaller scale to ensure it is right for its customers, having been active on Vine and running competitions on Instagram for O2 Travel.
The brand ran a competition on Snapchat and rewarded the first person to contact them with Beats headphones. O2 told fans via Twitter that it would be snapchatting fans who add them at 4pm on the day of the competition. They sent those people a close up of the product and those who guessed first won prizes. They ran this four tines in one day. By engaging fans via this competition, O2 was able to find out how many of its existing fans already use the app and how fast word travelled about the competition. It also allowed a reiteration of the current ‘Be More Dog’ campaign through this competition’s creative execution.
An O2 spokesperson says: “We’re always looking at innovative ways to use social media and have been watching Snapchat carefully since it launched. While we may not form permanent outposts on each and every social network, if one shows promise, we will often try small scale activity to test it out.”
Although O2 gained valuable insight about Snapchat, the brand says it remains to be seen how big the app can get. “Brand social activity can often revolve around rich content that’s available whenever a user wants, Snapchat is obviously different to this and it remains to be seen whether it’ll be the next Twitter.”
MTV is also watching the interest its followers have in the app. Bacon says: “In the long term, we will continue to monitor how our fans engage with Snapchat and their level of interest will go on to determine our time investment on the platform. It will be interesting to see how Snapchat develops its offering specifically for brands over the next few months.”
The rise of Snapchat, which has 200 million images shared each day, up from 6 million in February, feeds into the trend of consumers wanting to see, create and share bite-sized content. Twitter bought video-sharing app Vine in October 2012 and launched it this January, enabling people to share six-second videos, while Facebook owned Instagram launched a video function last month where 15-second clips can be sent.
Unlike Snapchat, these videos are permanent unless deleted. But while there may be less danger for brands in these channels from people believeing they can send explicit content with impunity, there is still the risk of brands being irrelevant and failing to understand the uses of the app to get further engagement from fans.
Urban Outfitters was one of the first brands to use Vine for a competition based campaign in which it partnered with Converse to launch #yourchucks, where fans could create and submit Vines showing off their Chuck Taylor shoes to win prizes. The retailer is also using Vine to launch its new Camden store, which opened last week.
Like Snapchat, the use of Vine is also increasing. Research by video technology company Unruly found that the average number of tweets containing a Vine link had increased from five every second in April to nine every second during the first three weeks of June, and that branded Vines are four times more likely to be shared than video advertising on other platforms.
However, other reports show that Vine took a big nosedive after Instagram launched video and offered an alternative for brands. Topshop quickly got on board with Instagram video showcasing its clothing range, receiving more than 2,000 likes within a few minutes of airing, according to social media experts We Are Social.
Choosing the right social media app is “all about relevance” says Titman at Lynx, speaking about Snapchat. “You need to have a reason to be on the platform and the content you post out needs to support that. The last thing you want is a recipient to receive an image and wonder why they have it.”
He adds: “You need to understand the environment and specifically that the content is disposable and only living for 5 to 10 seconds. Keeping it relevant to both brand and platform therefore needs to be the big consideration in the content you put out, especially as it has to be quick, simple and easy to understand.”
Doritos, for example, ran Easter activity via Vine and worked with Twitter to ensure activity was heard over the traditional confectionary brands running activity at the time. The content was an appropriate fit with not only the audience but also the functions of the Vine App (see case study).
We were one of the first brands to use Instagram. Now we want to use video to help our supporters see the changes they make
MTV tapped into the ‘selfie’ trend, where people take pictures of themselves. Stars of its show Geordie Shore held up banners on Facebook and other social networks encouraging people to follow the show on Snapchat and then sent holiday snaps and selfies to them. MTV says its audience is obsessed with constantly posting selfies across their social networks.
It also means that where previously the brand might have used paid-for media to remind viewers about forthcoming episodes, MTV could use Snapchat to speak to viewers in a creative, engaging and entertaining way.
Creating fast content might be popular with consumers but for brands there has to be a balance with being reactive and planning social media posts effectively.
Lynx knew Snapchat was hugely popular with its audience of young men and as a brand needed to make sure that it is active in a relevant way wherever the audience are but it also ensured a certain amount of planning was in place.
Titman says: “The plan was to look for a way to use Snapchat in a way that would be of interest to our fans but also relevant to the brand and platform. Before doing anything, we did a lot of planning to make sure we were ready for any number of possible responses, but ultimately with a platform like that, there’s no substitute for just getting stuck in and learning on the go.”
Charities are also seeing the benefit of using Vine and Instagram video to connect with its community. Charity Kids Company, working with its agency partner AMV BBDO, took to Vine to create a series of videos showing underprivileged children in disturbing scenes. It also used Twitter, as well as Vine, as part of the Apps For Good initiative.
The videos, which featured scenes such as children eating out of dustbins or surrounded by drug paraphernalia, ended with a call to action to donate. Those who donated received a return message thanking them for their support and included a Vine showing the child from the disturbing conditions in better circumstances.
For Charity:water, Instagram video struck a cord with its work of bringing clean drinking water to developing countries. Its most popular video shows a woman in India, who had to previously walk for hours to get water form an unclean source, benefiting from the new clean water installation the charity put in place a few years ago.
Paull Young, director of digital at Charity:water, says: “We were actually one of the very first brands to use Instagram and because we have great photography it was a natural way for us to start sharing content. Now we are trying to use video to connect people more with the change they are making in the world by supporting us, we want to help them see the changes they make.”
The most important aspect for the brands trialling the platform is relevancy with the functions of the app and with the target audience. Trials may prove the channel is a better fit for some brands over others and as with all new trends and apps time will tell - but it may take more than 15 seconds.