5 Ways Brands Are Standing Out and Building Audiences on Snapchat

It takes hefty offline and social pushes

Headshot of Lauren Johnson

If the seemingly constant data points about Snapchat are any indication, the messaging app is the hottest platform for brands these days.

Cutting through the clutter of photos and videos to make sure people actually find the content is a challenge, though, especially if it's not in the form of paid advertising. Snapchat's new sponsored selfie unit, for instance, is rumored to cost as much as $750,000 for a one-day campaign. 

"Unlike most of its competitors, Snapchat's paid offering is completely separate from a brand's channel, so they aren't urging brands to cultivate organic Snapchat presences," said Victor Pineiro, vp of social media at Big Spaceship. "[Snapchat isn't] the new Facebook or Twitter—they're the new TV: appointment viewing at scale."

That said, brands that don't have big budgets are also finding creative ways to get their content in front of millions of daily users by building a following. While there is a some overlap of tactics, the common thread in building a Snapchat following is promoting the content across traditional and social channels.

Here are five tips for brands to stand out organically on Snapchat:

1. Swap Twitter and Facebook avatars for Snapcodes

Snapcodes—QR code-like images that are scanned by the app—are the most common way to build a following.

A slew of marketers like Cinnabon, Toys "R" Us and The Huffington Post have swapped out their Twitter avatars for Snapcodes, encouraging folks to follow their Snapchat accounts.



On Facebook, presidential candidates Rick Perry (before he dropped out of the race) and Hillary Clinton have experimented with posting Snapcodes as a way to get young voters to follow their Snapchat Stories.

"For now, the most efficient way to grow your Snapchat audience is to post your Snapcode on your other social channels, or else tease some of your brand's best Snaps to other channels with a strong call to action and your username," Pineiro said.

2. Turn packaging into social followers

When Sprite Brazil recently wanted to help Snapchat users get more friends, it printed codes from 15 social media influencers on its cans. Through Nov. 27, the soda brand is encouraging others to submit their Snapcodes through a microsite.

The winners will be featured on another round of cans. And, of course, Sprite wants consumers to follow its account.

It's a similar packaging tactic mobile marketers pushed for years with QR codes, but Pineiro said that because the technology is built directly into the red-hot app, brands are more likely to see more engagement than with basic QR codes.

"Snapcodes might be reminiscent of QR codes, but they're actually reducing friction when it comes to using Snapchat and growing your audience," he said. "They do carry some cultural cachet, but they're also popular because of their functionality and their ease of use."

3. Hire influencers to do it for you

Coca-Cola and Loot Crate are two examples of brands that hired popular social media stars to build a following.

Shaun McBride (more commonly known as Shonduras on Snapchat) counts video game subscription service Loot Crate as a client, and Cody Johns works the app for Coke.

Johns has repeatedly taken over the soda giant's account for events it sponsors like Nascar races. In addition to posting to Coke's account, he plugs the events on his personal account and urges viewers to tune in.

The theory is that these folks already have huge followings on the app, making it easier for brands to amass an audience.

4. Set up a website explainer

Snapchat may be cool with the teens, but explaining it to adults is still a tough sell.

So, Groupon set up a microsite when it launched its Snapchat account in August 2014 to move shoppers onto the app.

It's a simple tactic, but it can work for a brand like Groupon that gets tons of daily traffic to its website.

5. Cross-promote the content

In the same way that influencers are helping to build brand accounts, other creators promote their Snapchat videos elsewhere to help build a following.

After taking a Snapchat video, some creators save the clip and upload it to Vine and Instagram where they already have large followings.

Take a look at the following examples from Manon Mathews and Matt Cutshall:



Hired cello for this one.. Now let's get back to me. (Follow my music adventures on Snapchat ITBOYMATT )

A video posted by Matt Cutshall (@mattcutshall) on

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.