Guest post by Jessica Swarner (Twitter, Website, LinkedIn).

Have you ever seen a teenager making a weird face at his phone in public? He’s most likely one of 40 percent of teenagers using Snapchat daily (Vaynerchuk, 2016)—the app that’s been known for its disappearing photos since 2012.

Snapchat: A Very Brief Description

You take a picture or video, add a filter or drawing, and set a timer for how long you want it to stick around on a friend’s phone. If you’re particularly proud of it, you can add it to a “story,” or a timeline where it will be viewable to any of your friends for 24 hours after posting.

Although you can replay a person’s snap, you can only do so once—meaning that at the very most, you have only 20 seconds to commit any given snap to memory. The fleeting nature of these photos has led many users to view Snapchat as a vehicle for behaviors ranging from silly faces to sexting and illegal activities.

Snapchat and the Media

More recently, major media networks such as Vice and ESPN began to provide content through the new “Discover” function in 2015 (Vaynerchuk, 2016). The media platforms created snaps that gave a taste of their original content and allowed users to access longer videos or articles in the app if they wished.

Having the media hop into the app opened a gateway for other brands—ones that wanted to advertise actual products rather than content. With a market of almost 200 million users, and a niche market at that with 45 percent of its users under 25, advertisers couldn’t pass up this opportunity to send their messaging directly to youth (Vaynerchuk, 2016).

There are other ways for companies to target youth in ads—playing commercials on children’s television channels, for example—but companies know that times are changing, and ads just aren’t consumed the way they used to be.

Nearly half of the U.S. population says they check their phone more than 30 times per day, a percentage that only increases among Millennials (Graham, 2016). That’s a lot of time for people to scroll through their social media feeds. And even though quickly passing an ad may not seem effective, research shows we consume information much more quickly than we may think.

According to an AdAge article about consuming mobile content, “people can recall mobile news feed content at a statistically significant rate after only 0.25 seconds of exposure” (Graham, 2016). This finding bodes well for an app based on short bursts of information.

The Next Big Digital Advertising Forum?

Many companies have made this connection and created their own accounts, encouraging users to follow them for interesting and entertaining, but commercially oriented, snaps.

This year, companies like Budweiser and Pepsi even joined Snapchat to advertise during one of the biggest commercial events of the year—the Super Bowl. As people viewed the live story for one of the most watched television broadcasts of the year, they intermittently saw ads from Budweiser and Pepsi, like very short television commercials. Some companies created sponsored filters for people to use on their photos and videos, including a filter in which Snapchat users could virtually dump a cooler of Gatorade on their heads. The brand’s marketing ploy racked up 160 million impressions—more than the 115 million people who tuned into the game (Sloane, “Gatorade’s”, 2016).

So what does these mean for Snapchat? Interestingly, although these brands are getting plenty of exposure, it might not actually be helping them reel in more cash. Research company Gannett announced after a recent study that “social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be” (Barton, 2016).

Essentially, the number of ad views and interactions with brand strategies like filters may not actually be affecting people’s buying choices. Of the 18,000 social media users asked, 62 percent said social media ads do not influence their buying decisions at all. Even 48 percent of Millennials agreed (Barton, 2016).

Gallup argues that since people mainly use social media to connect with friends and family, they aren’t interested in the information ads have to offer. The research company advises that brands create ads in a way that engages with their audiences and encourage consumers to “advocate on (the brands’) behalf” (Barton, 2016). If someone scrolling through their feed sees a friend showing off their new Nikes, that will affect that person’s buying decision much more than a regular ad would, according to Gallup’s logic.

Nuances of Persuasion in Social Media

This theory is especially interesting because it points out the nuances of Richard Petty and John Cacioppo’s elaboration likelihood model of persuasion (Galician, 2004).

In the “central” route to persuasion, consumers are aware that they are consuming media and they are alert to its messages. In the “peripheral” route, consumers have their defenses down and think they are simply being entertained.

Brands advertising on social media may think they are channeling their message through a peripheral route by creating entertaining snaps and filters, but maybe there is still too much obvious branding in them to fly over people’s heads.

By creating ad strategies that encourage people to do the advertising themselves, whether it’s through contests asking people to post of pictures of themselves on Instagram using a product, or asking them to use a certain hashtag on Twitter, brands can get their messages across in a more peripheral route.

So while Snapchat is an ideal platform for brands to reach people, Millennials especially, these companies seem to have a little more work cut out for themselves.

Be on the lookout for brands having the ability to create their own live stories, where they encourage people to upload snaps of them drinking a certain beverage or dancing in a certain brand of athletic gear, without companies having to host their own events, as Budweiser has done in the past. Chances are, that’s what’s coming next.




  • Barton, J. "Is the Hoopla Over Social Media Marketing the Biggest Myth Ever?" Mobile Marketing Watch. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
  • Galician, Mary-Lou. Sex, Love & Romance in the Mass Media: Analysis & Criticism of Unrealistic Portrayals & Their Influence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Print.
  • Graham, Jeffrey, and Fidji Simo. "Facebook and Twitter: Users Process Mobile Content Faster." Advertising Age DigitalNext RSS. N.p., 01 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
  • "Replay." Snapchat. Snapchat, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
  • Sloane, Garett. "Gatorade's Super Bowl Snapchat Filter Got 160 Million Impressions - Digiday." Digiday. N.p., 17 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
  • Sloane, Garett. "Snapchat's Linked with the NFL to Sell Big-name Brands for a Super Bowl Live Story - Digiday." Digiday. N.p., 25 Jan. 2016. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
  • Vaynerchuk, Gary. "The Snap Generation: A Guide to Snapchats History." Observe Business & Tech. N.p., 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.