Snapchat Discover: Why It Wins the Storytelling Game

If five years ago, someone told you that the most popular way to connect with your friends and family would be through an app that only saves your messages for a few seconds—you’d say they were crazy! In our search-everything, always-on, nothing-is-out-of-reach world, fleeting anything seems insane.

Yet, Snapchat has proven the contrary. Its audience of more than 100 million monthly active users is nothing to scoff at, let alone the company’s $15 billion valuation. I love this Jason Abbruzzese line: “A picture is worth a thousand words; a disappearing picture is, evidently, worth far more.”

This year, the disappearing messaging app finally let brands in on the fun.Snapchat Discover features media partner content from big names like ESPN, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan and Food Network—even Snapchat has its own channel. Brand stories are a multimedia mix of short- and long-form content that disappear daily. For the app, and for content marketers, Discover is a strong signal toward the future of storytelling and mobile media consumption.

Why We’re Not Annoyed

So what’s the secret behind Discover? We’re not annoyed with the service because it’s how we, as consumers, want to connect, and how we want to spend our time: uninterrupted, entertained and on mobile.

Think about the apps you regularly check when you pick up your phone. Snapchat has made it to the top of that list: According to ComScore, it’s third—only behind Facebook and Instagram—for the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic. Since its launch, the app’s mobile data consumption has skyrocketed. Snapchat Discover works thanks to form, function—and don’t forget, a good story.

Why Content Marketers Should Care

While Snapchat isn’t for everyone or every brand, the app competes in the fight for your consumer’s attention and loyalty (and it’s winning!). Discover serves up content that consumers want to engage. That content goes a level beyond your typical content marketing mix (blog posts, white papers, newsletter, videos, infographics, etc.) to foster real brand love.

Discover is asynchronously available, it’s mobile first and it’s multi-media. The narrative-style content is opt-in, and it’s interesting.

So, what are the lessons brands and storytellers can take away? Even though Snapchat recently stopped offering its (unpopular) Brand Stories feature to advertisers and the barriers to entry on the Snapchat Discover portal are high, you can still connect with consumers via standard Snapchats for little more than the cost of content creation.

Consider these tips when telling your own Snap-story or creating brand narratives your audience will actually look forward to.

1. Mind your manners.

No interruptions, and please communicate asynchronously. The content shared on Snapchat Discover is non-intrusive. It’s moved into a completely separate section of the app, so users can check it out if they’d like, but focus of the app remains user messaging and stories. This is a great example of connect first, publish second.

Brand Lesson: Don’t force-feed your content, even if you have the audience to do so. Content should be so good that your audience wants to opt-in, and will click a button to do so at their leisure.

2. Multimedia content wins.

Discover works because it pulls us in with video and visuals. Those videos are quick and to the point—remember, many of today’s humans have less of an attention span than that of the goldfish. If readers want more, those full articles, recipes and resources are available.

Brand Lesson: Earn interest and content engagement by teasing your audience in the format that works best. The people have spoken, and visuals or videos are what grabs attention. If your brand is lacking in the multimedia arena, consider ways to incorporate more video and visuals before you open your next Word document. Canva, and PicktoChart are free tools for makings great visuals and I even heard one of this year’s best Sundance films was shot with an iPhone 5S.

3. Mobilize.

A 2014 Flurry study found that mobile consumers now spend almost three hours each day on mobile devices. My phone is pretty much always on me; when I have downtime, I’m checking in on news or updates from my favorite apps. Building community or content in a mobile-first format shows your brand gets it when it comes to how consumers prefer to engage.

Brand Lesson: If appifying your brand would bring value, now’s the time. And at a minimum, a mobile-friendly website is more critical than ever before. Be sure to add mobile apps to your monitoring and distribution lists. Keep your eyes forward when it comes to consumer attention and entertainment—for examples (warning, some NSFW) check out Barstool or Pics HD.

4. Produce important, engaging content.

Finally, your content has to be on point. Snapchat says it best in Discover’s launch post : “Social media companies tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.”

Brand Lesson: Enable your content team to deliver exciting content, test the waters with a less traditional approach, fail from time to time and talk about what actually matters to your brand’s audiences. Many times, it won’t include branded content.

Is your content following the new rules of engagement? From format through function, Snapchat Discover ushers the future of brand storytelling—along with hints on consumer expectations for mobile, engaging brand content.

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