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Snap-by-Snap: Things You Need to Know about Snapchat and its Ad API

5 MINUTE READ | January 22, 2016

Snap-by-Snap: Things You Need to Know about Snapchat and its Ad API

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Eva Yang

Eva Yang has written this article. More details coming soon.

Looking at the 100 million active daily users on Snapchat, and the fact that many brands craving to get a share of the spoils, you know this messaging app cannot be ignored – but seriously, those users will not be of much value if you do not have a thorough knowledge of the type of people who are using and how to engage them in an effective way.

Now is the good news. The young yet much talked-about platform just announced that they are currently working on a crucial update that can be a big departure of its positioning in digital ad business – an introduction of an application programming interface (API), which would help advertisers measure performance of the content and retain knowledge of audience insights, thus become more precise and efficient in both ad buying process and targeting. Although the API interface is still a work in progress, Team Social PMG has put together lists of potential challenges and benefits below, along with several opportunities we think might go well with the platform.

What is most beneficial?

Data is something that the Snapchat platform lacks – brands cannot make actionable decisions for the long term without understanding how their content performs. Snapchat is an ideal platform to advertise at scale, and now with API available, decisions made can be backed by data, and advertisers will be able to look into strategies at a more granular level and execute campaigns in a more systematic way.

Simply put, an API will not only allow brands on Snapchat to target consumers more precisely based on audience traits, but also help measure performance of content and get better insights into your audiences for future targeting refinement.

What are the challenges and potentially the API?  

  • Direct Response Solution

Piggybacking on the success of the platforms like Facebook and Twitter, opening up a self-serve API for Snapchat likely means new types of ads – most importantly those direct-response formats with calls to action for consumers – aiming to drive clicks to website, apps installs, or revenue. Snapchat is definitely something that would be the right fit for some brands with its branding-only initiative, but by following this monetization path it apparently needs to work on a DR solution in order to cater to a broader base of marketers outside of brand play.

  • Consumer Privacy

Anonymous users and disappearing content have been differentiating Snapchat from other social platforms – although Snapchat has been strident about their commitment to protecting users’ privacy and not stockpiling private Snaps or Chats, analytics does however change the consumer game, as once they find that behavior is being mapped or analyzed, many consumers will shift or stop using the platform all together.

  • Content Quality

Until now, Snapchat has still been working directly with advertisers to sell ads, which enables the platform to control the quality with limited participating brands. However, it will likely encounter similar problems as Instagram, which eased the buying process by unleashing an API, but inevitably dragged overall content quality.

When your core target is a younger demographic, products and brands need to be able to age themselves down and present the ads in a way that is not too sales-focused in order not to ruin user experience – already sounds tricky for a social platform planning to open up its DR business, no? Furthermore, whether people will get used to or even be willing to purchase in Snapchat is still questionable, as it has long been recognized as a platform for brand and awareness play.

  • Measurement

The lack of reporting is a substantial problem considering the cost of entry ($250k+). Furthermore, the disappearing content after being viewed in its nature could result in difficulties in collecting and reporting back on key metrics. Beside, even though Snapchat is now sitting on billions of data points from those messages that have technically been deleted (or secretly saved on the Snapchat servers) once viewed or expired, the challenge will be for the analytics to show behavioral trends and movements – not only impressions, clicks, engagements, views…etc., but what type of things is the snap organically showing up for (ex. read more clicks, swipe clicks, snap-like counts, average snap length, custom drawing in the video/image…etc.).

  • Cost-efficiency

Lastly, as mentioned above, a $250k+ entry fee is the type of commitment that needs more than hand-holding and a “you might get this many views”; instead, Snapchat needs to provide a more measurable way for advertisers to justify the investment. Also, essentially what Snapchat needs to tackle is to see if there are even the interests and the demand, as it is getting more and more expensive to build up and maintain such a self-serve API.

Opportunities – where and how might this work?

The more timely and exclusive the better. Real-time updates of contests, moment-based sporting events, music festivals, hidden deals, behind-the-scenes, interviews with top influencers, or even sending selfies of partnered celebrities can all be effective and creative ways to engage fans with brand’s unique looks outside of commercials, and add value to their social presence. Retail or beauty brands specifically can take advantage of fashion event snapshots, styling tips, or new arrivals sneak peaks/product launches to appeal to users’ expectation of the platform. Travel brands can integrate ads into snap videos showcasing different travel destinations to promote travel deals.

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Skeptical or not, it is definitely going to be an interesting play with the inclusion of an API and the automation being added to Snapchat ad buying – this will not only herald the commercialization of the messaging app, but would also give us a stronger analytics defining quality content, as well as some innovative and potentially more efficient ways to broaden social content at a campaign level.

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