Earlier this year, Snapchat unveiled an exciting, low-cost tool for everyone — even smaller businesses and cash-strapped political campaigns — to test the medium for their brand. Until recently, only large companies with a Snapchat rep could sponsor a geofilter.
Now, anyone can buy one for as little as five dollars.
Snapchat calls them On-Demand Geofilters.
I have worked on Snapchat campaigns before, but I had not used the new self-service platform. So, last weekend, I decided to spend $50 for research purposes. I designed two filters to run in New York City during the New York Democratic Primary. My goal was simple: create two engaging designs that would drive engagement and interaction with Snapchat users.
Many brands seem content to take the earned media hit and ignore the unique opportunities that Snapchat’s geofilters present. I wanted to create something that would provide value to Snapchat users, while taking full advantage of the medium. To that end, I designed a poor man’s Syncro-Vox that allowed users to speak as a presidential candidate.
I added a random slogan and minimal branding for Such Ads!, the first full-service Snapchat advertising agency.
Here are the filters:
And this is how they looked when used:
Note: Snapchat does not allow photographs of people in geofilters. For this project, I tested the limits of that policy with designs that are a result of basic Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop manipulations to public domain photos. If you are going to try something like this, make sure you submit your designs with enough time to replace them if necessary.
For $56.26 I placed seven geofilters to run for a total of 37 hours. Each design seemed best suited to serve as a tool for mockery, so I placed the Clinton geofilter in locations where I anticipated Sanders supporters would be, and the Sanders filter where I expected Clinton’s supporters would be.
Here are the general areas (you can see the exact geo-fenced maps in the screenshots at the end of this article):
- New York Times: I placed the Sanders geofilter at the NY Times in hopes of generating earned media.
- Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism: I placed the Clinton geofilter here in another attempt to generate earned media.
- Rockefeller Center: I placed the Clinton geofilter in front of the Rockefeller Center during the Today Show.
- Sanders HQ & Clinton HQ: I placed each geofilter at the New York City headquarters of each candidate’s opponent. My hope was that volunteers on Snapchat would see the filter as a trolling effort by the opposition and use it in retaliation.
- Times Square: I placed both geofilters at Times Square on the night of the primary to get mass exposure in a densely populated area. Since Snapchat only allows seven geofilters at one time in a single location, I didn’t expect this placement to be available. I assumed large brands would have this space locked down, but they do not appear to be taking advantage of this opportunity — yet.
Snapchat analytics are minimal, and they are slow. Snapchat provides a daily updated bar graph telling you how many people saw your geofilter and how many people use it. And that’s it.
They only update the on-demand geofilter analytics once a day at 11:00am EST, and they are not punctual. Since one of my purchases was completed before then, I assumed the analytics would be available, but it wasn’t until after 11:00am the next day.
Affordability. Even if no one uses your filter, three cents per view is a great deal for brand awareness campaigns. In fact, with strategic placement, it can be even less expensive. The Hillary geofilter at Columbia University cost less than a penny per view. This probably won’t last long. As Snapchat use becomes more widespread and older users join the platform, securing valuable placements will become more competitive and less affordable.
Engagement (When You Do it Right). If you design a creative geofilter, you can engage users and spread your message. Your ad means more when it comes from a friend — especially when that friend uses their creativity to add something unique to reinforce your message.
Earned Media. Investing in Snapchat can be a great way to get an earned media hit, especially for political campaigns. Right now, the mere hint of Snapchat use is enough to generate a write-up in Ad Age. This won’t last long either. Once the app has been around a while longer, newcomers will have to be more creative to earn coverage.
Minimal Analytics. The analytics need serious work, but Snapchat should have more robust reporting in the next year or so. Of course, that will likely lead to more competition and increased costs.
Closed System. Snapchat is largely a closed system. That means that, for the most part, Snapchat content stays on Snapchat. This creates three difficulties for brands that advertise on the app. First, unless you create a contest, coupon, or a hashtag around your geofilter, it is hard to monitor your campaign. Second, it is less likely that your campaign will go viral. Third, it’s very difficult to get users from Snapchat onto your site.
It Takes Time. Despite the name, “On-Demand” Geofilters aren’t exactly available on demand. If you find an opportunity on the day of an event, when you go to buy a geofilter, you will find that the calendar is grayed out for that day. Snapchat requires a day to approve your geofilter, and they don’t do much approving on the weekend. (Of the seven filters I submitted on Saturday, only one was approved before Monday.)
- Heavily Trafficked, Densely Populated Areas. If it makes sense for your brand, buy On-Demand Geofilters in Times Square now! Hundreds of thousands of people walk through Times Square each day. Target high traffic areas and develop a campaign that will speak to your demographic.
- Cross-Channel Advertising. Combine Facebook’s local awareness ads with a Snapchat geofilter. Use the Facebook ad to alert Snapchat users to the existence of the filter, and encourage users to share their snaps on Instagram with a hashtag.
During the 37 hours the filters ran, they were seen 1,853 times and used 95 times. At $56.26 total, that’s about $0.03 per view and $0.59 per use. This does not include users who may have received a snap using one of the geofilters, so it is likely that the true number of views is higher.
What I Learned
Now is the time for small businesses to invest in Snapchat. If you sell to the 13-to-34 year-old demographic, Snapchat advertising makes a lot of sense, and it will never be more affordable. As the analytics and awareness improve, the cost will go up. Right now, it is very affordable, and you can learn the lessons you need to learn to ensure that you are able to advertise efficiently as costs rise.
Political campaigns, especially those courting millennial voters, can also benefit. For less than the cost of a yard sign, a campaign can target a college campus or an opponent’s rally. Also, geofilters can create a fun reason for volunteers to share campaign activities on Snapchat.
If you try this, I recommend focusing all of your resources on one high traffic area and commit any additional resources to raising awareness of the filter through other advertising channels (e.g., Facebook ads).
Want to learn more about Snapchat Marketing? Check out Roy’s latest post: How To Create Compelling Snapchat Geofilters.
Not sure how to use Snapchat as a marketer? Here’s a great guide for anyone just getting started: