Published on January 20, 2014

BLOG: SnapChat: Is it the next frontier?

AKRON (Jan. 20, 2014) — With all the talk about SnapChat being one of the biggest social media sites to watch out for in 2014, I wanted to devote some time in testing it out myself and letting you know my results.

In my personal life, I use a variety of different social media sites, and this is always the start of my research for the blog. How are people using it? Why are people using it? And then applying it to tire industry and how independent tire dealers and others in the industry can use social media to gain followers, boost engagement and ultimately, make stronger connections with their customers—both current and future.

I wanted to first explain SnapChat, how it is being used and then how it can be used as a business.

The basics

SnapChat is a mobile app that allows users to send quick "snaps" directly to another person.

The big different between SnapChat and Facebook and other social media sites is that the snap disappears within seconds. The platform also has a "stories" feature, which is a collection of snaps you have taken over 24 hours that your friends can see, however, your "stories" only last 24 hours, so it is still a temporary service.

You download SnapChat like any other app on your phone or tablet. SnapChat will send you a text message to verify your mobile number and then it will show you who in your contacts is currently on SnapChat that you can connect with and then give you the option to send invites to those who are not.

How are things deleted?

I think one of the main questions that arise when people hear about SnapChat is how are the videos and images deleted. According to a blog post on SnapChat, "The image or video from the message is stored in a temporary folder in the device's memory. This is sometimes in internal memory, RAM or external memory like an SD Card — depending on the platform and whether it's a video or a picture."

So you might be asking, "Then what?" SnapChat explains that "when a snap is viewed and the timer runs out, the app notifies our servers, which in turn notify the sender that the snap has been opened."

Once the snap is viewed by all the recipients, it's deleted from the server. SnapChat added that if a snap is unopened after 30 days, it is deleted from the servers as well.

So, is it really deleted? Can I use this for business?

According to SnapChat, yes. There are some additional things I wanted to note on this matter. One, people using iPhones or iPads can still screenshot the image, so in that regard, the image can be saved forever. I say this because if you want to use this app for business purposes like sending private documents, it might not be the best option. However, there are applications that have come up with safeguards against this that you might want to check out, such as Confide.

If you want to use this for marketing campaigns, then I think that there are some great ways to utilize SnapChat for the tire industry.

Marketing campaigns

New York City-based 16 Handles, a yogurt shop, is credited as one of the first companies to use SnapChat for business. Basically, how the company's promotion ran was that a person could come in and sample the different flavors of yogurt. They could take a quick shot of them sampling the yogurt and send it to 16 Handles. 16 Handles would then send a snap back with a coupon of 16 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent off the frozen treat. The customer would wait until appearing before the cashier to open the snap —because if they opened it sooner, it would have disappeared.

I have researched different marketing and promotional campaigns using SnapChat and I think this is one of the easiest ways that a tire and automotive aftermarket shop could utilize it.

My idea is this: one of the best parts of social media is the engagement and interaction a business can have with its audience. I know for a fact that if a tire or automotive aftermarket shop said that I could snap them a photo of a service I needed and they would send me a coupon, I would be there in a minute.

Why not make this a campaign? Does someone need new tires? What if they send you a snap of the worn out tires on their car and you could send them a snap of a coupon? You can decide how you want to do the coupons. Do you want it to be a surprise amount like 16 Handles, or do you want all your customers to know that if they snap a photo to you, they can get a 20 percent off an oil change?

Other ideas that I can see working for the tire industry are making a competition out of the snaps: first 10 customers to snap you a photo of their tires or of a local attraction gets a coupon or is entered in a drawing.

Also, if you are a medium to larger company, it may be of interest to you for some new product sneak peeks. However, if you do this, make sure that you are not revealing too much because people can screenshot it.

Spams and Hacks

Although SnapChat is fun and can be great to try out new ideas, I did want to mention some of the recent issues the site has been having so that anyone looking to become active on the site knows about some of the pitfalls.

1) Hacks: At the very beginning of 2014, SnapChat had a belated holiday gift that left many of its users unhappy: more than 4.6 million usernames were leaked. Many people were upset because it took the app some time before apologizing to its users, however, CEO Evan Spiegel eventually did. In a measure to make sure the security breach does not happen again, SnapChat decided it would release an update that would give users the ability to opt out of their phone numbers being linked to their usernames.

2) Spam: Last week, SnapChat issued an apology for spam mail to its users. It suggested users to set access control to only allow snaps from friends. The company said the spam and the security breach are not connected.

Ultimately, there are some fun aspects to the site. It is a fun to communicate with friends and show them what you are up to. You can draw quick designs on top of the pictures or send a quick caption. The site has run into some issues recently, however, SnapChat is working to correct them.

I want to leave you with this thought: The other day I was looking at a 14-year-old family member's Twitter page. Her tweets ranged from everything from her hair cut to stuff about school. My favorite tweet, however, was her complaining about all the photos people were posting about the cold weather — Polar Vortex — on Instagram. Yes, she was tweeting her thoughts about Instagram. This is how teenagers communicate. Teenagers drive cars that need services and if they don't now, they will be in a few years. Get it the conversation!

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