Snapchat's mobile content marketing challenge

By Deirdre Molloy

In January Snapchat debuted its Discover service, an editorially curated channel within their app that showcases a selection of content from a range of media outlets.

A sign of Snapchat's growing maturity - and following on the heels of the Stories, Ads and Chat features the messaging platform has added since launch (plus its trialling of Geofilters) - Discover offers around five handpicked pieces of content per media partner daily, optimised for mobile and served wholly within the swipeable app interface.

From quick hits to eternity?

With this addition of Discover and its emphasis on news and video, Snapchat not only scores a new audience and revenue stream from the media suppliers - it starts to become more of a generalised platform for content.

This is a step change for Snapchat whose initial allure was that "snaps" - the content and messages users shared through the system - were fleeting and not used by oldsters (aka the over 25s).

Now, while transience of user content remains, the overall experience is edging away from its initial premise. Users’ appetite for screenshotting snaps and exchanges is dealing (for now) with the growing desire to save bits of their ephemeral content, but Discover stories are available for 24 hours or until you've viewed them within that timeframe.

Anyone interested in the brand design and user experience perspective should check out Daily Mail's Ben Clarke on their Snapchat Discover design journey.

In turn, Snapchat's expanding range of features for marketers (Chat, Stories, Ads, Discover) means it’s becoming a "one to many" platform for brands, as opposed to a strictly user-based messaging platform. I bet it also starts to draw in an older demographic. Apart from those geared strictly to children, what networked platform can do a Peter Pan and stay young forever?

Is Snapchat Discover the new Yahoo! Directory?

The 12 launch brands are: Vice News, Sky News, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Food Network, National Geographic, Sky Sports, MTV, Bleacher Report, People, Yahoo! News and Snapchat themselves. At this number, the single screen intro page featuring all the brands logos (seen first below) linking to their snaps works, but has reached its natural max visually on mobile (albeit not larger tablet) screens.

Those lucky brands who've made it onto Discover's first iteration have scored a first mover advantage few can dream of: huge visibility both on a massively adopted platform and in the media coverage around the launch. But what happens when more brands join the party?

Will the interface then move to being multichannel, arranged by topics? In the absence of a search engine that can live in or crawl Snapchat, could Discover become a mobile first Yahoo Directory? This was the main way to discover content on the web before the era of search engines. A mobile revival of this clunky experience for people largely unborn when Yahoo! Directory started out would be more than ironic and rather awkward.

Mobile native: dramatically different or more of the same?

Maybe they'll opt instead for integration of Discover content with the main feed. Beyond the predictable controversy, how would that pan out as the feed gets crowded - more filtering of brand Discover snaps and reliance on Snap advertising?

Look at the organic reach drop-off caused by Facebook's adaptation of its EdgeRank algorithm and the resulting forced shift to paid reach. Who knows, perhaps Snapchat will confound us all and cook up something truly novel for making the growing ocean of brand content on Discover accessible.

Certainly, if I was Vice News (or indeed MOMA, or a smaller museum or gallery who stumped up for Discover down the road) I'd be unhappy about extending my budget and workflow to pay for and prep content for Snapchat Discover only to find that, to really get visibility, I have to pay for Ads as well.

      Vice News Snapchat Discover on  Björk retrospective  at MOMA  @   museummodernart   in NYC


Vice News Snapchat Discover on Björk retrospective at MOMA @museummodernart in NYC

Nuanced app metrics and data for marketers are also still missing from the equation and a major concern, albeit they’re apparently in the pipeline. Imagine that internal meeting with your Finance and Marketing Directors... Snapchat is stuck the data dark age until this changes. And their touted statistic of 100m users is now six months out of date. Transparency is lacking on the analytics front.

It recently emerged, however, that some 18% of Snapchatters currently find brands through celebrity endorsements - and at 34% Snapchat itself has the highest figures among their surveyed users as a platform where this occurs, the next being Pinterest with 25%, Youtube 22% and Facebook 20%. [Source: GlobalWebIndex Survey 26th February 2015 via @KatieColbourne]


In the face of these Goliaths, or perhaps in sync with them, should others pin their hopes on following the same Snapchat endorsement and engagement building route? Risky perhaps but hardly a giant leap for content marketing.

Elsewhere on Planet Snapchat...

In the meantime, there are still other opportunities for brands not in the Discover glitterati to engage, and usage of Stories is there for the taking for those with budgets below their Ad rates (costs of Discover are as yet unknown).

Imagination, nimbleness and a hyper-honed user focus are the lynchpins to garnering the attention and action of users on the platform – truths brands already know from other social and realtime channels.


As the folks from LA County Museum Of Art with their object-centred humour, Audi & The Onion's inspired Superbowl 2014 intervention, and World Wildlife Fund with its timely #LastSelfie campaign have shown, mobile-native content can really find its mojo on this platform.

The territory of truly "mobile first" content and marketing has moved to the next level with Snapchat's ascent. But while Discover is a new chapter in the app's accelerated history, it's only one part of the drama.

Content tactics, design approaches and the myriad outcomes for brands venturing into this fray will have plenty to teach us.


We'll be running more DigitalFWD primers on mobile apps, so let us know if you've any suggestions for guest posts, or tips on things our round-ups should feature.

Deirdre Molloy is Head of Content at DigitalFWD and a digital media consultant. You can find her @deirdrenotes.

Header image credit: Maurizio Pesce on Flickr, Creative Commons By 2.0