Hey, old people, you over age 25, there’s this mobile app called Snapchat that pulls 100 million users daily (according to the company), 60% of them under age 24, and it’s starting to look like a serious marketing opportunity for local businesses.

Snapchat users take “Snaps” (images or 10-second videos) on their smartphones and send them to friends or their network, through a simple and fun app. They can add overlays, text, animations, emojis or pre-packaged banners to the images as well as draw on them.

Unlike other social media, the Snaps disappear in seconds, giving the whole experience an immediacy and intimacy (and keeping them out of sight of parents or employers). However, users can also string together snaps into a “Story” that will stay live for 24 hours.

Anyway, that’s what we think is going on. For a better explanation, ask the nearest 16-year-old.

Facebook reportedly tried and failed to buy this upstart competitor and no wonder; the age spread of the Facebook audience is much broader than Snapchat’s, including a large contingent of over-50’s. (Facebook did buy Instagram, another photo sharing service popular with young demographics).

Facebook runs way ahead of Snapchat as a platform for business advertising and promotion. To take a basic example, you can’t search for a brand’s Snapchat feed, you have to know its Snapchat user name and enter that exactly. Justin Bieber’s name is “rickthesizzler”, in case you were wondering. (For lists of corporate names on Snapchat, see directories from Snapcodes and The 11th Second.)

Ad targeting and reporting are pretty limited on Snapchat. Advertisers can do some targeting based on user location and content, for instance, for the 10-second video ads in the “Live Stories” that Snapchat assembles from Snaps taken that day in a specific city or at an event.

But Snapchat is increasingly flashing the heart emoji for business customers. Some recent moves to bring the app up to norms in the advertising and marketing world:

  • Launched a “Discover” portal where big brands can have a standing presence, like mini-websites.
  • Launched the sponsored “Lens”: Users can see their selfies turned into funny animations (like a bucket of Gatorade dumped on their heads, in this Super Bowl promo).
  • Introduced swipe-up ads that users can view on full screen, launched from a brand’s Snap.
  • Reportedly is developing a method for advertisers to bulk upload their orders and campaigns, just as Facebook and other big players offer.
  • Also reportedly is preparing to offer ecommerce.Snapchat Geofilter Ad

For local business, Snapchat introduced “On Demand Geofilters” (see the example to the right). For as little as $5, Snapchat will display your artwork (a logo or designed message) on Snaps from an hour to 30 days, in effect turning them into advertisements, with targeting by geography and time. It’s something you might use to promote an event or a sale.

So what’s worth doing for a small, local business at this stage of Snapchat’s evolution? Try this:

  • Set up and promote your account on Snapchat. Set-up is free and easy. But you’ll need to let customers know you’re there via your other social media accounts, email or in-store signage. Just show the QR code Snapchat assigns you; users take a picture through the app and are instantly connected to you.
  • Build your audience. Send some Snaps. A quick still shot or video of something happening right now—a sale, a behind the scenes look at work in progress, a new product on the shelves–is best. Snapchat users expect Stories so go for a succession of images or videos that complete a narrative. See these two examples from OPI, the nail polish company, one Story a tutorial, the other a live event promotion.
  • Distribute coupons via Snapchat. Keep followers engaged by occasionally including a Snap that’s an image of a promo code for a discount.  Snapchatters can take screenshots of Snaps to save a coupon. Another approach: Customers take a snap of themselves using a product and the business sends back a snap that’s an image of a coupon.
  • Learn from metrics what’s working. Reporting on Snapchat activity is still pretty basic but you can see number of views per Snap before they disappear (views on the last Snap in a Story would give you an idea of how many users watched to the end) and number of screenshots taken (which comes close to a Like on Facebook as a measure of approval).

Bottom Line: Yes, this is one more social media channel that needs tending, and yes, it’s still kinda clunky for marketing but…100 million daily users, focus on a young audience and your competitors likely aren’t there yet. Go ahead, try it out – you’re not too old.

Learn more:

Nice wrap-up of marketing tactics for Snapchat from Buffer

Snapchat’s page for advertisers