Oh Snap! What Arts Marketers Need to Know About Snapchat

Capacity Interactive AUTHOR: Capacity Interactive
Jul 25, 2016
10 Min Read

If you’re anything like me, you can sometimes get distracted by shiny objects. For digital marketers and content creators, those shiny objects can appear in the form of emerging social media networks.

Lately, the shiny object that’s catching my eye is Snapchat. I can’t get through a work week without seeing new articles about the “ephemeral” social network. On top of that, I work in an office dominated by Millennials who love their Snaps!

It’s clear the network is likely here to stay. The number of daily active users is 150 million, up 69% from June 2015, and now growing at a much faster pace. However, that doesn’t mean arts organizations should stop everything and fully adopt the network, adding it to the ever-growing list of networks for which we all feel pressure to create brilliant content.

In fact, if your organization is strapped for resources – whether that’s budget for content creation and or humans to dream it up – then by all means, invest in Facebook. Seriously. There isn’t another social network that comes anywhere close to matching Facebook’s reach — we’re talking about more than one billion daily active users.

But, if you do have the resources to try something new, then let’s get back to the shiny objects. When it comes to new, emerging networks that are gaining momentum, my advice is to lean in, but do it on your own time.


It’s much easier to learn the when, why, what and how of a new network in the zero-stakes environment of personal experimentation. (Bear with me gang, my recommendations for how arts organizations should use Snapchat is waiting for you at the end of this blog post).

If you’re lucky enough to have a thirteen-year old in your household, then congratulations, you live with a Snapchat expert! All kidding aside, Snapchat is a meaningful community (yes, Snapchatters identify as a community) to the ever-important 18-34 year olds; time spent on Snapchat by this demo is second only to Facebook. It’s very important for us as decision-makers to understand just how big the gap is between time spent on Facebook and all other networks, evidenced by the graph below.


Like any curious digital marketer, I did my due diligence and downloaded the app as Snapchat began to gain momentum a couple of years ago. Honestly, at the time, I opened it up, took one look at the user interface (UI) and said, “….ummmm…I don’t get it…not for me.”

Sound familiar to anyone? Over time, my Snapchat-loving colleagues began adding me as a friend – and vice versa. It’s honestly a task that I still fumble on from time to time due to Snapchat’s non-intuitive UI.

Occasionally, I’d receive a Snap from one of my colleagues. With every notification, I’d wonder, what’s this going to be? A video? A photo? How, and perhaps more importantly, why are my colleagues drawing on their photos? And how? And why do ALL of these Snaps disappear; some last for only a few seconds and some last for ten seconds? What is the use case for sending a Snap rather than sharing content to Instagram or Facebook? When I receive a Snap, what the heck am I supposed to do? There are no like, comment or share buttons!

I suspect some of you (of similar age and wisdom) have had these questions, so I’ll spare you the rest of my experience and summarize what I’ve learned.


It’s personal and frictionless

When you share content on Facebook or post a photo on Instagram, you’re broadcasting that content to “your” whole world. Sending a photo or video as a Snap is much more personal because you get to select the users you want to receive your Snap and those recipients know that you “chose” them (it’s also possible to share content to your “story,” which allows all your Snapchat friends to see the shared content for 24 hours before it disappears). Capturing sharable content is very easy and nearly frictionless; when users open the app, it immediately launches the camera so a Snap is only one click away.  

Here today, gone tomorrow

One of the things I love about Snapping, though I used to hate it, is that the content disappears. The longest a Snap can display is ten seconds and then it becomes a memory. (Snapchat has very recently launched a feature called “Memories,” perhaps to aid in archiving really important moments.) This means that Snapchatters are more likely to share content in the moment. As we like to say here in the office, Snapchat has made personal social sharing fun again! The fleeting nature of Snapchat content results in less contemplation and a reduction in the cognitive dissonance that occurs when one shares content on a more permanent channel like Facebook.


Filters, lenses and effects – Oh my!

There’s a multitude of fun filters and lenses that users can apply to photos. Lenses, like the ones above, use serious technology called computer vision to turn us into dogs, koala bears, zombies, and they even let us swap faces with another person (try it!).

Some filters give our skin a radiant glow and seemingly reduce decades of sun damage (sign me up…), others overlay our photos with the current temperature or time of day. One of the most commonly used filters, below, is called a Geofilter. Geofilters represent a low-cost, low-effort, opportunity for arts organizations to meet a basic expectation of Snapchat users.


What is a Geofilter exactly? GeoFilters are graphical overlays that communicate the where and when of a Snap in a fun, visual (even branded!) way. When I take a photo or video in Snapchat, I can swipe across the photo or video to see what geofilters are available; the app uses my location to determine what Geofilters to make available. For example, here in New York City there will often be a Geofilter available for a borough or neighborhood; I live in Sunnyside in the borough of Queens, so I often have several different versions of Sunnyside or Queens Geofilters that I can layer over my Snaps.


So…how can arts organizations use Snapchat?

As Snapchatters make their way around our cities, attending performances in our venues and viewing exhibitions in our museums, they’re Snapping and sharing those experiences in the moment.

What I can guarantee is that most Snapchatters assume and expect that a Geofilter of your venue, gallery, exhibition or production name will be available to adorn their selfie Snap. This represents an opportunity for us as arts marketers to provide fun, visual, branding to our fans who are sharing their onsite experience with their friends in real time; said another way, we can literally brand their endorsements of our product!

You can design one Geofilter and use it all the time — there is no need to keep refreshing it unless you have the time and resources.

There are two types of Geofiters: Community, (The Kennedy Center example below) and On-Demand, (Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston example below). 


The good news about Community Geofilters is that they are free; the not-so-good news is that they are generally only available for use by cities, universities, local landmarks, or other public locations, such as National Parks – and no brand logos are allowed.  On-Demand Geofilters are available to businesses and can be used for events, specific locations (and I do mean specific!) or both – brand logos and trademarks are permitted.

Creating a filter

If you’re interested in experimenting and creating an On-Demand Geofilter for your organization, here are the three basic steps:

1. DESIGN: Snapchat’s guidelines are short and to the point, but read up before you get started. Download the templates, design something fun and graphic that represents your organization’s brand, and finally upload your artwork.

2. MAP: Choose the date and time that you want your Geofilter to be available and then a set a geofence. You will quite literally draw a boundary around your venue, theater or museum on a map; the tighter the boundary, the cheaper it will be.

3. BUY: Submit your Geofilter for review. Snapchat can take up to one day to finish reviewing your filter. Yes, there is a chance your filter won’t be approved. (See guidelines). Generally, we’ve found that Geofilters are affordable for organizations of all budget sizes. If you’re in a dense, competitive market like New York or San Francisco, the cost of entry may be more for you. You may also discover some seasonality in the pricing. Currently, Snapchat requires businesses to go almost all the way down the setup path before exposing pricing; it’s annoying, but not time consuming.

If it’s digital measure something

You’ve likely heard us say this before. In Snapchat’s case, it’s still the wild, wild west. If you choose to create an On-Demand Geofilter, Snapchat will currently provide you with two metrics, Uses and Views. A Use is when one of your patrons takes a Snap, applies your filter and sends it to selected friends or shares it in their story. A View is when a recipient receives and views a Geofiltered Snap or views a Geofiltered Snap in a Snap story. These metrics allow you to calculate Cost per View; the amount you pay for the Geofilter divided by the number of total views. You can also begin to trend your results, learning the best times of day or days of the week to pay to make your GeoFilter available. We can’t track conversions or build remarketing pools from these behaviors yet, but hopefully as the platform matures, they’ll add additional insights and a more robust measurement infrastructure.


What we’ve learned in a Snap…

At the end of the day, Snapchat is just one of the many shiny objects that we as arts marketers have in our toolbox of tactics. Now, let’s review!

  • Geofilters are great because they allow us to meet our audiences where they are – in our venues and in the palm of their hand.
  • It’s a basic Snapchat user expectation that a Geofilter will be available, especially when users are experiencing the highly shareable experiences that we’re selling.
  • Meeting user expectations is cheap and easy. We’re not talking about the burden of creating content for Snapchat yet, just creating a simple but fun, branded filter. Remember when we were teenagers and we put bumper stickers on our cars? Make sure that when your fans share the experience of your art, that you hand them a figurative bumper sticker as they head out the door – cause all their friends are gonna see it!