We’ve written a lot about Snapchat, but here is a back-to-basic’s guide for setting up an account and how to use it. And an overview of why and how marketers are using this diverse platform. 

There are more than 100 million users on Snapchat and they are not just millennials. As Snapchat introduces more unique features, it continues to grow as a valuable marketing tool.

Snapchat Usage Growth 600

*Source: GlobalWebIndex

 1. What is Snapchat?

Snapchat was launched in 2011, primarily created as a messaging app used to share photos and videos with friends.

Since its birth, it has developed into much more than just a tool for messaging. According to eMarketer, Millennials make up 70% of the total amount of Snapchat users.

Snapchat Age Demographic 600

*Source: comScore / BI Intelligence

But that does not mean adults can’t use it too. In fact, the number of users aged 25 and over is increasing twice as fast as users under 25.

2. How do I set up an account?

Don’t worry, setting up an account is easy. Snapchat is free to download globally. After filling in the usual details like your email and name, the next step is to pick a username. This part is very important because people can only view your content if they follow you.

Users must type in your exact username in order to find you. Therefore, pick a unique and simple username that is relevant to your actual name.

Currently, it is very hard to find the username of a brand unless you know the exact username. Here is a master list of brands on Snapchat for easy reference and to give an idea of how they choose them.

For example, Bloomingdale’s Snapchat username is “Bloomingdales”. This is an easy to find brand username. On the other hand, H&M Snapchat’s account name (Read more...) “hmusa”. As Mike O’Brien points out in the link above, the obvious username: “handm” handle is already taken. This belongs to someone named Hamza who you probably don’t know.

Celebrities, however, can often be found just by entering their name. For example, Donald Trump’s username is ‘realdonaldtrump’, but he can be added simply by typing ‘Donald Trump’.

Snapchat Donal Trump Username 600

3. How do people find me?

There are three ways to find people.

1. Simply add a user by typing in their username. In most cases, you will need to have already sourced this from somewhere else.

2. Using the Snapcode. This is the customisable pattern, which makes up each person or brand’s profile. It can be ‘scanned’ and automatically added onto a user’s phone.

For example, The Huffington Post promoted its presence on Snapchat by sharing its Snapcode on Twitter.

3. Use the ‘add nearby’ function. This scans for users near you who can then be added.

You can learn more about this here.

4. Photo/video messaging

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Snapchat and other photo- sharing apps is the timer.

This feature means that any ‘snaps’ sent to a friend self-destruct after a certain amount of time. Users can choose how long it will last from a range of 1-10 seconds.

This feature gives the app an ephemeral and fast-paced nature, encouraging users to check the app constantly.

Snapchat Timer Pokemon pic

5. Fun Filters

Snaps can be edited to show filters, effects, captions and drawings. In July 2014, Snapchat added ‘geofilters’.

These filters can be selected if the user is in a certain place. For example, here in ClickZ’s Asia office there are many geofilters, including one for Hong Kong, or for a more defined region within the city, geofilters for Quarry Bay and Taikoo Shing.

Snapchat Geofilter

There are also filters, which display the time and temperature.

Snapchat Temp filter

Probably the most popular effects, however, are the facial lenses, which allow you to turn your face into funny animals or shapes and send them to your friends.

Snapchat Face Filter 600_2

6. Sponsored Filters

Brands can pay for sponsored filters to be shown on Snapchat. For example, for the 2016 Super Bowl, Gatorade sponsored their own filter, which was viewed over a 100 million times in one day, according to Gatorade.

You can read more about the campaign here.

7. Stories

When someone adds a snap to their ‘Stories’ timeline, they are letting all their friends know what they are doing and where they are.

These stories can be viewed multiple times up to 24 hours, after which it too self-destructs. By summer 2014, the use of personal stories had surpassed the one-to-one messaging as the most frequently used function of Snapchat.

Snapchat Stories_2

Aside from personal stories, live stories have since been incorporated into the service. This brings a streaming element to the platform. For example, earlier this year the live stories showed live videos of Wimbledon from users at the event.

Many companies have already realised Snapchat’s marketing potential, and are using Stories to interact with their customers and promote their brand. Mike O’Brien lists some great brand story examples here.

8. Discover

On this page, you will find channels of ad-supported content from many major publishers, such as BuzzFeed, Mashable and CNN.

Not only is it a source of humour and fun, but by checking Discover daily you can stay updated with news headlines and celebrity gossip.

Snapchat Discover 600

You can learn more about how publishers are using the Discover feature here.

9. Memories

This is Snapchat’s newest addition and allows users to save snaps and stories. It essentially becomes a personal album of your favourite Snapchat moments.

Memories also lets users post content from the past, such as a memorable moment at a wedding or party.

As a result, Snapchat is no longer just a self-destructing photo-sharing app. For marketers it means they can use more curated images in their campaigns. It also lets Snapchat compete more directly with Facebook and Instagram.

10. Why is Snapchat useful for brands?

Snapchat helps brands build a following and increase awareness, especially for a brand catering to younger people.

By using Snapchat, brands can humanise their identity and relate and engage better with their fans. For example, using Snapchat stories, a brand can broadcast live behind-the-scene footage giving users more insight into what the brand represents.

If a company wanted to promote an item quickly and with a large reach, Snapchat would be the perfect way to do it.


As Tereza Litsa has written in a previous Snapchat story, advertising on Snapchat is still at an early stage and the platform still lacks proper metrics to measure an ad’s performance.

However brands can measure how many views an ad has had, story completions and the audience reach, as well as the amount of screenshots on a story.

This will change as Snapchat teams up with global measurement company Nielsen to provide a third-party data metrics for ad campaigns.

Until then, have fun with it! After all, Snapchat was designed to be a fun platform. Snapchat is a great channel for brand awareness and brand building with a younger demographic. Engage with your customers and create a conversation. Millennials like spontaneity and authenticity – so it’s important not to make your brand’s presence feel too much like an ad.

I’ve created a step-by-step slide deck presentation to Snapchat here.

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