From a distance, Snapchat looks like a marketer’s dream. It has more than 100 million monthly active users, of which 71% are under the age of 25. Users share more than 700 million snaps daily, which is 12x and twice the number of photos uploaded on Instagram and Facebook respectively. Yet, just 6% of brands in L2’s Intelligence Report: Social Platforms are present on Snapchat.

textOf the early adopters, 40% are retailers. ASOS is the most active, followed by Audi. The fashion and auto brands have used the service in innovative ways: to show previews of fashion shows (Rebecca Minkoff), offer a sneak peek of unreleased car models (Audi), and to collect user-generated content (Alex and Ani). But why haven’t brands jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon as they have on Instagram, which has a 90% adoption rate among brands in the study?

Perhaps, Snapchat’s ephemerality is both its appeal and downfall. For example, many users complained about not being able to absorb all the Spring/Summer 2013 runway looks Rebecca Minkoff released prior to the fashion show. And because of the short shelf life of snaps, it’s hard for brands to amass visible participation, sharing, engagement and fans. There are no easy ways to engage with a brand on Snapchat, while favoriting a post is easy on Instagram. And without profiles, there is nothing for consumers to look at when they decide to explore a brand on the platform. So far brands can send messages only to “friends”, which limits the platform’s utility in targeting new people.

Snapchat is taking steps to become a place where brands can multiply their reach. Rumors say the brand is exploring a service called “Snapchat Discovery” with Comedy Central, Spotify, ESPN, Vice and other media outlets. Discovery users will receive text, still images and video from media outlets along with ads from brands. Maybe that is the key to unlocking a jump in brand participation.

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