We pride ourselves on being fairly social media savvy. We’ve even won an international media award in 2013 for our work on a variety of platforms. But when someone asked us in late 2013 if we were on Snapchat , I was taken aback. “No, why? Should we be?”
I’m probably showing my age to say that I hadn’t even heard of Snapchat until its 23-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel turned down Facebook’s offer to buy the messaging service for $3 billion. The essence of Snapchat is that it allows users to send each other mobile messages via photos that disappear after a few seconds instead of remaining on a wall, thread or feed. So these social media communications won’t come back to haunt anyone when prospective employers start Googling them — all of the fun and immediacy, none of the regret. No wonder it’s already got 30 million active users sending more than 400 million “snaps” per day.
Showing how closely Facebook is watching Snapchat, its sister company Instagram has launched an Instagram Direct feature that allows users to send videos or photos to certain friends versus sharing on a profile to followers. These posts don’t vanish and you can’t write on them like you can with Snapchat, but it’s clearly a reactionary response.
So how might a business use Snapchat? I’ll give full credit to social media expert Leslie Carothers of The Kaleidoscope Partnership  for first posing the question to me and having some immediate suggestions. A retailer could take a photo of a product and write a time-sensitive offer for that item like “get 50 percent off if you order at this link in the next 30 minutes.”
A yogurt shop in New York City famously used Snapchat for a successful promotion encouraging users to send them a snap of themselves enjoying yogurt and in return they would receive a coupon. The key was that the coupon had to be opened at the register when the person was ready to redeem it since it would disappear in 10 seconds once opened. The store received some 1,400 snaps.
As of early 2014, the core demographic for Snapchat is more in the market for cones than sconces, mainly high school and college students. But it’s always important to monitor what “kids today” are doing so we’re already speaking their native tongue by the time they become lighting consumers tomorrow. And as mobile communication becomes ever more important for retailers, that aspect of Snapchat also can’t be ignored. Now if that $3 billion is burning a hole in Facebook’s pocket in the meantime, how is the lighting looking in their offices?