Snapchat 101: What is it and How Can it Be Used By Marketers?

By Joey Wu

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Marketing & Sales Intern

So far, 2016 has been Snapchat’s year. With huge growth in both users and revenue, combined with the giants of the industry looking to parity the young mobile application, Snapchat is on pace to be a major channel for marketers in the future.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a social media platform in which users can send text messages, take pictures and videos, and share those pictures and videos among friends. As of this writing, Snapchat’s platform solely resides on their mobile application.

What did** make Snapchat different from the Facebooks and Twitters of the world is two-fold. First, after “snapping” the perfect image or video, users are then able to customize the way it looks with filters, drawings, or text. The result is highly personalized content. Second, all posted content disappears from the app after a defined time. Content expiration ranges from one second to 24 hours depending on how you want to share it.

** In early August 2016, Instagram released ‘Instagram Stories’ which added a featured that “borrowed” heavily from Snapchat. Parity is alive and well among the major social media players.

How Many Users Are On Snapchat?

The mobile application most recently reported that as of June 2016 they have hit 150 million daily active users worldwide. This impressive number places Snapchat third in the most used social media app right behind Facebook and Instagram, who holds first and second place, respectively.


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What is the Demographic of Snapchat Users?

Millennials and Generation Z dominate about 85% of Snapchat users.


However, this will not stop Snapchat’s user growth over the next few years. If Facebook’s and Instagram’s growth is any indication, the younger crowds are the early-adopters and slowly the older demographics will begin to have a much larger percentage of user share. In fact, it is being projected that user penetration in the US will continue to grow substantially into 2020.


Graph Courtesy of eMarketer

Usage Stats

Here are some quick points that highlight the usage and reach of the app:

  • According to a Nielsen study, users within the United States spend 25-30 minutes per day on the app. By comparison, Facebook users typically spend about 50 minutes per day on the app.
  • The most popular activities of Snapchat users include: sending text messages and sending photos, which is done by 64% and 51% of all users, respectively.
  • Within the platform, the number of daily mobile video views is 10 billion. However, as of this writing, Snapchat’s standard for a video view is well below that of the IAB’s standards, so there is a question of how many quality views the mobile app accumulates.
  • Worldwide, over 700 million photos are sent daily.

How Can I Advertise on Snapchat?

Compared to Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat’s ad offering is a little thin. Currently, there are only three ways marketers can tap into this young and engaging audience.

Snap Ads

Snap Ads are video ad unit which consists of a 10 second spot. What makes Snap Ads unique is that they are the height and width of your phone in portrait mode, for a more native feel. These ads appear between videos posted by users and publishers, so they are served seamlessly.

It is being reported that these ads go for about $40 – $60 per thousand. Cost aside, their only downside is that they can be instantly skipped, so marketers can be charged for impressions that last less than a second. This is well below the IAB standard on viewability.

What Are Sponsored Geo Filters?

Marketers can get a little more creative with Sponsored Geofilters. Geofilters, as the name may allude to, gives users the option to overlay their pictures and videos with an advertiser’s graphic when they are within a specified radius. Sponsored Geofilters reach around 40-60% of daily users.

A perfect example of how these can be used is for an opening a new retail location. The business can buy a Sponsored Geofilter specified to the area to engage passersbys and customers in the store. Here is an example of a Sponsored Geofilter by Bumble, a dating application:


Photo Courtesy of Snapchat

Sponsored Lenses

The final way marketers can engage with users is through Sponsored Lenses, which uses facial feature recognition technology to transform your face in real time. The result is part funny, part terrifying.

Advertisers — like Taco Bell below — can Sponsor Lenses for the reported tune of $450,000 to $750,000 a day. That number is definitely not for every budget.


Photo Courtesy of Snapchat

Snapchat versus Facebook (and Instagram)

Last year Snapchat reported $100 million in ad revenue. Considering the year prior where they only earned $3 million, clearly their ad technology investments have been paying off. By the end of this year, Snapchat is projecting their revenue to hit $300 million.


The insane growth of Snapchat has Facebook creating, innovating, and replicating more Snapchat-like features. As mentioned, Instagram received an update that added a new feature that is almost identical to Snapchat. Facebook also acquired MSQRD, which is an app that allows users to apply filters and lenses to images and videos. Sound familiar?


Snapchat’s growth and popularity will be a major force in the social media and social media advertising industry. It will be interesting to see going forward how marketers utilize this new tool to drive leads and conversions.

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Published on Aug. 24, 2016, Last Updated on Nov. 09, 2018