Gaming the Ghost: Creative Ways to Leverage Snapchat

Oct 21, 2016

Article ImageIf you’re over 25, can open your Snapchat app, and consistently feel like you know what you’re doing, congratulations, you’ve already bested the majority of your peers. A Snapchat account doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, and that’s by design. It’s no surprise that a generation that’s grown up with iPhones in their hands have gravitated towards an app that invites you to figure it out on your own. In 2016, 60% of Snapchat’s users were 24 and under, and marketers are following them there. It’s certainly not just for teenagers either: 41% of all 18-34 year olds in the United States open Snapchat on any given day.

Snapchat offers some obvious routes for a brand to gain exposure on the platform, and some are already mainstream: sponsored lenses, sponsored Geofilters, and Snap ads getting you in front of Snapchat’s millions of users. Naturally, that kind of big exposure comes with a big price tag. If you’re a smaller brand or interested in reaching Snapchat users in less conventional ways, I'm ready to shine light on some corners of Snapchat you might not have considered in your marketing approach. Some enterprising minds out there have discovered some guerrilla marketing tips we’ll walk you through. I'm not recommending all of them, just passing along the information. If nothing else, thinking outside the box for your Snapchat strategy can lead to more memorable engagement than your average ad placement.

Snap Shoutouts

One of Snapchat’s first feats was finally making QR codes happen. Each user has their own unique Snapcode, allowing other users to easily add the account (by uploading a screenshot or pointing their camera at the code), instead of manually typing in a username. Presently, Snapchat doesn’t have any way to promote an account within the app. But a brand is looking to build its own audience, connect with some big Snapchat accounts, and have them post the brand’s Snapcode to their story directing their followers to add the brand. Of course, you’ll be compensating these Snapchat Influencers, but it still might be more cost effective than a standard Snap ad. Coupling the “add this account” message with a giveaway or other incentive is a great way to build an audience quickly. You can also activate Influencers on other social networks to post a similar message, and bring an even wider audience to a brand’s message.

Facebook Ads for Snapcodes

One of the ingenious things about Snapcodes is that they work no matter where you post them. Putting a little money behind a promoted Facebook post featuring a brand’s Snapcode image is another way to grow a Snap audience quickly (especially if you tie-in a contest or giveaway). It’s the same basic principle behind a Snap Shoutout, but promoting a post on Facebook brings added bonus of data on a post’s performance as well as the option to target very specific demographic groups. If you have a niche brand that knows the audience it’s trying to reach, or an established brand looking to refresh its image with a certain kind of customer, this is a great option.


This one might take a little bit of dev work, but if you’re an app or mobile game you likely have the in-house team to make it happen. Set up an in-app freebie that can only be unlocked if the user agrees to send a snap to their friends. It requires the user to login with their Snapchat credentials, and then sends out a Snapchat blast to their friends via Snapchat’s private API. Snapchat doesn’t currently have a native way to link outside their app, so this is a nice workaround if you’re trying to drive downloads of your app.

(Disclaimer: building on Snapchat's private API is against their terms of use, and you won't be making any friends there if and when you get caught. Also, the private API is unstable and changes frequently. We included it as an example in this list because we've heard of one company who ranked their app in the top 10 of the App Store with this trick.)

Screenshot Voting

This one could run you into some trouble, as Snapchat doesn’t encourage screenshots. However, this is an unexpected way to engage your audience with your Snap Story. First, introduce the voting concept in your Story, alerting your audience their options are coming next, then post content labeled “A/B/C”, etc. Have your audience “vote” by taking a screenshot of the post in your story they choose. You can then share the winner of the “vote” on your Story, and across your other social channels. In general, Snapchat discourages screenshots, so this would be a game to employ infrequently. We’ve heard of accounts that were suspended for taking too many screenshots, making Screenshot Voting a decidedly “sometimes” option. A workaround for this same idea would be promoting a contest in your Story and offering something to the first number of users who reply to your Story. The idea here is the same: it turns your audience into participants, engaging with your content and your brand’s message.

Whether your brand chooses to engage with Snapchat’s native ad options or takes matters into its own hands with a more hands-on approach, Snapchat is a space for experimentation and creativity. Snapchat’s potential audience for your message is enormous; it’s important to hit them with content that feels in-line with the rest of the Stories they view, but that grabs them with your brand’s core message. Even if you don’t use the hidden Snapchat strategies we’ve outlined here, the takeaway is the same. Snapchat marketing is going to become very crowded, very soon; how will your strategy help your brand stand out?