Some marketers are still apprehensive about trying out Snapchat.
The concern, according to Thesis director of growth Dara Denney: “It’s just a bunch of teenagers using the platform and sending filters back and forth.”
How much spending power can a bunch of 13-year-olds really have?
It would be a good question. Except Snapchat has plenty of adult users.
It makes sense that Snapchat would have a variety of age demographics covered: It was founded in 2011, and the teens of 2011 are well into their 20s now.
(In fact, one of Denney’s accessories clients has found that their best audience on Snapchat is in the 35-44 age range.)
Today, nearly 50% of Snapchat’s monthly active users are 29 and older, and “those people have buying power,” said Denney.
The all-ages audience and bargain CPMs make Snapchat a great place to experiment with boundary-pushing creative and messaging.
“The jig is kind of up,” Denney said. “People are starting to wise up to the fact that you can get pretty great results on Snapchat.”
“People are starting to wise up to the fact that you can get pretty great results on Snapchat."
A taxonomy of Snapchat ads
With a wide array of options, it can be tough deciding among Snapchat’s five core types of ads. We asked Denney and social media marketer Billy Pacheco to walk us through the basics benefits and specs of each option.
Single Image or Video Ads.
Best for: catching users’ attention as they check up on friends
These full-screen ads are Snapchat’s bread and butter, appearing in between organic stories; though they can be up to three minutes long, Snapchat recommends keeping them between 3-5 seconds.
Denney has seen most success with this ad format. “What’s working the best [here] is user-generated content and content that feels more native to the platform.”
Snapchatters swipe up on these to convert on the call to action (CTA).
Filters and Lenses.
Best for: sparking engagement and UGC
Snapchat filters and AR Lenses are a great way to get users to interact with your brand.
Filters let users spruce up their images and videos with an augmented reality overlay. Geofilters can even be geotagged, so they only work in a specific location — like a wedding venue or a college campus.
Similarly, Lenses allow brands to create objects or animations which users can then place into their space using augmented reality, such as the AR pets in the Sims Selfie Lens pictured above.
Best for: attracting high-intent shoppers
This Snapchat ad type places your brand in the app’s Discover section. Similar to TikTok’s For You Page, here users swipe through suggested content such as news stories or ASMR-style collections of images.
Story ads allow your brand to visually fit in with the content surrounding it: Just like organic content, Story Ads appear as tiles in the Discover feed.
Users scrolling through their Discover section have a higher intent to purchase, Denney has found.
“Your ad isn’t actually interrupting their flow,” she explained. “They are actively looking for something else to occupy their time so they actually click on your ad actively.”
“Your ad isn’t actually interrupting their flow. They are actively looking for something else to occupy their time so they actually click on your ad actively.”
Best for: an e-commerce-like (e-commercial) experience
These shoppable product ads highlight a series of product photos, which users can easily tap through.
Think of them as e-commerce product pages, or digital product catalogs, that you can inject right into Snapchat.
This ad format can appear on the Discover page, like a Story Ad, or in a user’s organic content feed, like a Single Image or Video Ad.
Best for: getting video views
Snapchat also allows you to run video commercials, which can last up to three minutes. Unlike regular Video Ads, users can’t skip this ad format for the first six seconds.
Views are cheap on Snapchat — conversions, not so much
Snapchat’s average cost per thousand impressions (CPM) hovers around $2.50, Denney has found, whereas comparable buys on Facebook would cost $10-$20.
“That pricing difference is massive,” she said.
"That [CPM] pricing differencing is massive."
There is some discussion to be had on Snapchat ads’ effectiveness, however, when compared to the other social platforms’.
“The platform is still being built, still being optimized,” Pacheco said.
That means sometimes, Snapchat’s lower costs correspond with lower conversion rates.
One skincare brand Denney works with sees a cost-per-purchase of about $35 on Facebook — and about $32 on Snapchat.
That makes Snapchat conversions cheaper than Facebook conversions, but not 8X cheaper.
Still, Snapchat’s low CPMs come with benefits. Both our experts agreed that one of those benefits is the opportunity to experiment with your creative and targeting with minimal financial risk.
Who's doing Snapchat ads right? 3 examples
We asked our experts to see which brands they think are consistently putting out great ad content that meshes well with Snapchat’s native content. Here are three examples they cited.
1. Dr. Squatch
Dr. Squatch's natural soaps with “manly scents” bring in millions of dollars each year.
That's because the brand markets its no-nonsense product with… a little nonsense. Think creative that incorporates current memes, internet trends and humor.
Even users with no interest in soap can enjoy their content — that’s why it works.
The Dr. Squatch Instagram offers a great sense of the brand's aesthetic:
“They do really good Snapchat ads,” Denney said. “I always stop to watch them.”
Intimates and swimwear retailer CUUP has reinvented how bras are measured — and the brand just gets how to talk about that on Snapchat’s platform. Their team seems to totally understand the platform.
“They utilize really great, authentic UGC content that I think is exactly what would perform really well on Snapchat,” Denney said.
Lenses such as the one pictured let users interact with the brand in a more memorable and natural way.
3. Adult services
Some Snapchat advertising success stories cater to users looking for racier services.
That’s not typical. “Usually services work much better on Google, and social works much better with products,” said Pacheco.
His reasoning: Users browsing through social media are more primed for impulse buys, and those looking for services like health care and professional repairs are more likely to actively search for them.
However, Pacheco believes that in the particular case of Snapchat, “services work much better.” Especially racier content subscriptions.
That’s because they’re priced like services — charging a monthly fee — but they’re not traditional services. They’re for a product usually bought once, impulsively — adult content.
OnlyFans’ real industry may be IBaaS — Impulse Buys as a Service.
7 expert tips for Snapchat ad optimization
So you think your brand could be a Snapchat star. How do you launch a high-performing campaign, efficiently? Here are seven tips from Denney and Pacheco for saving time and standing out (in a good way!) on the platform.
1. Try repurposing existing creative first.
Ad creation on an unfamiliar social platform can be nerve-wracking, but Snapchat has “such low CPMs,” Pacheco said, that it’s a cheap place to test out creative you already have in your vaults.
It’s “lower lift” to test content on the platform than on TikTok, where you really have to create expressly for the platform.
“Brands can get away with trying out… Instagram story-style content on Snapchat — they don’t have to go out and specifically create unique content,” Denney explained.
"Brands can get away with trying out… Instagram story-style content on Snapchat."
2. Highlight UGC.
Using UGC in paid Snap ads is a no-brainer, as content that feels native will always have an edge above content that feels like a TV commercial.
“If you have those types of capabilities and you’re willing to sacrifice brand image in the name of performance, then Snapchat can be very good for you,” Denney said.
The content with the best return on ad spend (ROAS) isn’t over-produced, she explained. “It’s actually showing real people loving your product, talking about your products, and giving their real view.”
Think of it as a modern-day testimonial.
3. Don’t let vanity metrics distract from conversion rates.
As we’ve already mentioned, while Snapchat garners far more impressions for your dollar than most of the alternatives, impressions don’t always convert to sales.
“You’re going to think you’re doing [well],” Pacheco warned, but “when you start trying to get those add-to-carts, those opt-ins or those purchases, they’re not gonna be there.”
At least, in some cases.
As tempting as it may be to feel victorious when you see how many clicks your ads have gotten, take the time to look closer and build out a conversion rate funnel.
Here’s an example one from Pacheco:
When an ad campaign is getting clicks but not converting, your funnel will make it easier to “actually pinpoint where the fallout is,” he explained.
Is the issue with your product page, or is no one even clicking through to see it?
4. Keep one eye on your competition.
While some social platforms, like Facebook, have an ads library where you can take a look at the competition’s content, you have to be a bit more creative to find competitor ads on Snapchat.
Denney’s suggestion? Install the Snap Pixel Helper extension on Chrome, and visit competitors’ websites. If the extension shows that the brand has a Snapchat pixel installed, that’s a good sign that they have ads on the app.
Finding them takes some legwork though.
“I’ll click through their website," Denney said. "I’ll add things to cart. I’ll go to initiate checkout and then I’ll abandon."
“I’ll click through their website. I’ll add things to cart. I’ll go to initiate checkout and then I’ll abandon."
Then she'll browse Snapchat for a few minutes.
Doing this is almost guaranteed to trigger ads from that brand, at which point you can take note of their methods.
5. Customize your attribution settings.
“The biggest problem that advertisers are going to have on Snapchat is attribution,” Denney said.
As a default, Snapchat has an attribution window of 28-day click-through and one-day view-through — but for Denney, this is a bit much.
“I love you Snapchat, but [you] over-attribute everything,” she said.
That makes it difficult to accurately see the impact your content has. Luckily, these default settings can be changed.
“We’re able to find a better sense of reality… by using a lower attribution window,” Denney said.
She recommends setting your attribution window be a seven-day click-through and either a one-hour or three-hour view-through.
Also worth noting: Snapchat ad attribution has recently changed due to Apple’s iOS 14.5 update — the 28-day-view window has lost some functionality, and conversion reporting can be delayed up to 36 hours.
6. Test, test, test different ad landing pages — including your Snapchat profile.
In a way, Snapchat offers free landing pages to all its advertisers — its recently launched public profiles for businesses.
Like the organic business profiles on Facebook and Instagram, these pages let businesses display their latest content and filters, and integrate with Shopify for a native shopping experience.
However, it’s worth testing ads that direct back to your brand’s profile against ads that drive traffic to an outside landing page.
It’s easier to customize and streamline the layout of outside pages — and Pacheco has found that if you optimize them appropriately, they can perform well.
That’s especially true if advertisers leverage Snapchat’s Web View. It pre-loads external web pages, and makes them instantly accessible via swipe.
To ensure his landing pages are really working, Pacheco likes to use a tool called Hotjar.
“Anyone who visits your website, you can actually see the recording of what they do, what they click on,” he explained.
Hotjar also provides heat maps that show advertisers which CTAs, banners, and other content get the most interaction and interest on their landing pages.
Is the content up top not getting much interaction? If so, dump it, Pahceco advised. You want all of the most important information immediately and above the fold.
“After the main banner you lose about 30% of your users,” Pacheco estimated.
7. Stray from static ads.
While most of Snapchat’s ad types will allow you to use a still image, Pacheco doesn’t recommend it. Ever.
According to him, if you want to create ads for paid social, video is the present and future — on Snapchat and beyond. Brands that stick to static ads are “dead in the water,” he said.
Next steps: Diversify your paid digital strategy with Snapchat
Snapchat isn’t perfect, but it’s a powerful tool for brands and marketers to utilize.
“They have potential,” Pacheco said of Snapchat, “but they still need to update their process.”
"They have potential, but they still need to update their process."
Thankfully, Snapchat consistently does just that — see its new business profiles, and its new in-app purchasing options — and its advertising platform has much of the functionality of bigger social media platforms: think custom audiences, lookalike audiences and more.
Plus, a few things make Snapchat stand out:
- Its low CPMs.
- Its status as teens’ favorite social media platform (though it’s not just for teens!).
- Its investment in augmented reality features — though TikTok is headed that direction, too.
As the privacy-first web makes it more important than ever for brands to diversify their marketing strategies, Snapchat is a great, not-too-pricey platform to test.