What is Snapchat Discover and why is it important in the marketing industry?


Snapchat Discover is something that many people may recognise, but know very little about. From a marketing and publishing perspective Snapchat is a relatively unexplored and unused platform by major companies, mainly due to the app not being considered a viable marketing platform, since its launch in 2011.  However, with the release of Discover, is Snapchat trying to update its unprofessional stereotype?

What is Snapchat:

Snapchat was set up in September 2011 and was created for sending images and multimedia to friends. Nowadays Snapchat is the second most used social network after Facebook, with well over ‘150 million people using it each day’ and is fast becoming an incredibly important social media platform to use for marketing. Although originally seen as a platform for teenagers to send each other pictures of their pets, 63% of Snapchat’s users are actually 18-34 years old and over half of new users signing up are over the age of 25. So as a social media network in which 58% of students claim they ‘would be likely to purchase a brand’s product or service if they were sent a coupon on Snapchat’, why is Snapchat not taken more seriously in the marketing world?

Snapchat vs. Alternative Platforms:

Although Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, Snapchat is the fastest growing; a statistic that some advertisers may consider to be the more important. Americans have a greater brand awareness of Snapchat than either Pinterest or Linkedin, and Snapchat’s ‘swipe-up’ rate (their equivalent to click-through) is a colossal 5x higher than that of comparable platforms.

An Overview of Snapchat Discover:

Snapchat Discover Homepage
Snapchat Discover Homepage

As a way to be seen as more of a serious social media platform and a realistic option for large scale business marketing, Snapchat released the Discover update in January 2015. Discover is a separate section of the app in which the user swipes right, and is presented with all of the stories from the sponsoring publishers and media companies. On their website, Snapchat says:

‘Stumble upon channels from top publishers who curate content daily, watch Live Stories from an event, or check out local Campus Stories — you’ll never get bored!’

At launch, Snapchat selected a few companies that were allowed to post stories on Discover, with an initial range of 11 (including People Magazine, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, CNN, Yahoo, Warner Music Group, Comedy Central, ESPN and Vice) that has since expanded to approximately 20. They release articles (referred to as stories in-app) once a day that last for 24 hours, before being replaced by new ones; this constant refreshing of content is designed to keep the app’s younger audience interested.

It is important to note that the number of companies accepted into the Discover programme is intentionally kept low so as to keep the quality of the service high and to provide a secondary source of income to those companies via third party advertising.

With its release of Discover, Snapchat are attempting to rebrand themselves as an effective and accomplished news source. According to an article on Linkedin, Snapchat has ‘a wide range of sources that include some of the hottest media brands, […and] news that’s easy to find all in one spot… it has the potential to change how people access their news.’ By tapping into the growing trends of young consumers, Snapchat are in a unique position that enables them to capitalise on their strong presence in an emerging market and provide existing companies the ability to advertise to a completely new demographic that traditional media is less effective at reaching.

The Costs of Snapchat Discover:

Instax Advert on Cosmopolitan's Snapchat
© Instax Advert on Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat

There is not a lot of publicly available information on how much companies pay to use the Discover service. It is reported that Snapchat requires payment from the companies, which is to be paid over a specified amount of time, whether or not they are making any money or receiving any views.

However, Snapchat’s main source of revenue that comes from Discover is the ads that are placed on companies’ channels. For example, when CNN first launched its Discover channel in 2015 it featured BMW heavily as a partner.

There is no set price charged for adverts on Snapchat Discover; the price is determined entirely by the owner of the channel and can be negotiated. If the publisher themselves sell the ad, then they receive 70% of the profits, and Snapchat receive 30%; alternatively if Snapchat sell the adverts on their behalf then they split the profits 50-50. Daily Mail’s US CEO reported that he was speaking to advertisers about spending $50,000 per day on the platform. This proves that the Discover service is being taken seriously by prospective companies who are willing to pay large amounts of money to access the app’s audience.

Cosmopolitan On Discover:

Cosmopolitan on Snapchat
©Cosmopolitan on Snapchat

One of the most popular sponsors on Snapchat Discover is the American fashion magazine Cosmopolitan, who have had a channel on Discover since its release in January 2015. The company release on average 5 articles a day and ‘deliver them to [the user] by 8 a.m. everyday, so you can catch up on everything that matters before you even get out of bed’. They also claim that Snapchat has provided a huge boost to their marketing campaigns.

In the summer following the launch of Discover, Cosmopolitan had nearly doubled traffic to it’s profile, going from 1.8 million viewers a day to 3 million; in September 2016, Cosmopolitan reported that this had further increased to 6 million due to its partnership with Discover. When asked whether the app is worth the editorial effort, Kate Lewis, Vice President of Hearst Magazines (who owns Cosmopolitan) said:

‘Oh my God, yes. It’s been amazing, and we have about 3 million people a day on the Discover platform … Cosmo’s Discover Stories are shared up to 1.2 million times daily’.

National Geographic On Discover:

© National Geographic on Snapchat

Another company that claims Discover provided a boost to its marketing presence is National Geographic. Although sceptical at first and only using Snapchat to ‘experiment’, National Geographic has increased its usage of the service, and now claims that Snapchat is a great opportunity for ‘growth’.

The Vice-President of Social Media for National Geographic, Raj Mody, explains in a Nieman Lab article that due to the fact that Snapchat ‘caters to a younger demographic, it’s a great opportunity for us to reach new audiences’ and he goes on to explain that as a Discover user, they can get anywhere between 20,000 and 3 million views a day. Therefore, one can see that using Snapchat Discover has expanded National Geographic’s traditional target audience, and allowed them the opportunity to reach younger readers, which they hadn’t been able to access yet via other social media.

The Removal of Yahoo and Warner Music Group:

Despite all of the apparent success of Snapchat, there are examples of companies who have not managed to utilise the platform effectively. In October 2015 Snapchat announced that Buzzfeed and iHeartRadio would be joining Discover to replace Yahoo and Warner Music Group who were removed earlier in the year. There has not been an official statement as to why the two high-profile companies were removed, but it has been variously suggested that they weren’t attracting or entertaining the primarily younger audiences, Buzzfeed is better known with young adults and teenagers, or even that Yahoo’s content was simply not interesting enough and did not transfer well to the app.

It is clear to see, then, that many companies consider who are interested in targeting Snapchat’s younger audience consider Discover an invaluable source of marketing – provided they are able to adapt to make this 21st Century media platform work for them.

The Present and Future of Discover:

As is always the case in the world of social media, it is difficult to predict the success or failure of any individual platform. However, it is plainly obvious that the current companies using Snapchat Discover are thriving, increasing their spend on the platform, and increasingly consider it a core part of their marketing strategy. With its exclusivity, reach, and new approach, Snapchat has established itself as an indispensable tool for advertising and marketing for forward-thinking and adaptable companies.

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