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Resist the Temptations of New Social Media Content Channels

snapchat cartoonMarketers are watching the explosive growth of the latest social networking phenomenon, Snapchat — the social app now shares more than 350 million photos every day. But because the one-to-one messaging and pictures self-destruct after just a few seconds, it hasn’t been obvious how brands can use Snapchat. 

It’s only a matter of time before marketers rush in to leverage this social media content trend. Early Snapchat experiments have included Lynx in the United Kingdom and Taco Bell; Snapchat introduced “Snapchat Stories” in October 2013 as another step in that direction.

The marketing chatter on Snapchat resembles the marketing chatter in other social networks that have come along: Initial ridicule is eventually followed by a marketing stampede.

So how should content marketers respond to the emergence of new social media networks like Snapchat?

The first temptation for marketers is to leap into every social network that shows scale. Instead, marketers must first decide if the audience they’re trying to reach uses that social media content channel. It is better to invest heavily in the few social networks that a brand’s audience really cares about than to spread content marketing thinly across all of them.

A second temptation is to treat every social network the same and push the same content into every channel. Each social network operates by a unique set of rules. People use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social networks for different reasons, and in different ways. Trying to engage audiences the same way in each network is a missed opportunity. One size fits none.

When Twitter launched Vine, some marketers responded by trying to cram the same old messaging into a smaller container. Home improvement retailer Lowe’s took a different tack. It launched a series of six-second home improvement videos, called Fix in Six. The stop-motion Vines showed how to use a rubber band to get out a stripped screw, or how to use a hair dryer to peel off a sticker. Helping the audience came first. The content then embraced the medium.

vine images

When we first started developing content marketing campaigns with cartoons, we used the same cartoon images everywhere. But over time, we discovered that content followed different rules in different social networks. Some of this was appearance (e.g., Facebook has limitations on the amount and placement of text inside an image). In many cases, the type of content is different (e.g., we found that what thrives in Instagram are photos of original art or 15-second animations). The goal is to create content that feels native to the network.

Snapchat and Twitter Vine — and whatever comes next — won’t be a good fit for every brand. But brands ultimately want to be where their consumers are spending time. When they join the conversation, they need to remember to bring value to that conversation, wherever that conversation lives.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our quarterly magazine.