About Snapchat – It’s Not Just Sexting Anymore

At this point, who hasn’t heard of Snapchat? The popular photo-sharing app has become so ubiquitous that it can even advertise itself without saying a word. If you’re over 30, while you’ve heard of it, you probably don’t completely understand it.

I’m over 30 too, and I don’t blame you. If you’ve tried to use it, you know the user interface begs for a seasoned user to give you a lesson. Think teens at a lunchtable or in the library showing each other how it works and what a swipe or icon means. As adults with careers, we tend to figure things out on our own, not huddled over our iPhones with friends.

This definitely isn’t the cool-kids table, but gather ‘round and get a Snapchat briefing for the over-30 crowd.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a photo and video sharing mobile app. It launched in 2011 and because of the feature that deletes photos from the recipient’s phone after up to 10 seconds, it became infamous as a sexting app for teens. Today, that stigma is gone – photos can be accessed longer via the Story feature and the company has made moves to attract brands, further “maturing” its image.


200 million users

Over 100 million daily users

800 million photos and videos shared every day

Six in 10 people age 13 – 35 use Snapchat

12% of daily users are age 35 – 54

Usage in all age groups is growing

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An example of Snapchat’s customization features. You can also write or draw on photos.

Photo and Video Sharing

Snapchat’s core functionality is sharing content immediately, with the ability to add captions, emojis, frames or “lenses” directly to the image. Its differentiator is that the photos disappear from the recipient’s device after up to 10 seconds (the sender determines the length of time).


Another feature is the SnapChat Story, which was added after the app caught on. Users can select the option for a photo to be moved to their “Story,” which allows their followers to view that image alongside all their story images – for the next 24 hours.

The Story feature is the primary way brands engage with Snapchat. It’s also the primary way I’ve found to enjoy the app. I don’t have much reason to post pictures for my friends that only last 10 seconds. Unless they’re of my dog, of course.


The Discover home screen.
The Discover home screen.

Snapchat highlights 20 content publishers in their Discover section. Hand-selected by Snapchat (making a spot in the Discover section highly coveted), these brands are able to post content that users can scroll through – images with headlines/captions and the ability to swipe up for more to the story. These are not advertisements, but rather news/lifestyle posts.

Examples: CNN posts news images and headlines with the rest of the story in the swipe below. Food Network posts videos and images of food with the recipe below.

I’ve used this feature the most, and gotten the most enjoyment out of it. I love my friends, but the latest news from Syria trumps their latest picture with a racooon face lens or showing off a cookie shaped like a Wookiee. (I loved those, Sam, but c’mon – Syria.)

How Does Snapchat Make Money?

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Snapchat sponsored lenses

Sponsored Lenses – This feature allows users to take a picture or video of themselves and add different animated, branded filters to the shot. 20th Century Fox was the first, allowing animated selfie features with Peanuts characters to promote “The Peanuts Movie” last Fall.

User Base Reach – Snapchat also charges between $450,000 and $750,000 per post for a brand to reach the app’s entire user base. Peak days like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Black Friday are priced at the upper end of that spectrum, while normal days can vary.

Should You Use It?

Snapchat still appeals primarily to a younger audience, but as with Facebook and Twitter, the trend is that older users are logging on.

The benefit to posting on Snapchat is the immediacy and connectivity. Because content is gone in 24 hours, users tend to be more attentive and engaged with Snapchat content than other platforms.

From a personal standpoint, even for a 30+ user, there are some interesting and fun ways to use it. I have a lot of young friends, and I make a living working with social media apps and promotions, so I have a really good reason to use it. But if you don’t know anyone else on it, there’s not much point from a personal use perspective unless you want to be on the vanguard of your group of over-30 friends.

If you’re looking for the next platform to leverage your brand, you definitely need to look at who your target audience is and how you want to communicate with them. Large brands from McDonald’s to General Electric to Sour Patch Kids have been active users with interesting campaigns using Snapchat’s unique features and young-skewing audience. A financial services company is probably wasting their time – for now. But give it a few years and you just might need to know how to engage Snapchat users because that’s where your target audience will be.

As we like to say around here at bloomfield knoble, fish where the fish are. The best reason to adopt a new social platform is because your target audience is already there. But don’t waste your efforts in a pond that doesn’t have the fish you want.

And that’s the bell. Put your phones up. See you in class.