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4 Ways Event Planners Can Use Snapchat Successfully

Experts explain how to effectively connect with audiences—at events and at home—using the mobile app.

Snapchat curates Live Stories, a collection of photos and videos from current events, which users can view in the app’s feed.
Snapchat curates Live Stories, a collection of photos and videos from current events, which users can view in the app’s feed.
Photo: Courtesy of Snapchat

Since its launch five years ago, Snapchat has evolved from a somewhat salacious photo-sharing app to a millennial-focused marketing tool used by brands and media companies to spread the word, particularly when it comes to live events.

In addition to allowing brands to broadcast on the app’s Live Stories feature and highlighting aspects of events on its Discover channels, Snapchat is becoming an official event partner. This year’s Tribeca Film Festival introduced its first Snapchat program, which invited contestants to film a comedy of less than 200 seconds on the social media platform, and for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, users were able to view highlights on Snapchat thanks to partnerships with NBC Sports and BuzzFeed.

Michael Burch, vice president of digital at creative marketing agency Team Epiphany in New York, says brands can satisfy users’ appetites for behind-the-scenes information via Snapchat. “Brands realize that people are using the app for access. They’re wanting to go to places they can’t, and they want to know what’s happening,” he says.

To make the most out of Snapchat, industry experts shared their tips for successfully using the popular mobile app.

Create an effective social story.
Jeff Petriello, director of creative development at Mashable Studios, notes that the success of marketing or covering an event on Snapchat depends on how well the story is told.

“Any time we have special access to an event—whether it’s the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards, or Met gala—people really respond to having a perspective they can’t get from their friends,” Petriello says. “Before we go to an event, we ask what the story arc is going to be. The skills that we use to achieve those stories are really fundamental, and it’s about translating those skills over to Snapchat.”

At South by Southwest in March, Mashable used Snapchat as an interactive way to connect with attendees. At its annual Mashable House activation, the company encouraged guests to follow the brand on the app and watch its Live Story to gain access to the entrance of a hidden speakeasy, which offered giveaways like a custom cocktail.

At MTV, “Snapchat obviously has incredible traction and engagement with younger millennials and Gen Z, and our events represent some of our most creatively ambitious and culturally impactful moments every year,” says Tom Fishman, the network’s senior vice president of audience engagement. “Incorporating Snapchat is a no-brainer. Between our organic brand story, Live Stories, and our Discover channel, Snapchat’s product suite allows for truly novel ways for our creative teams to evolve the way fans experience our content.”

Fishman says that MTV’s Snapchat stories complement events the network hosts and add an editorial element to the other large-scale events it covers.

“Live Stories are an amazing window into events like the V.M.A.s and the MTV Movie Awards. We staff a pretty robust crew to capture the live, raw, human moments on the ground, in and around these events,” Fishman says. “In terms of the events we cover, the Oscars Live Story this year was a great editorial pathway into the broadcast and after-party. Our MTV News team was able to bring observations, context, and points of view to the event that resonated with our audience.”

Advertise your Snapchat channel.
While Snapchat helps brands spread the word about their events and coverage, the companies need to remember to spread the word about their Snapchat accounts themselves. Brands can advertise their official Snapchat handle, known as a Snapcode, on event decor and merchandise.

“One thing people find frustrating about Snapchat is difficulty getting discovered by your audience,” Petriello says. “It all goes back to interactively incorporating your channel into what you’re doing in a way that’s not annoying and makes people aware. We’ve created merchandise at our events like stickers and buttons that have our Snapcode on them.”

Customize filter designs.
One of Snapchat’s most notable upgrades specifically targeting event planners was the introduction of custom filters. The in-app graphics that highlight a particular city or neighborhood used to be submitted by users, but now brands can design and customize their own geofilters for an event. The filters—which cost anywhere from less than $10 to more than $1,000—can be made available for a set period of time within a specific geographic area, covering 20,000 to five million square feet.

Burch also notes that the custom geofilters have been effective at enhancing and personalizing events. “The filters enable people to take a brand’s creativity and make it their own story as they take pictures and post stories,” he says. “The easiest way for a person to brag about his or her access to an event is through the geofilter.”

Cash in on festival fever.
In June, music festival producer AEG Live entered a multiyear agreement with Snapchat to cover its festivals—including Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, California, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival—through the app’s Live Stories. The partnership allows select brands to reach audiences through vertical video ads, which pop up between user-generated video stories during the festivals. Malibu Rum, which promoted its #BecauseSummer campaign at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in May, created festival-theme ads that ran throughout the event’s Snapchat story.

“Live Stories allow brands to insert themselves into the social conversation surrounding our festivals in an organic, non-interruptive way,” says Andrew Klein, senior vice president of AEG global partnerships. “We expect to see a continued strong demand for the Live Stories amongst brands. When we announced the partnership in June, we had already sold all available Live Story inventory for 2016. Going forward, perhaps we will see brand integration into the actual snaps— more like product placement—but with such an innovative social outlet like Snapchat, it’s hard to predict what will happen next.”

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