Snapchat — once an app used by college students to send mindless pictures to one another — has now become a powerhouse of a social media tool for individuals and companies alike. For restaurants, the app provides a unique opportunity to take customers behind the scenes in the kitchen and reach a broader — and often younger — audience. But how does it work, exactly?
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat allows users to send and receive photos or videos that disappear after a certain period of time. It’s like being able to give real-time updates and reveal quick moments from your life, but in image (or video) form.
A quick primer on how to use it: once you sign up, you can add friends, or friends can add you, either via searching your username or snapping your Snapcode (more on Snapcodes in a second). To take a snap, press down on the circular button on the center (like you are taking a photo); to take a video, just hold down on that same button until you are done recording. You can embellish your Snapchat with a caption, plus various features like lenses (fun images placed over people’s faces) or geo-filters (designed, location-based tags).
Once you’re done, you can post the snap to your Story, which allows anyone who follows you to see your snap. You can post multiple snaps to your Story — which disappears after 24 hours — allowing you to create a unique, multi-faceted log of the day.
The best metric for viewing the success of your Snapchat is not necessarily the number of people that follow your restaurant on the platform, but rather the number of people that view your Snap Story –this is because Snap Stories can be picked up by local stories, exposing them to a brand-new audience not necessarily encompassed in your own following. Track how many views each of your stories gets, and note when you see a big spike. That means your local Snapchat team saw something they liked.
Why Should Restaurants Use It?
First and foremost, Snapchat has a huge (and growing) audience. There are over 100 million users on the platform and climbing, and on any given day Snapchat reaches 41% of 18-to-34 year olds in the United States, according to the company website.
But aside from the audience, Snapchat resonates with users because it allows them to see life’s moments that are not put through an Instagram filter, and build a more intimate connection with a person or brand.
Imagine being able to share with customers scenes from staff meal, how a particular special gets made, or your restaurant’s pre-service rituals. These glimpses into restaurant life are meaningful to people, and often feel more personal than a tweet or a pretty picture of a dish.
Tips for Snapchat Success
1. Don’t try too hard to curate. Snapchat’s greatest utility for restaurants is the ability to offer a glimpse inside the kitchen that customers won’t be able to find on other social channels. So, the key to success on the platform is to — ironically enough — not think too hard about it. Anything memorable– a staffer’s birthday, a spontaneous kitchen singalong, a cocktail menu tasting — can form the basis of a great Snap Story.
2. Use other social channels to build your following. Remind people that you are on Snapchat on your other social channels by posting an image of your Snapcode. These are unique, scannable codes that allow users to quickly add you to their friend list. You can even customize the center image with your restaurant logo to make your Snapcode stand out.
3. Do Snapchat takeovers. Lots of different media brands, like Food & Wine, Eater, and Lucky Peach, invite chefs to do Snapchat takeovers on their platforms. Offer your restaurant up for these! Media brands will usually have wider reaches than individual restaurants, making these a great way to build connections among a specifically food-focused audience. Just make sure that at the end of your takeover, you mention your restaurant’s username (and write it out as a caption), so you can keep building your own following.
4. Take full advantage of Snapchat’s features. Snapchat is a quickly growing company, and that means new features are constantly coming out. Stay on top of these tools — like new lenses, filters, and stickers — and incorporate them into your Snaps. They’re fun to use, and will show users that you’re actually engaging with the platform.
5. Post to your local story. Every city has a local story (e.g., Chicago has a Chicago Story, New York has a New York Story, and so on) that is automatically viewable to users in the area. Post your best snaps to your local story as well as your own story—this maximizes the chances that your snaps will hit a much larger audience, and showcase your restaurant to local customers.
6. Use Snapchat for exclusive announcements. Revealing a new menu or special? Announcing an event? Use these exclusive tidbits to draw people to your Snapchat. Let your customers know on your other social channels that you’ll be making a special announcement on Snapchat, encouraging them to add your restaurant to be the first to find out.
Photos courtesy of Snapchat.