These days, most social media advice for small businesses really translates as advice for using Facebook and Twitter.
Are you as sick of hearing about those two platforms as we are?
There’s no doubt that businesses can leverage tremendous value out of those two behemoths. But what about other forms of social media—social media that has just as much traffic, just as much “viral-fuel” potential, but less overall competition?
Enter two less-conventional ways to market your small business: Snapchat and Reddit.
If you’re not familiar with these two, don’t fret. They’re easy to learn.
In this post, you’ll not only learn what they do, but the right way to use them for your own small business.
The Newb’s Guide to Snapchat
Snapchat is an app that people use to send pictures to one another on their smartphones.
You might be thinking “well, why would anyone use that? There are plenty of ways to send photographs.”
True. But Snapchat’s innovations include ease of use, customization, and time limits.
Snapchat allows the user sending the photo to attach a “self-delete” feature along with the picture. After some period between 1-10 seconds, the photo is removed from the receiver’s phone and deleted from the Snapchat servers.
This might seem like an odd platform for businesses to market to their customers, but there's so many people on Snapchat (especially in the younger demographic) that companies have begun experimenting.
McDonald’s is one such company-- the fast food giant attracted users to its Snapchat account with two key steps:
Using their Twitter following to advertise their Snapchat account.
McDonald’s simply asked its followers to add them on Snapchat by providing their username (mcdonalds) with the promise of surprises to follow—or, as McDonald’s put it, a “tasty surprise.”
Using Snapchat to offer “behind the scenes” material.
McDonald’s had an agenda—rolling out a new sandwich—but didn’t spam its Snapchat friends with advertisements. Instead McDonald’s offered unique behind-the-scenes content including a picture of celebrity endorser LeBron James.
You have to admire McDonald’s for its simple approach: giving out its Snapchat profile username and then offering some cool exclusive content. Snapchat is simple to use, so don’t let your unfamiliarity with the platform prevent you from exploring its full potential.
How Businesses Can Use Snapchat
Because Snapchat is such an unconventional platform, it's easy to use it to separate your business from the crowd.
Notice that McDonald’s didn’t really have a specific goal in its Snapchat campaign other than to raise awareness for its new product unveiling. The New Orleans Saints ran a similar campaign during the 2013 season, offering its fans behind-the-scenes looks at locker rooms and apparel that the team wasn’t sending out anywhere else.
It is, after all, the short lifespan of each picture that makes Snapchat unique. Because each picture only has a small shelf life, there is something inherently “special” about each picture sent. A Tweet can live on forever on a Twitter profile, but a Snapchat photo only sticks around for a hot minute.
Rather than try to mold Snapchat into a new form of Twitter, successful companies recognize Snapchat for its individual strengths and weaknesses as a platform. It is the ideal way to send out “exclusive” content that you can’t find anywhere else.
How can your small business emulate big brands like McDonald’s?
Entice customers to engage you. A brand called 16 Handles did this by asking customers to Snapchat back at the company with pictures of themselves eating their yogurt. In return, 16 Handles sent each customer a coupon, creating a win-win situation and enhancing sales.
Offer something unique. You won’t get much buzz out of your Snapchat pictures unless you offer something that your customers can’t get anywhere else—in the case of the New Orleans Saints, it was sneak peeks of new merchandise.
Use Snapchat to increase intrigue. If you are introducing something new, you might ask customers to sign up for Snapchat with the promise of “surprises” down the road, just as McDonald’s did. This gets people guessing, and if people are guessing, that means they’re talking about your business.
The Newb’s Guide to Reddit
Reddit, the self-advertised “front page of the Internet,” is essentially a digital white board and message board populated by millions and millions of people.
Reddit users post everything from original content (“Check out this photo I took!”) to Internet memes (in fact, there are entire “subreddits” dedicated to them) and much, much more. Think of Reddit as something of a large collection of message boards, where a voting system keeps the cream of the content (and the comments) rising to the top.
Thanks to Reddit’s popularity, the idea of seeing your link getting to the top of a specific subreddit—or even the whole site in general—is very enticing. In fact, Imgur.com, a simple image hosting site, started simply because one user had the idea to create a single webspace to host all of the images constantly being uploaded to Reddit.
Reddit is an amalgamation of its varying subreddits, usually denoted with the prefix “/r/.”
For example, “Reddit.com/r/nfl” is a popular football fan site where fans of different teams discuss the news, upload breaking stories, and indulge in a healthy bit of trash-talking.
“/r/astronomy” is a similar space for astronomy buffs, and so on.
If this concept doesn’t sound powerful at first, you may be underestimating the site. When your link is “upvoted” by enough users, its visibility can ascend to anything beyond you’ve been able to achieve in your own marketing efforts. But if you want to get upvoted, there are a few rules you’d better be ready to follow first.
How Businesses Can Use Reddit
Because Reddit is so democratically-controlled, the key point you need to remember is that if you aren’t satisfying the users, your link won’t get noticed. It might even get “buried” by downvotes into obscurity.
Avoiding these downvotes is relatively simple, as long as you can stick to a few principles:
Never advertise. Spam and advertisements—except legitimate, paid advertisements—tend to be treated with a severe degree of harshness. Reddit users are savvy and know when they’re being sold to. On the other hand, if you post something useful and worthwhile without asking for anything in return, you’ll stand a greater chance of getting upvotes and having your link noticed.
Seriously, never advertise. If you’re thinking “Great! If Reddit users want me to offer them something, how’s about a coupon?” you’ve got another thing coming. Reddit is all about cool, organic stuff, which means you’d better have something a little more unique and less sales-y to give.
Present your concepts in a direct manner. One Reddit user launched a veritable T-shirt business simply by uploading his design for an “Earth flag” to “/r/pics.” People liked the design so much they asked him to buy it on a T-shirt and the rest, as they say, is history.
Decide what your link will be. What is something unique you have to offer? Insight? Perhaps a blog post that creates value for its readers will be a good link to submit. Think about the different “problems” created by various subreddits, and ask yourself what kind of post would help solve them.
Don’t be afraid to go viral. It’s hard to imagine exactly how a local taxidermy service can go viral—right? Well, check out this video if you want your mind changed. The commercial was so hilarious that Chuck Testa became something of an Internet celebrity. There’s always some creative approach you can use to grab audience attention.
Choose the appropriate subreddit. Some content will be upvoted no matter what, but sometimes you can get a boost by simply choosing the right “Subreddit” for your link. Make it relevant. Is your small business based on an “app” that provides some good value? Maybe you’ll post to /r/IMadeThis. Take a good look at the top subreddits and choose the one most appropriate for your link before you post, and you’ll generally have more success.
Use it to get advice. Reddit is a great place to ask questions to a large, anonymous group. If you want advice on how to build a business, attract more followers on social media, or think about marketing, it's a perfect place to ask.
Getting the Most Out of Your Online Marketing
If there’s any one principle to stick to in online marketing as a small business, it’s that you have to create something of unique value.
Internet users have become savvy—even a little cynical. They want to be engaged and entertained, but they’ve sifted through so much content over the years that they’re jaded by the usual spam and blog post.
If you can create something unique while conforming to the structure of media like Reddit and Snapchat, your small business will stand a good chance at reaching a whole new
Your Turn: Have you tried using Snapchat or Reddit for your small business? Will you? Any tips and suggestions for those getting started?