It used to be that Snapchat was seen as a platform geared mostly toward teens and pre-teens. But over the last several years, Snapchat has added features and made changes that have helped to move it into a much broader space.
No longer are they a niche photo-messaging service -- they've become an established media platform valued at over $16 billion and with over 100 million users. As for the age range of their users, eMarketer reported that 45% of all Snapchat users in the U.S. are between the ages of 18 and 24, and comScore found that 60% of U.S. smartphone users ages 13 to 24 use Snapchat.
That's why brands from every industry and with all manner of target demographic -- from Sour Patch Kids to General Electric, and even HubSpot -- are using Snapchat to connect with their fans and customers in a way that's low-cost, but highly personal and engaging. You'll notice the content they post on Snapchat isn't polished: it's raw and scrappy and fun. After all, Snapchat is all about letting your brand personality shine and relating to your target audience on a totally human level.
Before we list the best brands to follow on Snapchat, let's be sure we all know how to follow brands on Snapchat and view their content in the first place.
How to Follow Brands on Snapchat
To follow brands on Snapchat, you'll first have to make a Snapchat account of your own. Snapchat accounts are nothing fancy: no profile picture, no bio, no URL to your website. All you really have to do is download the free Snapchat app (for iOS here or for Android here), and then create an account by entering your email, a username, and a password.
Once you've made an account, you're ready to find and follow brands (and other users).
Step 1: Open the Snapchat app and click the ghost icon at the top center of your camera screen (below, left). You'll be taken to your home screen (below, right).
Step 2: On the home screen, add friends by clicking the "Add Friends" option.
Step 3: Time to add some friends. You can add friends in a few ways: by username, from your address book (i.e. your phone's contacts list), by Snapcode, or from someone nearby.
To add folks by username, you'll have to type in exact usernames to find people, as there is no account suggestion option like other social networks have. For example, Sour Patch Kids' Snapchat username is @sourpatchsnaps, not @sourpatchkids -- but you'll have to type that.
To add a user by scanning their Snapcode, simply take a picture or screenshot of a user's Snapcode with your mobile device. Then, find the "Add by Snapcode" option by following the steps outlined above, and choose the photo you took of the Snapcode. The app will recognize the Snapcode and add the person automatically.
(The list of brands below includes each brand's Snapcode, so if you're reading this post on your mobile device, you can try adding these brands on Snapchat by screenshotting the Snapcodes as you read. Then, later, open the Snapchat app and find "Add by Snapcode" -- and you can add each brand one-by-one by finding the corresponding screenshot in your saved photos.)
Step 4: Once you follow the brands you want on Snapchat, you can view their Snapchat content the same way you'd view your friends' Snapchat Stories: Open the Snapchat app, and then swipe the whole screen left to get to your Stories.
Brands aren't set apart from other users, so you'll have to find the brands among your friends. Click on a brand's username to view their Story.
Now that you know how to find and follow brands on Snapchat and view their Stories, let's get into the best brands to follow on Snapchat.
10 of the Best Brands on Snapchat
1) Sour Patch Kids
Many of the earliest adopters of Snapchat were teenagers, which gave the snack company, Modelez, an incentive to hop on the platform to promote its Sour Patch Kids candy brand.
In 2014, one of the company's major goals was to grow awareness among their core demographic: candy-loving teenagers in the United States. Because teenagers were reportedly spending more and more time on Snapchat, they decided to go there to create fun content teens could share with one another.
The video below is an excerpt from one of its first campaigns back in 2014, called "Real-life Sour Patch Kid." For the campaign, the company teamed up with Logan Paul, a social media influencer and comedian, who spent five days recording pranks around New York City via Snapchat. It was a play off the brand tagline, “First they’re sour, then they’re sweet,” as the pranks went from "sweet" at the beginning of the five days to more "sour" pranks as the week went on.
Each month, new Stories were released showing the "Real Sour Patch Kids" acting like regular teenagers. Below is an example of them showcasing their "favorite Halloween costumes":
Image Credit: Shorty Awards
The retail company Everlane was another early Snapchat adopter, but with an even more daring approach to the then-new social platform. In November 2015, they wrote this on their official blog: "We’re here to make a bold claim. Snapchat is going to become the defacto social channel for Everlane. Over the past month, we’ve been testing it in small batches and we’re in love."
Why did they love it so much? Because they found it was an even better way to showcase their radical approach to transparency than other social networks like Facebook.
"Facebook is a spot for updating our community and having one on one conversations," read the post. "But Snapchat is completely different. Snapchat gives us the chance to explore transparency in a completely new way. No fancy cameras. No editing. Just raw, live, footage. It’s beautiful, and it’s the platform for the modern generation."
Almost a year and a half later, they haven't turned back. The folks at Everlane use Snapchat as kind of a backstage pass into their ecommerce business, their events, and their culture. They use the Snapchat Story feature to create narratives around giving tours of their spaces, interviewing customers in their brick-and-mortar stores, and previewing new products. On #TransparencyTuesday, for example, they use Snapchat to record a walkthrough of their business or factories.
3) General Electric
Would you ever have guessed that General Electric, a multinational conglomerate corporation, would have an active and effective presence on Snapchat?
They've actually done an awesome job of using their platform to showcase their geeky personality and to encourage interest in science -- something they've done well on other social media networks like Instagram and YouTube.
One of the best ways they use the platform is in a series in which they answer users' questions by explaining scientific concepts in a concise and fun way. For example, they recently shared some of their findings from their emoji science curriculum, which they established along with the National Science Foundation.
In addition to sharing their emoji science findings, they also encourage their Snapchat followers to interact directly with them. "Just add ‘generalelectric’ on Snapchat, send us an emoji, and we’ll send you some science," they wrote on their Tumblr. Here's an example of the "science" followers might get in return:
GE's global director of innovation Sam Olstein said about Snapchat, "The disappearing nature of its content encourages repeat usage and provides us with a unique way to celebrate invention with an expanding community of young fans."
(To learn more about GE’s creative content, check out this episode of The Growth Show.)
Gatorade doesn't have a Snapchat account of its own, but thanks to their epic sponsored lens Snapchat at the Super Bowl this year, we think they deserve a place on this list. (Note: A Snapchat lens is essentially a creative filter for your selfies. It's what you see when your friends send Snapchats of them puking rainbows. Learn how to use Snapchat lenses here.)
Here's what they did: When a football team wins a game, it's customary that the team dumps whatever sports drink is in the team cooler onto their coach's head. During the Super Bowl football game in 2016, the folks at PepsiCo-owned Gatorade released a genius Super Bowl Snapchat lens that let anyone give themselves a Gatorade bath, too.
Image Credit: Adweek
To create the ad, the folks at Gatorade partnered with Snapchat to purchase a sponsored lens, which costs around $450,000 per sponsored lens on normal days, and up to $750,000 on "peak days" like holidays and the Super Bowl.
Then, they had professional tennis player Serena Williams -- whom Gatorade sponsors -- star in the ad above. The ad shows her getting virtually "dumped on" by a cooler of orange Gatorade, thanks to the lens. The company tweeted out a GIF of the Snapchat to get the momentum going, and by the end of the day, the sponsored lens had reportedly been viewed over 100 million times.
5) Warby Parker
At Warby Parker, Snapchat is used for a variety of topics: everything from showcasing their products ("Today on Snapchat, we try on our favorite Crystal frames in 15 seconds") to giving users a chance to hear from the company's co-founder Neil Blumenthal ("Our co-founder Neil Blumenthal is inside the secret room today. Tune in on Snapchat as he answers your questions!").
They have several Snapchat series, including a brand new one called "Desk Job." In one recent Snapchat Story, they featured one of their brand creative managers for his five desk essentials. Once a Snapchat Story is up, they promote them on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. (I noticed they didn't promote them on Facebook, which is probably a good thing: On Facebook, it's important not be selective about what you publish and focus on quality, rather than quantity, of posts.)
Tune into Snapchat for Desk Job—today, Brand Creative Manager Matt discusses his five desk essentials! pic.twitter.com/QblOWLOv2x— Warby Parker (@WarbyParker) April 19, 2016
GrubHub, also an early Snapchat adopter, has been putting out content on about a weekly basis since late 2013. But they use Snapchat a little differently than many of the folks on this list. Rather than producing one-way content, GrubHub focuses on building out an active community by sending out Snapchat messages that require responses, like exclusive coupons, contests, giveaways, and promotional codes.
They became one of the only brands to interact with almost every single Snapchat message sent to them by users, every single day of the week. By the end of 2014, GrubHub had earned the highest Snapchat score of any brand (53,668 at that time). This impressive commitment to engagement earned them a finalist spot in the Shorty Awards.
The screenshots below are from a story they released where followers could send back a Snapchat of a "food doodle" for a chance to win a prize. (You can watch the Story in its entirety here.)
Image Credit: Fast Company
7) The New York Times
The writers, editors, and other folks at The New York Times use Snapchat a little differently -- sometimes poking fun at their misunderstanding of it, other times using it as a storytelling platform (and then analyzing it in writing later).
For example, check out the Snapchat Story below from Nick Bilton, one of The Times' writers. The Story is very meta: It shows his friend teaching him how to use Snapchat so he can write a story for The Times about how to write Snapchat Stories.
Like other brands, it's very much a raw, behind-the-scenes look into the life of the writer. "I'm not actually writing right now. I'm just kind of pretending," says Bilton at one point during the Story.
Here's another example of a Snapchat Story from The Times that's a little more serious. This one was part of an analysis of what makes an objectively good Snapchat Story, which later culminated in this piece by Talya Minsberg. For the piece, she recruited journalists at The Times to participate in a mobile challenge to create an objectively good Snapchat Story.
So, what makes an objective good Snapchat Story? Minsberg says it's nearly impossible to define, but that "the best Snapchat stories generally are ones that tell a narrative in a personal, visual way that pulls in and keeps the viewer."
Another important takeaway from her piece is this: "Even Snapchat stories must uphold the same standards as anything else published by The Times. There are just more doodles and emojis in a Snapchat story than you would see in print!"
8) DJ Khaled
DJ Khaled may not be your typical brand, but he has single-handedly redefined the celebrity presence on Snapchat -- and there's a lot brands can learn from him. In March 2016, less than a year after DJ Khaled had even heard of the app, it was reported that his Snapchats were attracting around 3 million to 4 million viewers each.
What's his secret? First, his style of shooting videos is really effective. He likes to pair mundane daily routines -- like putting on deodorant and watering his plants -- with funny commentary and one-liners.
He has some mantras he repeats like "another one" and "bless up," which he's parlayed into some really expensive merchandise. He also likes to share "keys to wisdom," and even got his own geofilter on a road trip to Las Vegas for New Year's Eve (which anyone can do, by the way).
The combination of backstage pass-like topics, hilarious one-liners, and fun use of emojis makes Khaled's account very shareable and followable.
9) Domino's Pizza UK
The folks at Dominos Pizza have never been afraid to experiment with new social media channels. They were the first brand to use Tinder as part of a 2015 Valentine’s Day campaign, and their "Tweet to Eat" campaign let fans order pizza via Twitter by sending a pizza emoji.
As for their global presence, their social media teams around the world have adopted the platform at different times. For example, Dominos Australia started using Snapchat as early as 2013, sending out Snapchat Stories (like the one screenshotted below) that aligned with campaigns they were doing elsewhere on social media.
Image Credit: brandchannel
The U.K. team at Dominos Pizza didn't get on Snapchat until January 2016, but they started out with a pretty cool experiment that led to a lift in orders. On January 20, 2016, they turned their Snapchat Story into a short film, titled "Dough to Door."
The film follows the journey of a Dominos delivery driver who hits a few obstacles on his way to deliver a pizza to a customer -- including an alien invasion. According toThe Drum, they also showed a sequence of random letters throughout the film that amount to an exclusive discount code they could then use online.
The folks at Dominos found that the low-budget effort led to an increase in orders. "The film drove a lot more orders then we would’ve expected even though it wasn’t really a massive driver for us," Nick Dutch, Dominos' head of digital strategy, told Business Insider.
Because Snapchat doesn't offer much in the way of analytics (unless you are using Snapchat for paid advertising), the only way Dutch's team was able to attribute that increase in orders to Snapchat was because of the unique discount code -- so keep that in mind when you're creating Stories of your own.
While there are a lot of B2C brands doing cool things with Snapchat, there are far fewer B2B companies that have successfully built a following. This is a challenge we wanted to take on here at HubSpot, which is why we launched our Snapchat channel in March 2016.
To make our Snapchat channel valuable, we're using it to serve as both a marketing and a recruiting channel -- a place where we can showcase our unique culture and perks, our awesome employees, and the inbound philosophy.
On the marketing side, we like to give followers a good look inside the company and showcase our culture. The goal here is to be educational, informative, and lovable, which are very familiar goals on our marketing team.
For example, when BuzzFeed News Editor Rachel Zarrell came to HubSpot a few weeks ago to speak about viral content, we showcased some of her talk -- and what employees thought about it afterward -- on Snapchat.
On the culture side, we want to position HubSpot as a destination -- and hopefully spur viewers to check out our other online offers like our blog, website, careers page, and so on. The key for us is using a human voice that fits in the Snapchat world, rather than a voice that's stuffy or ultra-professional.
What are your favorite brands to follow on Snapchat? Share with us in the comments.