Most brands and companies allocate a considerable amount of time to producing content that engages their customers. However, many have overlooked one of the hottest platforms -- one that boasts 100 million daily active users -- Snapchat.
Shaun McBride, better known as "Shonduras," is a Snapchat icon, recognized by popular brands, social media celebrities and agencies. He has enjoyed tremendous success promoting companies on his Snapchat account. Past clients include brands such as Disney, AT&T, Samsung, Taco Bell, Red Bull and Major League Soccer. He was commissioned to document AMC's The Walking Dead Season 6 premier on his Snapchat account, and he helped promote the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
By delivering branded content with an authentic Snapchat style, McBride says, he can retain the attention of his more than 500,000 followers.
I recently sat down with McBride, who offered advice for companies looking to boost their brands at the peak of Snapchat's New Media Evolution.
1. Find your brand's creative edge.
Snapchat is most advantageous for companies that have a message to share.
"It's not really for companies just looking for customer downloads or to move traffic to their website," McBride says. "If there's a story behind your brand, Snapchat is a much more useful tool."
The key to creating traction on your Snapchat story is showcasing your brand in a unique manner. For Shonduras, this ranges from creative storytelling about crazy adventures, concerts or meet-ups with popular celebrities.
For example, McBride was recently at the Red Bull Guest House, where he attended a Red Bull breakfast party. He posted content from action-filled clubs, jumped off the Red Bull Tower and even fit in some skateboarding action with Lil Wayne -- all while relaying Red Bull's extreme-lifestyle message.
"Tell the story of your brand by posting content from environments that represent it," McBride says.
2. Be natural, and don't over-advertise.
Snapchat makes it very easy to swipe down, or start tapping through stories or content, so your story needs to be attention grabbing and fast paced. If you want to use Snapchat correctly, you also need to add emojis and filters. Get creative with it. Make people say, "Wow, that's kind of cool!" Make them want to linger.
With a lot of unique content posted every day, you have to engage and build your audience by creating a page of interesting material that leverages your message.
"There's a Snapchat where people show their travel series or makeup tutorials, and there's even a sports series you can follow," McBride says.
I asked McBride how he's been able to produce natural and engaging content for so long.
"Now, I'm trying to do stories and have someone hit record while I'm walking by the camera so it's in third person," he says. "So I'm trying to do a third-person skateboarding perspective in different styles or using different camera lights and moving it in a different way. In addition, I'm using the camera in a unique way. I just have to do these creative things, and keep the content fresh so people keep enjoying it. It's kind of a win-win."
3. Find the right spokesperson to represent your brand on Snapchat.
"It's really important that you get somebody who has an engaged audience and really understands how to use the app," McBride says. "There's a lot of social media influencers out there right now. Maybe they're music stars, who have very large Snapchat followings, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they know how to optimize the app and use it in the best way, to really drive engagement and get a conversation going with their fans."
McBride is discerning about the clients he takes on.
"Maybe they're just looking to get numbers to report to their boss, and that's the kind of person I wouldn't work with," he says. "But if they want to grow their account or learn how to create unique content, or start an online conversation, then they need to work with someone, who knows how to pull those triggers and check all those boxes within Snapchat."
Whether it's an agency or an individual, knowing what to post is vital. If your plan is just to post a behind-the-scene tour of your warehouse, you'll need to rethink your strategy.
4. Increase user engagement by replying to snaps.
Snapchat stories, a collection of videos and photos that can be viewed and replayed for up to 24 hours, is a great way to drive engagement.
With the recent introduction of story replies, anyone can reply to a specific photo or video by swiping up from the bottom of the display and opening a new chat window. This means the marketer can now receive feedback from their snaps. This is an invaluable way to measure how your campaign is going or gain instant feedback. Since you can't look at likes or retweets, stories are a way to gauge the impact of content, and measure the engagement.
Snapchat has a good call to action.
"I snap my fans back. I open their Snaps, and I include them in my story. I give them free stuff when I do. I call it 'Free Stuff Fridays,'" McBride says. "So my audience responds very well. You have to be really engaged with your audience, and have them at a level where they're willing to follow you on any platform."
This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on July 14, 2016.