Snapchat Spotlight: Advertiser Q&A

Snapchat Spotlight: Advertiser Q&A

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When Snapchat launched in-app feature Spotlight in November 2020, the company opted to flex its muscles — and take on short-video-making app TikTok—by making daily disbursements of cash to participating Snapchatters. The rationale: to spark public creativity, incentivize public sharing amongst influencers, and build a following. Their efforts were successful: by January, the platform had grown to more than 100 million monthly active users. Curious to learn more about Spotlight and why it matters to your brand? Read on.

What Is Snapchat Spotlight?

Spotlight is a space within Snapchat where users can watch a vertically scrolled feed of short, engaging videos (up to 60 seconds long) backed by music. Rather than the day-in-the-life content traditionally associated with Snap, Spotlight offers content with a meme-like, jokey feel.

Why did Snapchat launch Spotlight?

Spotlight’s raison d’être may go beyond the obvious move to take on behemoth TikTok. It is also the place where Snapchat can branch off from the strategies that made the app a household name in the first place. Snap’s mandate since its inception in 2011, of course, has been privacy first, with photos and videos simply disappearing in 24 hours. It was a successful formula, and one that completely reimagined what online sharing could be. But the app seems to be acknowledging that some permanence can be a positive: with Spotlight, viewers can tap on favorite videos and save them.

Why Is Spotlight Popular?

Although comparisons to TikTok are inevitable, users claim the two are in fact different beasts. As Ad Age reports, CJ OperAmericano, who goes by her online name, explains that “Snapchat and TikTok have pretty different users and I am seeing higher rewards for originality and creativity on Snapchat Spotlight. You’re more likely to pop off on an original idea [on Spotlight] than just following along with a cookie cutter trend like you are on TikTok.”

Another difference: unlike TikTok, Spotlight does not have a function allowing public like counts or comments. But right now contributors are being rewarded another way. Based on a formula which includes number of views and length of views, among other factors, Snap is recognizing Spotlight contributors by awarding cash to the most popular creators. Users might make a minimum of $250 per Snap, but if someone has an extremely viral video, they could take home a big chunk of the pot. The approach has gotten attention because it’s not just existing influencers and TikTok stars who are benefitting. Average users are also making a profit after their videos go viral.

Consider Andrea Romo, who works at a Lowe’s in Albuquerque. Romo was shocked to find out that her Spotlight video—her sister deep-frying a turkey at Thanksgiving—was so popular it had earned her approximately half a million dollars. “You don’t have to ask to be paid, you don’t have to join any program, you just post a video and if it does well you get paid,” 19-year-old Dax Newman, a ceramist who has made about $30,000 on Snapchat, tells The New York Times.

What Should Brands Know?

Spotlight doesn’t show ads yet — with the operative term being “yet.” While Snapchat is, for the time being, simply giving Spotlight space to become a habit with users, the early surge of creators are exactly the people brands partner with and sponsor online. And it could be argued that Spotlight’s egalitarian approach — the fact that you don’t have to be a celebrity or have famous parents to get a leg up — is bringing attention to a new crop of budding influencers. Influencers that brands can look forward to partnering with down the line: according to Ad Age, “advertisers expect to be able to tie into the program and its creators in the future.”

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While Spotlight may not be open to advertising yet, digital opportunities for brands abound. Eager to learn more? Contact us. We can help.

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

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Snapchat has come roaring back. Its parent company, Snap Inc., was once on the verge of collapse, but recently it posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings: according to a FactSet poll, while analysts had estimated revenues around $557 million, Snap’s quarterly revenue in fact enjoyed a 52 percent rise to $678.7 million. And its stock value is soaring, with shares gaining 74 percent this year through the October 20 close.

Why is Snapchat rebounding?

Reasons for the Rebound

Understanding Snapchat’s renaissance means understanding the factors in play during a complicated year:

  • Snapchat’s user base has grown. According to Adweek, the social media company has seen 249 million daily users in the third quarter of 2020: that’s an 18 percent increase from the 210 million users noted for the same period last year, and 11 million more new daily users since last quarter. Notably, the growth is not restricted to the United States: in India, for example, daily active users in the third quarter are up almost 150 percent from the same time in 2019. The growth makes sense: as The New York Times reported earlier this year, “Stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic . . . Americans have been spending more of their lives online.” That online phenomenon has been repeating itself again and again around the globe during this year of COVID-19, and at least some of those users are gravitating to Snapchat.
  • Advertisers are spending money on Snapchat. The July ad boycott of Facebook, which protested the company’s policies on hate speech, may have helped Snap in terms of where advertisers are channeling their dollars. TikTok’s troubles, both domestically (attempts by the Trump administration to ban it) and abroad (India’s successful TikTok ban) also likely gave advertisers pause. While Snap has declined to draw a direct line between other companies’ struggles and its own resurgence, Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman said in a prepared statement, “As brands and other organizations used this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to evaluate their advertising spend, we saw many brands look to align their marketing efforts with platforms who share their corporate values.”

In another example of innovation, Snap Inc. worked with Headspace to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, releasing two new meditations in Snapchat’s Headspace Mini. During a year when Snapchatters in the U.S. are feeling significant stress — a survey by independent research company GroupSolver indicates that COVID-19, finances, politics, and school are leading sources of that stress —the meditations, called Snap Minis, are “bite-sized utilities” that require no installation and are accessible via chat and search. Headspace director of meditation Eve Lewis guides the meditations, which run approximately six minutes each and focus on practicing kindness and navigating uncertainty during the school year.

What Should Advertisers Do?

What does this news about Snapchat mean for brands? We recommend that advertisers:

  • Consider Snapchat if you are interested in the Millennial and Gen Z markets. As we’ve blogged, the app appeals to these demographics. Meet your desired audience where they are at—and right now, these powerful demographics can be found on Snapchat.
  • Consider Snapchat to be a complement to your advertising with Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Snapchat is not going to challenge the Big Three. But if you are interested in experimenting with technologies such as augmented reality, Snapchat is a good platform to try.

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How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

Branding

In December, I predicted that voice search would become smarter and more useful in 2020: “I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices,” I wrote. “But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices.” Of course, I had no idea that a global pandemic was about to radically change our behavior, including how we use voice assistants. Let’s take a closer look at what’s been happening during the first half of 2020.

Voice Assistants Are Gaining Even More Currency

The pandemic has moved the needle when it comes to consumer openness to voice assistants. The Wall Street Journal reported,

Euromonitor earlier this year noted that consumers were buying more AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, like Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa. But now, such devices have a new draw, says [head of Euromonitor’s lifestyle research Alison] Angus. “Voice-control technology limits the need to touch surfaces so much, so that’s why they are appealing,” she says.

Though states are starting to lift COVID-19-related restrictions, many consumers will remain cautious. Concerns about health and safety going forward will make voice’s touch-free nature ever more attractive.

Voice Assistants Are Increasingly Becoming An Integral Part of Daily Life

In a national survey published by Edison Research and NPR, 1,660 adults across the United States were asked about their use of voice assistants. As Voicebot.ai reports, the survey demonstrated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, voice assistant usage jumped: results reveal that more than 50 percent of smart device owners are using voice commands at least once a day now—an uptick that occurred between the start of 2020 and the beginning of April. At the same time, there is a drop in the number of people who are using voice commands less frequently. Habits are indeed changing, and the change started during the era of COVID-19.

Voicebot.ai also reports that:

  • In 2019, smart speaker owners used voice requests for an average of 9.4 different tasks a week. In 2020, that number has inched up to 10.8 different tasks.
  • Fifty-nine percent of smart speaker owners who also own a smartphone voice assistant perform different voice-related tasks with each device.

Changes in work/commuting habits during the pandemic have also informed voice assistant usage. “With tens of millions of Americans no longer commuting, smart speakers are becoming even more important as a conduit for news and information,” Tom Webster, Edison Research senior vice president, said. He believes those habits will persist, and evolve, noting that “this increased usage and facility with voice assistants will likely increase demand for this technology in vehicles once our commutes resume.”

The Business Response

Some businesses are reading the tea leaves and responding by making voice an ever more useful utility:

  • Snapchat, for example, will be rolling out a new way to sort through the million+ augmented reality (AR) Lenses that Snap makes available through its Lens Studio platform. As TechCrunch reports, “the app’s new voice search will allow Snapchat users to ask the app to help it surface [Lenses] that enable them to do something unique.” Potential applications here could range wide: imagine asking Snap to show what you will look like wearing a particular brand of makeup, say, or how a specific television might look on your wall.
  • Google, meanwhile, has launched a new voice assistant called Diya. Diya’s mandate? To help kids learn to read. According to Voicebot.ai, Diya is part of a new educational app for Android, Read Along, that aims to help parents home-schooling their kids during the COVID-19 shelter in place. Diya “listens” to kids read, correcting errors and offering encouragement and congratulations. Students can also ask Diya for help pronouncing words they don’t know how to say.
  • For Dunkin’ Brands, having a voice search strategy was already a priority at the beginning of 2020. Then the pandemic hit. Coronavirus changed the rules for food and beverage availability, and as Ad Age notes, “Dunkin’ saw a 10x rise in people using voice to search for open locations with access points like drive-through, delivery or curbside pickup.” The company adjusted to the new normal, tailoring its paid online search results to respond effectively to the uptick in voice requests. As Keith Lusby, VP of media at Dunkin’, noted, consumers were often already driving when they made their request, and couldn’t type on their phones to determine whether a nearby location could in fact serve them. “When you think about our business pre-COVID, it was nice to know when I got to the store and they had a drive-through,” Lusby says, “but now it’s determining whether I go or not. We were able to modify our results to make sure we matched what the person was looking for.”

What You Should Do

Lusby’s comment is a perceptive one, and echoes what we’ve discussed on our own blog. Brands looking to optimize voice in ads and websites will want to evaluate typical voice search queries and pay attention to the conversational text that occurs. As Lusby notes, “That’s our view of voice—meet the customer; they’re giving us more info, so let’s give them a better result.”

But how to achieve this? To begin with, advertisers want to pay attention to the nature of conversation, which tends to be more complicated than the verbiage used in a simple Google search. In short, people express themselves differently in voice search than they do in Google searches. Google searches are more brusque. Advertisers hoping to connect well with voice searches will want to write copy consistent with how people speak. “Who,” “What,” Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great words to focus on. Queries that include natural phrases such as “near me” or “can I get the number for” can also be useful/telling. In the end, sites or copy that match conversational tone are likely to help brands looking for hits from voice-based searches.

Finally, consider how you might use voice to improve the customer experience overall. As brands like Dunkin’ demonstrate, businesses can use voice technology to create a more pleasant customer experience as people continue to look for ways to avoid touching screens.

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Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

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Snapchat has experienced its ups and downs in the past few years, but one undeniable truth prevails: the app continues to flourish. Snapchat is, in fact, exceeding growth expectations: eMarketer, for one, expects Snapchat to gain more than 63 millions users by the end of 2023, as contrasted to an original estimate of 52 million. In addition, according to The Street, Snapchat is on course to be profitable in the very near future, after years of losses: “Analysts expect Snapchat to soon reach its ‘break-even’ point in profits, most likely by 2022. A group of 34 technology analysts estimates the company will earn a profit of $48 million in 2022.”

Why the Growth?

Why is Snapchat continuing to grow despite increased competition from apps such as Instagram and TikTok? Some possible reasons include:

1 Continued Innovation

Snapchat’s owner, Snap, was just named Fast Company’s most innovative company in 2020, which speaks volumes about why Snapchat has rebounded from the brink. TechCrunch also reports that new products are bound to boost engagement with Snapchat and, crucially, ad views. Snapchat’s recent innovations include Cameos, which allow users to edit their own face onto an actor in an animated GIF. And Bitmoji TV features comical cartoons that star the consumer’s customizable Bitmoji avatar. For users who have always dreamed about being a secret agent, say, or a zombie president, Bitmoji TV brings those fantasies to life via episodes featuring a main story as well as shorter, single-gag clips. User avatars appear in the regularly scheduled adventures, which range from sit-coms to soap operas and infomercials. “It’s scripted but its personalized,” Bitmoji co-founder and CEO Ba Blackstock has said. “First and foremost, I hope that everyone who watches this has kind of a mind-blowing experience that they’ve never had before.”

2 Excellent Timing

Snapchat came along at the right time, as the Millennial and Gen Z population began to swell—and come of age. Launched in 2011, the app appeals to the Millennial and Gen Z populations with its promise of content that is both ephemeral and authentic. As co-founder Evan Spiegel noted in the company’s first blog post, “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.” And the platform has captured a sizable demographic. As Statista notes, Millennials and Gen Z, together, now comprise about half the U.S. population.

3 International Expansion

Snapchat continues to expand effectively into international markets, one profound example being the uptake of Snapchat in India. As TechCrunch observes, “Snapchat’s user growth has been on [a] tear thanks to international penetration, especially in India, after it re-engineered its Android app for developing markets.”

The Challenges

It’s not all smooth sailing, of course. As 24/7 Wall St. points out, Snapchat’s features can be—and in fact have been—easily copied by competitors like Facebook. When Snapchat introduced Stories, which allows users to share snaps in a narrative style, it was making a successful bid to keep users engaged and coming back for more. Facebook’s response? Its own version of Stories on both Facebook and Instagram; and the release of Instagram Threads, a camera and messaging app for “close friends.”  As Wired notes, Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear to employees that doing what’s best for users might include replication: “Zuckerberg’s message became an informal slogan at Facebook: ‘Don’t be too proud to copy.’”

Furthermore, Snapchat lacks the reserves of cash that Facebook enjoys. 24/7 Wall St. opines, “While it’s still too soon to assess the impact of Instagram Threads on Snapchat, the salient point is that Instagram’s owner (Facebook) has a virtually unlimited war chest and a seemingly visceral need to stomp on Snapchat, if not to stamp it out entirely.”

Staying Viable

The key for Snapchat? Staying nimble and creative in the competitive and ever-evolving social landscape. In short, the app will continue to thrive if it keeps on generating features that both users and advertisers will love – especially advertisers, whose revenue Snapchat needs. One example of courting advertisers with more features: Snapchat’s Swipe Up to Call ads, which give users the opportunity to swipe up on their screen and immediately and directly call or text the advertiser.

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To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

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Unless Snapchat figures out a new game plan to create proprietary features and experiences, 2019 will be the end of the popular photo-sharing app. The stock of its parent company, Snap, is scaring away investors. Its user base has plateaued. Each time Snapchat introduces a new feature, Facebook and Instagram copy it. For instance, Instagram users can share permanent photos on their profiles as well as more temporary content on stories that disappear within 24 hours, a feature that was once unique to Snapchat. Instagram is also becoming more engaging for users with the option to share public comments, likes, as well as create polls in stories, all features that Snapchat lacks. With the launch of its latest feature IGTV, Instagram is on the rise for 2019.

Where does the rise of Instagram leave Snapchat? In a very difficult place. That said, Snapchat still has cards to play, such as monetizing its location data for advertisers and building up its content platform as a broadcast media for businesses such as the National Football League, which told Advertising Age that it doubled viewership of its highlights video to 2 million during the most recent season. Another ray of hope for Snapchat: Facebook keeps hurting its own brand, to the point where it is vulnerable to losing advertisers.

What Snapchat needs is a proprietary feature that makes it so lovable to advertisers that they remain loyal no matter what Instagram or Facebook do. To that end, its R&D center is looking for a solution, perhaps involving augmented reality, where Snapchat has succeeded.

But Snapchat needs to work fast before investors’ lack of faith in Snap and pressure from other platforms brings the fabled platform to an end.

ARe You Ready for Augmented Reality?

ARe You Ready for Augmented Reality?

Marketing

Glasses. Lenses. Apps. Games. Ads. These are all examples of products and experiences being shaped by augmented reality (AR). While not entirely new, AR will become an increasingly popular tool used to engage shoppers throughout 2018.  Various apps and games are currently being introduced into the App Store and Google Play, and many more are in the process of being developed using Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Consequently, incorporating AR technology into new tools or games for phones, tablets, and laptops will become the new norm.

The last few years have brought a glimpse of what augmented reality can do. Popular apps such as the Pokémon GO game, Ikea Place, Fitness AR, and MeasureKit introduced the world of augmented and virtual reality to our actual reality. Unlike VR, which creates a false reality, AR enhances your surroundings and adds to your current reality.

Snapchat

One example of a brand already incorporating AR is Snapchat. Snapchat introduced AR advertising features through its lenses and is launching a new AR Lens Studio. Brands are able to use these lenses to advertise their products as well as their brand name on social media in a more interactive setting. What sets these lenses/filters apart is the more engaging and lively nature of the tool. Customers are generally more inclined to convert when they are given an actual experience. The lenses also make for a more memorable and fun way to target millennials.

Shopping Ads

Augmented reality will also enhance how shopping ads operate. Online shoppers sometimes miss out on the in-store experience when searching for a product or service through the web. The use of AR will help create this virtual experience for online shoppers, increasing engagement rates, building brand awareness, and potentially drive conversions. AR will enhance these ads to be more interactive and memorable because AR makes it possible for users to view much more than a flat image. Imagine being able to view a product in its actual setting, sampling clothing without having to drive to a store, or even taking a 360-degree tour of how furniture will look inside your own home before you decide to make a purchase. In fact, the Ikea Place AR app provides this functionality already. Place allows for users to sample furniture within the comfort of their own homes.

Another app similar to Ikea Place is from Houzz. Its app allows the users to virtually remodel or redecorate their homes before actually committing to these larger, more permanent changes. AR makes it possible to configure a potential purchase from the comfort of your own home, saving you time from having to make returns when a product doesn’t work well, or even previewing renovation changes before they take place. Experiences such as these represent the future of shopping ads.

What to Expect

Apple and Google have already created their own AR software kits and introduced them into their operating software — Apple’s ARKit in iOS11 and Android’s ARCore. Many resourceful apps have already been launched using this technology. In January 2018, Apple announced that many “customers are now enjoying close to 2,000 ARKit-enabled apps spanning every category on the App Store.” From these platforms, we can expect to see more apps include AR features. From games, fitness tracking and coaching apps, to shopping tools and travel apps that include interactive maps — the list of uses for augmented reality goes on and on.

The technology to improve these apps will still be developing well into 2018, but we can expect to see more and more businesses incorporate AR into their marketing strategies. ARe you ready for what 2018 and the world of augmented reality will bring?

 

Advertiser Q&A: Snapchat Context Cards

Advertiser Q&A: Snapchat Context Cards

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Snap Inc. is finding allies in its ongoing war with Facebook. The latest battlefield is location-based marketing.

Last week, Snap announced the launch of Snapchat Context Cards, a new feature that injects more information into the content that Snapchatters share on the app. The launch has raised questions from businesses, ranging from “What do Context Cards mean to advertisers?” to “What the heck are Context Cards?” Here are some answers to popular questions:

What are Context Cards?

Context Cards consist of optional “more” buttons that Snapchat has embedded into the Snaps that Snapchat users post on their accounts. When you click on the “more” button, the Snap reveals location-based information about a user’s Snap.

For example, let’s say Snapchatter Marcia posts a photo of herself enjoying a breakfast burrito at her favorite café. Her photo, of course, is the Snap, or content that she posts on Snapchat. A Context Card, or “more” button, which appears on Marcia’s Snap, reveals a treasure trove of information about the café, such as its address, map location, and user reviews. In addition, Marcia’s Snapchat friends who receive the Snap can click on ride-sharing services embedded in the Context Card if they want to visit her at the café.

This video gives you more insight into how Context Cards work:

Context Cards have generated a lot of curiosity because Snaps are the language of Snapchat. Context Cards enrich that language with information about the places where Snapchatters share information with each other – sort of like turning Snaps into Swarm check-ins loaded with information about where Snapchatters are and what they’re doing.

The term “context card” is not unique to Snapchat. Facebook uses them, too. As Facebook explained in 2016: “A context card is an added (and optional) tile that pops up after someone clicks on a lead ad but before they get to the form, giving businesses a place to offer more details on the information people are signing up for. So, if a business is using lead ads to find new email subscribers, they may use a context card to explain what type of content they offer in their emails. Context cards help businesses ensure that the leads they receive are high-quality.”

But Snapchat has branded the term within a specific context of location-based information.

Does every Snap now contain a Context Card?

No. According to TechCrunch, “[Context Cards won’t appear in every Snap, however, lest you were worried that Snapchat was turning every single post on its platform into a marketing tool. Instead, it’ll include those that have been tagged with the company’s venue-specific Geofilters, or with any Snap that’s been submitted to the public ‘Our Story’ feed and that appears in Snap Map or Search.”

Where does Snapchat get all location information needed to create Context Cards?

Snapchat is not mining all the data on its own. To retrieve and publish location-based information, Snapchat is partnering with companies that collect this kind of information already. As reported in Adweek: “The messaging application teamed up with launch partners TripAdvisorFoursquareMichelinGoopUberLyftOpenTableResy and BookTable to supply information including reviews (from critics and customers), tips, reservations, booking rides, directions, hours of operation, phone numbers, websites and other Snaps from around the area.”

Foursquare provided more insight into how Foursquare partners with Snapchat on Context Cards here.

What does Snapchat get out of Context Cards?

Context Cards could make Snapchat more attractive to businesses, which it must do in order to compete as a revenue-generating advertising platform. Just how Snapchat will benefit remains to be seen, but here are a few ways the company may become more valuable to advertisers:

  • User engagement: If Context Cards cause Snapchat users to spend more time on the app by digging deeper into each other’s Snaps and interacting with the location-based data, Snapchat will be able to report stronger user engagement numbers to advertisers. For instance, conceivably a user could tap into a Context Card, check out customer reviews of a restaurant pictured in a Snap, and use Uber to visit the restaurant all within Snapchat. More time spent on Snapchat means more opportunities for advertisers to interact with users.
  • Data: Snapchat can collect more data about user activity, such as what they are searching for and where they are spending their time, which would make Snapchat a source of more targeted advertising. And targeted ads mean more relevant interactions with users, which is Facebook’s stated competitive advantage.
  • Revenue generation: the Context Cards could create ways for Snapchat to collect more revenue from transactions and advertising. As discussed in Forbes, “The feature could also open up a new revenue stream for Snap, as it could charge its partners a commission for each booking or transaction carried out via its platform. If Snap is able to scale up this opportunity, it could be quite lucrative given the company’s relatively young and affluent user base, which is located primarily in developed markets.”

But Snapchat will have to tread carefully. People won’t use Context Cards that create unwanted advertising popping up on their screens.

What do Context Cards mean to advertisers?

  • If you operate brick-and-mortar storefronts, make sure your location-based data and content are accurately reported to Snapchat’s partners such as Foursquare. A Context Card isn’t going to be very valuable if it sends users to the wrong address of that café where Snapchatter Marcia is enjoying her breakfast burrito. Now, more than ever, you need to manage your data and content closely.
  • Keep your eyes on Snapchat especially if you advertise to a millennial audience. Watch how Context Cards evolve and be ready to capitalize on advertising opportunities as they arise.
  • If you advertise on Facebook, keep an eye on how Facebook responds. Facebook has not capitalized on location-based marketing beyond giving brands real estate to create their own pages. Look for Facebook to answer Snapchat with more effective ways for businesses to embed location-based information into the world’s largest social media platform.

Bottom line: Context Cards give Snapchat a way to combat Facebook in location-based marketing. Facebook offers something akin to Context Cards when users check into places on Facebook and reveal information about the location of the check-in. But they are not very and interesting and useful. Context Cards embed a lot more information. Snapchat has an advantage – for now.

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