Snapchat and Instagram Stories: Engaging Content for the Young Millennial

The Snapchat Inc. application (app) is seen on an on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s displayed for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Snapchat Inc. is raising money that could value the company at as much as $19 billion. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This is the second post in a four-part series covering how to engage millennials in new media, according to Kait Hobson, a recent grad of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and indisputable Millennial. Read part one here. 

Millennials are said to have a problem with engagement or a short attention span but this is false—we consolidate everything, which is very different. Snapchat and Instagram give us what we want in seconds. They are the most uncluttered platforms and the likeliest channels, in my opinion, to get everything right for the brands that use it effectively: content delivery, native advertising and click-to-buy revenue return.

With over 200 million monthly active users (MAU), Snapchat grew 102 percent over the past year; however, Snapchat’s real asset isn’t its MAU but the demographic of its users—it targets the youngest Millennials and pre-teen Gen-Y generation. With 400 million snaps sent per day, Snapchat has untapped potential for advertisers and media brands to reach the younger Millennials who Facebook and Twitter struggle to engage, and Instagram is now getting a stronger foothold on.

Snapchat and Instagram Stories work because they’re instant, personalized content on platforms we use multiple times per day. They have built-in social networks and the media brands that currently post stories allow users to share this content with their friends. Snapchat’s “discover” function generates ad revenue for media companies, like Buzzfeed or CNN, through music and text that accompanies a visual story; making it a more captivating way for Millennials to get their bullet-style information than Twitter or the Skimm newsletter, another favorite among Millennials for news.

Snapchat and Instagram Stories have the potential to become the short-term “future” of Millennial-media interaction because the ratio of its users is disproportional to the amount of media companies that are posting stories. This means it’s uncluttered and, believe me, Millennials despise digital clutter.

With $200 billion in global annual buying power, Millennials aren’t just digital window-shoppers. So, it makes no sense that Snapchat or Instagram have yet to create a revenue model for the Millennials it reaches. Gawker co-founder Nick Denton says that the demanding affluent Millennial audience is the most difficult to engage with advertisements and, I predict, Snapchat or Instagram has the audience and the platform to successfully market to them. One of the platforms needs to offer a click-to-buy advertising model—a call to action for the millions of Millennials that interact with their favorite brands on the app daily.

Because the content is visual, Snapchat or Instagram should create a click-to-buy interaction on stories that would allow users to shop in the app without being advertised to. With the ability to choose which brands’ stories the user watches, it gives Millennials a choice to view the content they want and brands the option to monetize the products they pay to show on current feeds.  

But content-driven commerce will only succeed if media companies find a way to visually package their content for the medium. Publishers are halfway there with service pieces that show users in bullet-style, short video or step-by-step packages how to make recipes or save an iPhone that fell in the toilet, but to make content stick they need to make it local—that’s what we already love about these channels and what the brands using it haven’t figured out yet.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Buzzfeed, show me more location-specific content that I can relate to because I’m in the northeast
  • NatGeo, show me cool hiking trails in Upstate New York so I can visit them on the weekends and let me click to buy the gear from your advertisers that I’ll need based on the forecast
  • Retail brands, get on Snapchat or Instagram and use the visual platform to show me live models walking in the clothes I want in my closet. Let me click what I like and buy it in the app.
  • Food Network, know that it’s seven degrees in Syracuse right now, teach me a quick soup recipe and give me access to have the ingredients delivered and maybe a few tools that I’ll need for my kitchen.

This is how content can stick and keep mobile social platform users coming back for more. Millennials engage with social platforms differently and we want these channels to remain tailored to our specific lives, location and interests — that’s why the advertising potential for Snapchat as a platform is endless. However, users need to see themselves in a brand if it wants engagement and right now I don’t see any of that happening but the potential, through using behavioral data, is there.

Millennials love these platforms because the friends they add are relevant to their lives, but right now the media companies testing the platform are playing it too safe because they – I assume – aren’t using their data intelligently.

They seem to have no idea where we are, what we like, or what we want to see and unlike Facebook or Twitter, they haven’t made it possible for us to tell them or customize. But the Snap-style platform is a modern foundation on which brands that get it right will profit.

What will derail Snapchat and Instagram’s potential? If brands glom on to the platform without considering the uniqueness of how we engage and what we really want. The choice is up to them.