The real beauty of Snapchat is its authenticity, combined with its ability to make an impact with “real-time marketing”.

Among the thousands of apps that emerge annually from every nook and cranny of cyberspace, it's inevitable that a small percentage will gain some kind of traction with the general smartphone-using public.

An even smaller sample goes on to become the next Twitter or Facebook phenomenon.

When it comes to social media platforms, Snapchat is the latest killer concept to burst from the pack. But what is it? And why should business owners care?

Snapchat is a curious app that facilitates the sharing of photos and videos that are then automatically deleted after the recipient views them, like a self-destructing letter in spy movies.

The burning question is, can it be used effectively as part of your social media marketing mix?

Social media strategist Michaela Walsh explains that while Snapchat isn’t specifically designed for business purposes and doesn’t include many business related tools, it remains a “relevant, fast and incredibly easy way to communicate with your audience”.

“Snapchat is particularly relevant for businesses targeting a younger demographic, with 71% of users being under the age of 25 and 77% of university aged students using the app daily,” she says on the Social Media Monitors website.

“The app can be used in a variety of ways to gain the attention of your customers. The key is for (them) to believe that they are receiving something from you on Snapchat that they can’t receive elsewhere.”

“(Snapchat) has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2011; self-destructing photos and video are no longer just for smartphone-savvy teens – they’re for marketers who want a creative way to reach their target audience,” says Jayson DeMers, the founder and CEO of SEO/content marketing agency AudienceBloom.

In an article on the Forbes website, he says while some may perceive the self-destructive nature of the app to be a hurdle, marketers can do wonders with this aspect of the app, “such as using it as an opportunity to offer teasers to your followers on Snapchat”.

“Ideally, the media that you share over the app should give people a better idea of your business and what you have to offer,” he says. “You should always be working to inject personality into your photos and videos to help people connect to your brand on a 'human-like' level...”

The real beauty of Snapchat, according to social media marketing commentator Kate Talbot, is its authenticity, combined with its ability to make an impact with “real-time marketing”.

“Brands and content creators are using Snapchat to produce daily stories that engage and excite audiences,” she says on the Social Media Examiner website.

“You can also use Snapchat to provide special content to your audience that they might not receive on other digital platforms, as well as provide behind-the-scenes content to your community, which helps create and engage a strong following.”

“Show off your company and make sure to have fun with it. Capture birthday parties, Friday afternoons or company outings. The sky’s the limit on showing how your brand differentiates itself with company culture.”

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