social media toolsHave you heard of Snapchat?

Want to use it to connect with your customers?

Snapchat is a mobile app that lets you send public or private snaps of images and video to people from your smartphone.

In this article, you’ll discover how to use Snapchats features to connect with your customers.

guide to snapchat for business

Discover a marketers guide to using Snapchat for business.

The Snapchat Demographic

Before we dive into how businesses can use Snapchat, let’s take a quick look at the Snapchat demographics as provided by the Snapchat Ads page.

  • Snapchat has 100 million active daily users.
  • 86% of Snapchat’s users fall into the 13 – 37 age range.
  • 5+ billion videos are viewed on Snapchat each day.

It’s also worth noting that the minimum budget for advertising on Snapchat recently dropped from $700,000 to $100,000. That’s why for now, unless you’re a big brand, your focus should be on growing your audience and sharing content with them organically.

#1: Set Up Your Snapchat Account

The first step to using Snapchat for your business is to set up your Snapchat account. To do this, you need to download the app from the iTunes store or Google Play. Once installed, you’ll be able to sign up for a new Snapchat account.

sign up for snapchat

Sign up for Snapchat.

First, you’ll enter your email address, password and birth date.

enter your details

Enter your details.

Then you’ll choose your 15-character username. This is something people will have to type in to find you if they don’t have your snapcode (which I’ll talk about in the section about building your audience). Thus, you want to make it something that people will automatically think of when they search for your business, like tacobell, grubhub, wwe, philadelphiazoo or something similar.

choose a username

Choose a username.

Once you’ve chosen your Snapchat username, you’ll be prompted to enter your mobile number. People who have your phone number in their contact list will be able to find you using it unless you change that option in your settings.

enter your mobile number

Enter your mobile number if you want people to find you that way.

After you’ve created your account, you’ll be taken to the screen where you can start creating snaps and stories, which I’ll discuss later in detail. Before you start doing this, you want to tap on the ghost icon at the top of your screen to configure the rest of your profile settings.

options on the camera screen

Options on the camera screen.

On the following screen, tap on the settings wheel icon at the top right.

find profile settings

Find your profile settings.

Enter your name in your settings. You can also enter or update your mobile phone number and email address.

configure your snapchat settings

Configure your Snapchat settings.

If you don’t want people to find you based on your phone number, tap on your number and toggle the option for allowing friends to find you.

allow people to find you with your phone number

Allow people to find you with your phone number.

Under the Who Can… section, configure your privacy settings for who can send you snaps and who can view your story. As a business, you may want to start out by allowing everyone to send you snaps and allowing everyone to view your story.

If you start to receive snaps that are vulgar or inappropriate, you may want to change your settings to only allowing friends (people you add) to send you snaps and only add people you trust as friends.

#2: Add Friends for Inspiration

If you’re new to Snapchat, you’ll want to add friends for inspiration. When you add people as friends on Snapchat, you can see their latest stories (based on their settings) and allow them to send you snaps.

They won’t be able to see your stories unless they add you as a friend, and based on their settings you may or may not be able to send them snaps.

Start by tapping on the ghost icon at the top of your screen to see your options for adding friends. On the following screen, you’ll see the option to Add Friends.

When you tap on Add Friends, you’re given four options.

add friends on snapchat

Add friends on Snapchat.

First, you can type in specific usernames of people you know to add them as friends. You can search Google to see if your favorite brands or celebrities are on Snapchat. You can also search social networks to find Snapchat users.

For example, you could do the following search on Facebook and then tap on the option to see more posts from friends or groups to find people you know on Snapchat.

add friends on snapchat

Find posts on Facebook from friends sharing their Snapchat username.

Or you can keep scrolling to see public posts where people and brands share their Snapchat username.

brand snaps

Find posts on Facebook from brands and public figures sharing their Snapchat username.

You can search Twitter for the same thing and use More Options to find usernames from people you follow or everyone.

find tweets

Find tweets from people you know sharing their Snapchat username.

You can also search Google+. In the new layout, posts that match your search will be shown after Communities, People and Pages.

find google plus posts

Find posts on Google+ where people share their Snapchat username.

In addition to finding usernames of people on Snapchat, you’ll find lots of snapcodes in your social media searches. These are the ghost images, sometimes customized with the Snapchat user’s photo.


Find snapcodes for Snapchat users.

Sites like Snapcodes also share dozens of publicly shared snapcodes for brands, celebrities, politicians, sports stars and more.

browse snapcodes

Browse snapcodes of popular Snapchat users.

When you find snapcodes like the ones above, take a screenshot or save the images to your phone.

save snapcodes to your phone

Save snapcodes to your phone.

Then you can choose the option to Add by Snapcode. This will bring up the latest photos saved to your phone.

browse snapcodes saved to your phone

Browse snapcodes saved to your phone.

Tap on the snapcodes youve saved so Snapchat can scan them and invite you to add those users to your friends list.

add a friend using their snapcode

Add a friend using their snapcode.

In addition to usernames and snapcodes, you can add friends by having Snapchat go through your phones contact list or address book. Snapchat will show you users whose numbers match or allow you to invite people to Snapchat.

Finally, if you’re with a group of people during a networking event, you can invite everyone to tap on the Add Nearby option. This will allow everyone to add each other on Snapchat.

add nearby people as friends

Add nearby people as friends.

Find Stories

Once you’ve added people as friends on Snapchat, you can tap on the three lines or number at the bottom right of your screen or swipe left.

the camera screen

The camera screen.

This will take you to the Stories page. There you’ll find stories shared by your friends under Recent Updates.

the latest stories by friends and advertisers

The latest stories by friends and advertisers.

Think of this as your Snapchat news feed because you’ll see public updates from those users youve added as friends.

Note that stories under Discover and Live are from advertisers, and the features they have available to them are much different than the ones you’ll have available to you when you share stories. We’ll discuss how to do that later in the post.

As you view stories, you can “fast-forwardthrough them by tapping on the screen. You can also swipe down if you want to exit the story without finishing it. If someone is available for chat, you’ll see it at the bottom of the screen.

#3: Build Your Audience

When you add people as friends on Snapchat, they’ll be notified in the Added Me section after they tap on the ghost icon at the top of their screen. They then have the option to add you as a friend as well by tapping on the + next to your username.

notification received by your new friend

Notification received by your new friend.

Adding others as friends is the first way to start building your Snapchat audience, similar to the “follow on Twitter to be followed” tactic. The next way is to screenshot your snapcode, which comes up when you tap the ghost icon at the top of your screen. You can crop that image on your phone to show your snapcode, username and Snapchat score.

screenshot your snapcode and username here

Screenshot your snapcode and username here.

If you tap on your snapcode, you get the option to take a selfie to fill in the ghost. Snapchat will take five photos of you that will be turned into an animated GIF.

snapchat selfie

Take a Snapcode selfie.

If you don’t like it, you can tap on the undo ghost icon at the top left to change it back to the default white ghost.

remove your snapchat selfie

Remove your snapcode selfie.

You can also download your snapcode from the website on your desktop browser by logging into your account. In that file, you’ll get a guide to editing snapcodes as well as PNG and SVG versions you can use to create a custom snapcode with your usual profile photo, business logo or other image in the ghost space. You’ll need an image editing tool to do this.

Mac users can open the snapcode and another image in Preview. Select the other image (your profile photo, logo, etc.), copy it and then paste it into your snapcode.

edit your snapcode in mac preview

Edit your Snapcode in Mac Preview.

Alternatively, you can use a simple free photo editing tool like Gimp to select the white in the image and make it transparent by coloring it to Alpha (learn how to do this here).

Next, open your profile photo or other photo, make sure it’s smaller than the size of the snapcode image (1024 x 1024), and paste it onto the snapcode image. Then use the option to Raise Layer (under the Layer > Stack menu).

This should be the result once you’ve moved your image into the right spot.


Edit your snapcode in Gimp.

You can now share your custom snapcode on your other social networks to encourage other Snapchat users to follow you. I suggest you share both the snapcode and your username so people can easily add you.

share snapcode

Share your username and snapcode on other social networks.

You can also add your username and your custom snapcode to your website in a special blog post or on an About or Follow Us page to encourage website visitors to follow you on Snapchat.

share username

Share your Snapchat username and snapcode on your website.

You may even want to change your profile photo on Facebook, Twitter and other networks so Snapchat users can find your snapcode when you’re building your Snapchat audience.

customized snapcode

Use your customized snapcode as a profile pic on other social networks.

You can see people who have added you as a friend on Snapchat by tapping the ghost icon at the top of your screen and then tapping Added Me. When you get new friends, you’ll see a count.

see who snapchat added

See who added you on Snapchat.

The decision to friend someone back should be based on whether you want to be able to view their stories and whether you want them to be able to chat with you or send you snaps.

As you browse through your list of friends, you’ll notice that some users have emojis by their usernames. If the emojis are directly next to their username, it represents a particular achievement, such as snapping back and forth with someone 100 times.

If they are to the right of the name, then it is an emoji added by Snapchat to note verified Snapchat accounts for celebrities and brands.

emoji in your friends list

See friend emojis in your Friends list.

You can learn more about what each emoji means in the Emojipedia for Snapchat.

#4: Create Stories and Send Snaps

There are two ways to keep your audience engaged with your business on Snapchat: creating stories and sending snaps. Think of stories like public tweets that people who have added your Snapchat account as a friend can see in their stories under Recent Updates.

snapchat stories by friends

View Recent Updates – Stories by friends.

Any photos or videos that you add to your story will be compiled into one update for your friends to view an unlimited number of times until the photos and videos expire in 24 hours. This is of course assuming you have allowed everyone to view your stories in your Settings.

review your story settings

Review your Story settings.

Snaps are more like private messages. They are meant to be watched only once, although you can replay snaps once within 24 hours.

To create stories or send snaps, take photos or record a 10-second video on Snapchat using the app. First, use the icons at the top left to turn on your flash (if needed) or select day / night mode.

take a photo or video in snapchat

Take a photo or video in Snapchat.

To take a photo, tap on the circle at the bottom of the screen.

Photo Editing and Posting Options

If you take a photo, you have several options for editing it.

browse the edit option for your photo

Browse the Edit options for your photo.

At the top right, you can tap on the icons to add an emoji, add text or draw on the photo.

add emojis to your image

Add emojis to your image.

If you swipe left on the photo, you see filter options. You can use filters to adjust the contrast and coloring of the photo, add a timestamp or add frames based on your location.

add location filter to your image

Add location filters to your image.

Tap on the icons at the bottom left to decide how many seconds the photo will stay on the screen, download the photo to your phone or automatically add the photo to your story.

set the duration a photo shuold stay on the screen

Set the duration a photo should stay on the screen in your story.

Tap on the icon at the bottom right to choose to add the photo to your public story or send it privately to one or more people as a snap. Note that if the friend doesn’t follow you and doesn’t have his or her settings configured to get snaps from everyone, your snap won’t be delivered.

send a photo to your story or as a snap

Send a photo to your story or as a snap.

Photo Sharing Options

Alternatively, if you want to share a photo taken outside of Snapchat, you can send the photo to Snapchat. For iPhone users, find the photo in your camera roll and use the Send option to send it to Snapchat.

share a photo taken outside of snapchat

Share a photo taken outside of the Snapchat app.

Note that when you do this, your editing options are reduced only to adding text or drawing on the photo and sending it as a snap. Photos you have taken outside of Snapchat cannot be shared as a part of your story.

browse the options for editing a shared photo

Browse the options for editing a shared photo.

Video Editing and Posting Options

To record a video, tap and hold the circle at the bottom of the screen until you’re finished recording.

If you take a video, you have similar options for editing it.

browse the options for editing your video

Browse the options for editing your video.

For videos, instead of having an option at the bottom left to decide how many seconds the image will stay on the screen, you have the option to toggle the sound recorded in the video on or off.

toggle off the sound in a video

Toggle off the sound in a video.

Note that if you have music playing on your phone’s music player, it will be recorded with your video.

Tap on the icon at the bottom right to choose to add the video to your public story or send it privately to one or more people as a snap. Note that if the friend doesn’t follow you and doesn’t have settings configured to get snaps from everyone, your snap will not be delivered.

In addition to adding videos to your story or sending them as snaps, you can also add video to live stories if youre in the same location as and event. Learn more about this option here.

Encouraging Engagement

If you want to get some engagement for photos or videos in your story, you can use the text or drawing tools to ask people to take a screenshot and share it or swipe up to chat.

swipe up to chat when prompted

Swipe up to chat when prompted.

You can view snaps and chat messages sent to you by tapping on the box or number at the bottom left of the camera screen.

swipe up to chat when prompted

Tap on the box or number at the bottom left to see snaps sent to you.

Note that if your settings are configured to receive snaps from friends only, people you haven’t added as a friend will not be able to chat with you.

You can also earn trophies on Snapchat based on your activity, such as hitting a specific score or sending specific types of snaps. You can read this guide at Huffington Post on how to unlock Snapchat trophies. You can see your current trophies by tapping on the trophy icon at the top of the screen.

see your trophies

See your trophies by tapping the trophy icon at the top.

#5: Edit Your Story and View Analytics

When you send a snap, it’s delivered almost immediately; therefore, you have no options to edit it. When you add photos and videos to your story, you do have a few options.

Your story will always appear at the top of the Stories area. Each photo or video you add will expire after 24 hours. The amount of time your friends have to view your story is indicated by how full the circle is.

If you tap on the dots to the right of your story, you’ll see your Story analytics.

find the edit options and analytics for your story

Find the edit options and analytics for your story.

You can tap on the arrow that appears next to your story to download it as a video before any parts of it expire so you can share it elsewhere if you choose.

save your snapchat story to your phone

Save your Snapchat story to your phone.

When you tap on an individual image or video in your story, you can tap on the icons on the left to see who has viewed your story and who has grabbed a screenshot of that part of the story.

view your story analytics

View your Story analytics.

You can also use the icons to the right to delete the individual image or video from your story or save it to your phone.

delete an image or video from your story

Delete an image or video from your story.

#6: Chat With Your Friends

In addition to sending snaps, you can also chat with your friends on Snapchat. To do this, tap on the box or number at the bottom left of your screen. Then click on the chat box at the top left.

recent chats

Recent chats.

When you select the friend you want to chat with, you have two options. If the camera icon at the bottom right is yellow, you can send a snap by typing in some text and clicking on the yellow icon.

recent chats

Chat on Snapchat.

You will then be able to send an image or video with the text.

send a chat snap

Send a chat snap.

If the camera icon at the bottom right is blue, your friend is also on Snapchat. This means that you can video chat with your friend by tapping and holding the blue camera icon. Learn more about the functionality of video chatting here.

#7: Curate and Download Content

Do you want to start sending snaps to people, but you’re unsure what to send? Snapchat actually offers a way to curate content. Simply tap on one of the stories in the Discover section.

choose a discover story

Choose a Discover Story.

To share an image or video within the story that you want to share, tap and hold on it. This will give you the option to edit the image or video by adding emojis, text or drawings. You can toggle off the sound for videos, download the photo or video to your phone and send the photo or video to your friends as snaps.

share a photo or video from a discover story

Share a photo or video from a Discover Story.

This is a great way to start engaging with friends with on Snapchat without actually having to record yourself.

In Conclusion

Snapchat is a unique social network when compared to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others. As such, it offers businesses unique ways to connect with their audiences.

What do you think? Have you used Snapchat for your business? Are you ready to get started? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments!

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  • Awesome article Kristi! Note that I had to grant Snapchat permission to my photos on my iPhone before I could use it to send a photo.

  • Great article, I feel so much more informed about Snapchat. Follow me on snapchat garystockton – And wow! Mike Stelzner just followed me back. oh, I guess he didn’t, or unfollowed me.

  • 13-37 age range. I think that says a lot. We know Google+ is 45-54. So you’ve got late-Gen X and early Boomer vs. the Millennials of Snapchat.

    Benefits and drawbacks to each, but in terms of brand loyalty over the long haul, I think you have to go with the young folks.

  • I did follow you 🙂

  • Hey Greg – I did an official poll of the folks I am connected with on Snapchat at there were a fair amount of 20 somethings and a LOT of 45 and over (perhaps because I am 47).

  • Shaun Ayala

    Great guide!! 2 things i would love to add
    1. This is not twitter or Facebook, you will NEED to create content that is unique and native to this platform.

    2. to understand how this platform truly work and how to engage with an audience, its the Snapchat Influencers and storytellers you want to follow. where do you think these big brands are getting all there account ideas and strategies from? Snapchat influencers know how to really use the platform and create content that speaks to the community natively!
    Have fun, its an incredible app. lets connect! I aways have a story to share on it 🙂 I’m at SHAUNAYALA

  • You were there briefly but not now. Only 2 other following me. Wierd.

  • Kristi… This is great, such detail…. Thank you

  • Exactly! This is a completely different landscape than the other social networks. 🙂

  • You’re welcome Dave! 🙂

  • Thanks! 🙂

  • Thanks Gary! 🙂

  • It depends on your brand, business, and goals, but yes, the young folks are where it’s at for most. 🙂

  • Gary that is not how it works. Those are only new followers. They do not provide actual follow counts and once you look at those new followers or follow back they will disappear from that list

  • Kristi!
    Awesome detailed how to for SNAP! Most of what I knew came through my 20 somethings who jumped on board when Snap was first created. Not sure of best use for our business, but I sure appreciate the opportunity to learn from the best! Happy New Year ?feeling 2016 empowered!

    Thanks SME team ?

  • Excellent article Kristi!!

  • oh boy do I feel silly. I will re-listen to the podcast you did with Gary Vaynerchuk and Shaun McBride. Pardon my ignorance.

  • Yacine

    This is absolutely a great and comprehensive article. Thank you so much for taking your time to write this for us in simple words and with screenshots.

  • You’re welcome Yacine! 🙂

  • Thanks Madalyn! 🙂

  • Thanks Julia! Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

  • treb072410

    Great post Kristi! Thanks for sharing..

  • Hansoftech

    Great information about Snapchat app. Really it is useful for marketers.Thank you for sharing.

  • For brands there must be a way to upload photo – especially for fashion brands. I see some brands sharing photos like instagram. I tried all the snap upload apps but they didn’t work. Is there way to do it? Otherwise it’s much more useful for individuals rather than brands.

  • You can use photos from your camera roll on Snapchat. For iPhone users, you select the photo and then share it to Snapchat. Snapchat won’t let you use them in your stories though. You can only send them as private snaps directly to your contacts.

  • Thank you Kristi. That’s what I meant. For brands there must be a way to share it at stories. Sending to people individually is good for personal use not for brands. I’ö just trying to find our what brands do – how they share snaps o their stories – the snaps that it’s obvious they are not real time. very professional videos are shared too. they can’t be real time shooting.

  • Rachel Rae

    Gary and Michael, I’d lerrrve to listen to this podcast you speak of. Do you have a link por favor? Follow me on Snapchat raeraedeluxe

  • Rachel Rae

    Kristi thanks a mill for spending the time to make this so picturesque! I used to be on snapchat for social reasons and now I’m on for business reasons and am loving the journey. Having spoken to a few people about Snapchat (I’m in Australia), they mostly laugh a little and mention sexting. So glad it’s being taken to the next level! With gratitude, Rachel. P.S. Here’s a plug for my Snapchat: raeraedeluxe

  • Grace Duffy
  • Hey Kristi great stuff! I’m loving Snapchat I think it’s a game changer for online entrepreneurs. They really have some key stuff nailed and it’s addictive as all hell. My username is @thedannorris (No I didn’t copy you haha).

  • That’s what I used to think about it, but it’s definitely evolved. Especially now that they’ve got the Discover area that is focused on news. 🙂

  • No worries. I’m a little worried that the reason kristihines was taken was that I created it and just forgot my password. 🙂

  • Simona Kairyte

    Hello everyone, at the moment I am conducting research for my second year university project. It’s regarding the use of Snapchat as a marketing tool. It would help me a lot if I could participate in the discussion and also ask a few questions.
    Firstly what is attractive and different about using Snapchat for marketing?

  • Thanks for this 101 on Snapchat, Kristi. This is the first social media platform that I didn’t find intuitive enough to “just figure out by using it”. My 15-year-old son looked at me the way I look at my 60+ year-old mother when I’m trying to teach her to use Facebook. SCARY!

    Anyway, I’m really interested in learning how LOCAL BUSINESSES are using snapchat as a marketing tool. I think many of them are still struggling with Facebook and Twitter and they think I’m crazy when I mention snapchat. But I see less and less young people using Facebook and Twitter and I think it’s because they tired of how full of advertising they have become.

    (Quick note: I think “native” advertising is the internet marketing equivalent of bad product placement on television and in movies and that it’s seriously impacting how young people view social media, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

  • I think the power of using SnapChat comes from where the market WILL be, not where it is now (and it will probably get older as it becomes more “mainstream”), and as Mike said, just because that is the main chunk of people on SnapChat, doesn’t mean that you can’t build your own audience there right now. Huge fan of going where others are not (so long as your audience IS there), and that would be SnapChat.

  • Hi David,

    You’re welcome! I think you might be interested in the new On-Demand Geofilters feature that Snapchat released. We have a post about it here:

    Basically, you can create a business-branded filter that people can use when they take photos in your area. For people at your business, it could be a way of sharing with their friends that they are eating at your restaurant or shopping at your store. For people nearby, it could be a way for someone to discover that there is a great restaurant or store nearby. You might want to check that out! 🙂

  • Asmodeus Aaki

    I own a business and I’ve opened snapchat recently. Now I cant put my own selfie as a profile picture. I want to put my business logo in the snapchat profile picture. I’m confused!!! Help

  • eljara

    Great article… a great 101 snapchat guide… Thanks for posting it.
    greetings from mexico city…

  • I haven’t found a good way to do that yet either. You can download the artwork, but it seems to be for displaying other places, but not in-app. I see brands with pretty clear looking logos, and I can’t imagine they held a phone up to some artwork… but maybe they did? (good lighting, a tripod, etc.)

  • I’m thinking that brands have different options based on their advertising accounts. That said, there are tripods build for holding iphones, and you could print out your logo, light it well, and hold it for the time it takes to create that “selfie” in your snapcode on the app.

  • I think you’re right. While it could be done with a tripod and well-lit artwork (don’t forget to reverse it), I’m guessing the big brands have some more direct way.