Visually-led social networks have grown exponentially in the Middle Eastern region, with Snapchat at the forefront of the social media trend. According to Snapchat user data, the mobile app currently has about 33 million users in the Middle East. Company growth in this region has far out-paced growth in many other countries.
Saudis are among the highest active daily users of Snapchat, with residents of Riyadh and Jeddah using the camera 40 times a day on average, and spending approximately 35 minutes a day surfing snaps. These figures are huge when compared to Snapchat’s global average of 25 times a day and half an hour of surfing, respectively. In fact, more than a third of Saudi respondents say they use Snapchat video tools, making it the highest market adoption of the app by any nation. Snapchat has even opened its first Middle Eastern office in Dubai, with rumors of a second office in soon to open in Riyadh.
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While the app’s paid advertising features are only available in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar, brands on Snapchat can still build a loyal consumer base and engaged community through organic interactions.
To follow, we’ll explore key Snapchat user features, marketing tools, and unique strategies to increase organic reach and direct paid traffic to your profile and website.
What is Snapchat and how does it work?
Snapchat is not a typical social network. Any picture, video, or message you send is only available for a limited number of seconds before it expires. Also clinging to a short lifespan are featured stories, which last no more than 24 hours.
The “temporary” nature of the app was designed to encourage more organic and natural interaction, and is a hit among Arab millennials. Unlike Instagram and Facebook, Snapchat is constantly changing its user interface, so we decided to provide some background on the app’s main features.
When you open the application on your Android or iOS phone, you will see a camera screen with the capture button at the bottom, as well as buttons to access your Memories, Chat, and Stories screens. To capture a moment or event, tap the capture button to take a photo, or hold it down to shoot a video. You can then choose whether to save it to Memories, add it to your story, or send it to a friend.
Snapchat has a variety of creative editing options that let you add geo tags, interactive lenses, drawings, emojis and more to your images. They have recently expanded their offering to include Middle Eastern geo tags and bitmojis.
Snapchat stories allow you to make multiple videos and photos available for a 24-hour period. Brands with successful view rates tend to keep their snaps brief and their stories 1-2 minutes long, for it has been found that longer videos experience a decline in viewer engagement after that point.
The Snap Map allows you to view and interact with stories from around the world. Snaps submitted to “Our Story” will be visible on this map. You can view them by tapping their circular thumbnail.
Bitmojis can show up at special locations and events, such as a museum or party. The heatmap indicates the users active in the area: blue dots indicate a few snaps taken, while the red indicates a high volume of snaps.
Messaging via text or video on Snapchat is more intuitive and engaging than on other platforms, and you can easily send snaps in the message. When you’re chatting one-on-one with a customer, a blue dot will appear at the bottom of your chat screen indicating their presence in the chat. Chats are deleted by default once both parties leave the Chat.
Bitmojis are customizable avatars that act as personalized emojis. They are now offered in a variety of languages, including Arabic. If your followers have set up Bitmoji, their Bitmoji will pop up on a messaging screen instead. This image can be a part of customised sketches, ranging from personal greetings to pop-culture references. Snapchat plans to roll out commercial bitmojis, allowing brands to create animated sketches to advertise their products and interact with customers.
Organic Content Strategies
Unlike other platforms, Snapchat was founded on the principle of organic face-to-face interactions. The inherent low threshold for quality keeps Snapchat authentic and provides huge opportunity for organic growth.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) largely drives Snapchat engagement. Because snaps are temporary, your brand has the creative freedom to share fun ideas, create hype, and build anticipation around products and events. Keep in mind that every snap you post should deliver value or fulfil a need, whether eliciting a human emotion leading to a desired action, or providing information.
Keep it exclusive, informal, and human
Interestingly, 50-60 percent of Arabic social media users show favourability towards branded content. Western audiences, in contrast, are far less tolerant of sponsored content, showing a low 11-20 percent tolerance rate.
Based on these statistics, we can deduce that Arabic social media users tend to be loyal brand followers and place great value on exclusive interactions. Following on these insights, here are some ideas for exclusive Snapchat content:
- Product demos
- Holiday greetings
- Quick tips
- Employee highlights
- Discounts and flash sales
- Influencer takeovers
- Behind-the-scenes of marketing day-shoots and exclusive events
- Shared user-generated content and giveaways
In order to maintain a strong following on Snapchat, companies should focus on humanizing their brands while maintaining exclusivity. Here are some tips on humanizing your organic Snapchat content:
1. Keep your brand voice consistent and informal.
Is your brand carefree or stylish? Adventurous or motivated? Once you’ve identified your unique brand voice, consider the best strategy for making it more colloquial and approachable for Snapchat users. Take advantage of Snapchat features such as filters, lenses and doodles while using informal language and emojis. Don’t be afraid to incorporate fun Arabic pop culture references, Arabizi, and emojis, as these allow customers to see your brand as a peer that they are willing to interact with – as opposed to a large corporation intent on selling them products they don’t want.
2. Showcase your employees.
One of the best ways to show customers that your brand is run by real humans is to reveal the people at work behind the camera. This could involve showcasing employees in the form of a day-in-the-life, or a weekly segment. Showcase behind-the-scenes clips of company events and appearances to create an exclusive feel to your audience.
Lovin Dubai is a media group with a heavy online presence. On Snapchat, they run a weekly segment featuring their interns trying the weirdest foods in Dubai. This series highlights the faces behind the brand while featuring unique restaurants around the city. In ways such as this, showcasing different personalities and experiences can dramatically increase your video view rates.
3. Work with Social Media Influencers to raise product awareness and increase followers.
Social media influencers are the most effective and trusted source for driving sales. They have been found to be 94 percent more effective than friends and family, and more than 7X that of From fashion experts to family vloggers, Arabic influencers have amassed a huge following on Snapchat with thousands of loyal fans. Fozaza, Lama.Akeel, Mrmoudz, and Just.bayan are just a few of many notable Snapchat influencers in the region.
Influencers are seen as authority leaders in their respective industries, so collaborations can be an effective way to give your brand a familiar, human touch while driving traffic towards your Snapchat profile and company website.
4. Acknowledge Issues and Mistakes.
Humanizing your brand involves demonstrating human qualities — even when you’ve made a mistake, or your customers experience a problem. Acknowledge any wide-spread issues and post updates through your Snapchat story. Your customers will appreciate your brand’s transparency and will remain loyal. As an additional benefit, you can also refer customers to your Snapchat story for updates when they direct message your profile with a concern.
Paid Content Features
On-Demand Geo filters
Custom Geo filters allow you to brand “user generated content” by providing your fans with a branded filter when they are at your event or store. For smaller businesses, On-Demand Geo filters are the easiest and cheapest way to get started with Snapchat advertising.
This strategy is also a great way to encourage Snap users to create their own content whilst associating their pictures and videos with your business. Some companies like to include their name and logo somewhere in the design in order to increase their brand recognition, while others make use of a subtler calling card such as an associated phrase or image linked to their brand.
The process works by uploading a filter exclusive to a geo-targeted area. These filters work best for brick-and-mortar locations, events and companies. They are also best suited for businesses wanting to increase their brand awareness with less of a focus on achieving direct sales.
Snapchat’s tool used to create filters. This filter spans the Dubai Mall.
You can use Snapchat’s tools to upload your own design or choose from one of Snapchat’s templates. You can also select a time and set the parameters for your filter based on their google map tool. The geofilter must be submitted to Snapchat for review which usually only takes a day.
Pricing is variable and primarily depends on three factors, namely: geographical area, time of availability, the user demand. The geographical areas must be between 20,000 square feet & 50,000,000 square feet, and the maximum duration is 6 months. In the image below, a filter spanning the Dubai Mall for 24 hours costs just over $1,000 USD
Filter costs can be as low as $5 USD based on the lowest criteria – the more targeted your campaign, the more cost-effective it will be. Prices can increase rapidly in line with longer time periods and high-demand areas, so it’s important to optimize your settings accordingly. If you want to reach Snapchat users in a greater area, you could consider a sponsored Filter.
Sponsored Lenses and Filters
Snapchat sponsored lenses and filters are often used by larger companies to create hype about new products – and connect with millennials. Given the substantial engagement and reach, the cost for sponsored content is much higher.
Why are filters and lenses so popular? A compelling reason is simply the fun they give the customer. While brands have the opportunity to explore a side of their image that is less commonly seen, users can freely personalise a branded image.
A classic success story, Huda Beauty ran an international Snapchat campaign that offered makeup enthusiasts a way to try on Huda’s newly launched Desert Dusk Eyeshadow Palette. She encouraged her followers to post a picture of themselves with the filter using #HudaBeautyGiveaway for a chance to win one of 100 palettes and a trip to Dubai. The campaign was a hit and her Instagram post promoting the giveaway received over 85,000 likes.
Snap chatters tend to interact with sponsored lenses for an average of 20 seconds. On most other platforms, people find ads an annoyance – thus a voluntary 20 second interaction rate with results is commendable.
Geo filters are similar to on-demand filters in that they can be hyper-localized. They are applied many similar locations across the country (for instance, fast food chains and retail stores). For example, Caribou Coffee Middle East ran a nation-wide campaign encouraging UAE customers to try out their Christmas geo-filter.
Snapchat is notoriously tight-lipped about its lenses and filter advertising prices, though they recently announced that they will be slashing their advertising prices in half within the next few months.
As it stands, current costs for sponsored content varies depending on the day of the week, holiday, trends, etc. Snapchat sponsored lenses cost $450,000 per day Sunday through Thursday, $500,000 for Fridays and Saturdays, and $700,000 plus for holidays. Costs differ depending on the geographical region, so it is best to contact the advertorial team directly for a quote.
While nationwide filters are cheaper than lenses, they can still cost upwards of $50,000 per day in the US, and more than $10,000 per day in smaller geographical regions.
This section located to the right of the camera screen is designed for high-profile brands and publishers to broadcast news stories and blog posts. Snapchat’s “Discover” service has been expanded to include primarily Arabic content from regional providers like Media Inc., Gulf News, Sabq, Abu Dhabi Media and Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned television news channel.
Snapchat discover ads are the most expensive offering. Latest figures show Snapchat discover ads start as high as $50,000 per day. These ads get premium placement (at the very top of the app) and are usually reserved for publishers or big brands.
Snap Ads appear in between features on the Discover and Subscriptions tabs while the user is swiping through content. This is a relatively new feature that is gaining traction in the Middle East among small businesses.
A Snap Ad consists of a 10 second video, with the option to swipe up for access to more content, which can lead to a video, article, or app installation. These ads are the most effective at driving direct traffic to your website. In fact, Snapchat claims these ads have a 5x greater click-through rate compared to similar ad formats on other social platforms.
When creating your ads, always remain cognizant of localization. Be wary of direct or literal translations of your ad, as these can be confusing to a native speaker. In most cases, this has been found to reduce the impact or effectiveness of your campaign. Equally important to remember when placing these ads is translating the landing page to match your ad copy.
Reports vary regarding the average cost of Snap Ads, but typically the cost per impression is around $1.88 CPM. This is comparatively far less than any other platform’s offering. Running an ad set on Snapchat will typically cost around $3,000.
Brands are often hesitant to add yet another network to their long list of social media marketing responsibilities. With Snapchat’s growing appeal to millennials in the region, businesses need to leverage this alternative social media platform to their benefit.
Snapchat has already exploded in popularity in Saudi Arabia, and the company has experienced more growth in the Middle East than in any other region. If shareholders don’t want to miss the gravy train, it’s time for small companies and large brands alike to recognize the potential of this app, get creative and start capitalizing on its high viewership and engagement rates. It may turn your business around completely or even expose your company to a completely-new market.
Written by: Sidney Hardin