Snapchat is an instant messaging service that allows you to send photos and videos that delete themselves after a short time and are therefore no longer visible to other users. Every user has a channel (German: Kanal) and can fill it with content. Other users can subscribe to this channel and see the content sent, which ‘destructs’ itself after 10 seconds or 24 hours for stories.

Snapchat also offers various editing options such as filters, lenses, drawing,s and effects that can be used to change photos and videos (known as snaps). The portfolio also includes chat, voice, and video calls, and a news aggregator (Snapchat Discover) that curates content. Snapchat is currently described as the fastest-growing social network (as of July 20, 2016) and is particularly popular among young people. More than half of the users are between 16 and 24 years old.


In the summer of 2010, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown began developing an idea that laid the foundation for Snapchat: sent content should delete itself after a certain period of time and thus be volatile (ephemeral messaging). The first prototype, still called Picaboo, was completed in July 2011. After disputes among the founding team, the app‘s name was changed to Snapchat. The first users were students who installed the app on their school iPods since apps like Facebook are usually blocked. The number of users increased month by month and the first investment was made in April 2012: Snapchat received $485,000 from Lightspeed Venture Partners. At the end of 2012, 500,000 users per month were already using the app.

Mark Zuckerberg offered CEO Evan Spiegel a partnership with Facebook, which was turned down. This process caused a lot of media coverage, whereupon Snapchat recorded a further increase in user numbers. Facebook, meanwhile, released an app apparently similar to Snapchat. After initial success, the Facebook app called Poke quickly landed behind Snapchat in the download charts of the Apple and Android app stores. Facebook stopped developing Poke in May 2014. Snapchat emerged stronger from this conflict and collected further investments in order to meet the high number of users. There are now 150 million daily active users.


Snapchat is available for download in various app stores. A requirement is a mobile device, as the app was specially developed for mobile use on iOS and Android devices and is not available as a pure web application. Navigation is done from the home screen; either via buttons or swipe movements to the left, right, up, and down. Different smartphone and tablet functions have been integrated into the app so that the operation of the app and end device is as intuitive as possible for new users.

What is a snap?

The snaps also use the photo and video functions of the end device. A Snap is the basis for Snapchat: Users can take snapshots in the form of photos or ten-second videos and distribute them on their channel. It is possible to send individual Snaps to friends or share multiple Snaps in Snapchat Stories. The half-life of the content is 10 seconds for normal sending and 24 hours for stories.

As soon as a user sends a snap, it is uploaded to Snapchat’s servers and the recipient receives a notification that new snaps are available. The app itself loads a copy of the snap into the device’s memory. When this Snap is viewed, the Snapchat server will receive a message from the app. When all recipients have opened and viewed the snap, it is deleted from the server. The device’s file management system also receives a message that triggers the deletion of the snap on the device.

The only way to save another user’s Snap is to take a screenshot. In principle, the data can be restored, but the end device would have to be hacked by rooting or jailbroken to do this. In principle, it is not impossible to save sent Snaps. Users should therefore consider what they share with their friends – recommends Snapchat.

Snap editing, filters, and lenses

A central feature of Snapchat is snap editing, which is used to visually enhance photos and videos. Users can select or combine the following options:

  • Text: A line of text can be inserted into each snap with the T button and placed and manipulated with pointing gestures.
  • Emojis: Smilies and graphics from Whatsapp can be inserted.
  • Drawings: Creative drawings can be overlaid on a snap using the pen button.
  • Filters: If filters are activated in the settings, they can be applied to videos and photos. In addition: If location-based services are active in the app, various geofilters are available at certain locations. New geofilters can be suggested through the Snapchat website.
  • Lenses: With the Lenses function, faces can be changed if the selfie cam is activated. Current selfies can be equipped with zombie optics, rainbows, and other options thanks to face recognition.

Stories, Discover and Memories

Other features of Snapchat:

  • Stories: Stories are a collection of photos or videos that are automatically strung together. This allows messages, instructions, and documentation to be displayed. The Live Stories function is based on current events that are taking place near your location. The stories of all friends from the last 24 hours are available under All Stories.
  • Discover: Media brands such as BuzzFeed, Mashable, or Vice have entered into partnerships with Snapchat. This exclusive content is viewable through Snapchat Discover.
  • Memories: Since the introduction of Memories in July 2016, users can save their photos permanently and pre-produce content. If you want to send the content or embed it in a story, you have to enter a password.
  • Snapcode: With Snapcode, friends can be added via a QR code. Alternatively, they must be made aware of a Snapchat channel via other social media profiles.

Marketing with Snapchat

The increasing number of users in recent years has led to Snapchat integrating different advertising options into the app and now also providing an API for advertising partners. Three types of campaigns are currently offered: 

  • Snap Ads Campaign: As part of the daily snaps, special mobile video ads can be placed that can refer to additional content. This content can be reached within the ad with a swipe movement. Snapchat itself states that the click rates are 5 times higher than comparable campaigns on other platforms.
  • Geofilter Campaign: Events, shops, or specific locations can be advertised with Geofilter. If a user is near a marked location, they can request further information about this geofilter. Snapchat speaks of ranges of up to 60% of all users – per geofilter.
  • Sponsored Lens Campaign: Lenses are one of two gamification elements on Snapchat (the other being the trophies) that can be used for marketing purposes. Users can play around with brand lenses and send them to friends. The average time per lens is given as 20 seconds.

Importance of online marketing

Online marketers can use Snapchat to reach young target groups with mobile devices in an innovative way. Even companies and brands that are not yet active in mobile marketing can use the app to send exciting content or to market events and shops. This use is free of charge, which of course does not apply to the advertising partners: With mobile video ads, for example, young target groups can be reached exactly where they are active and interested. Lenses can be used as part of a branding campaign and events can be geofiltered. Through elements such as high user engagement and customer empowerment and gamification, Snapchat is also a social media application that can attract a lot of attention and bind users to the app through innovative operating concepts.


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