Snapchat Chat Gives Brands Direct Line to Consumers

Disappearing photo-messaging app Snapchat has revealed Chat, a text/video feature that claims to add presence to conversations.

To chat with a friend on Snapchat, users swipe right on a friend’s name in their inboxes. When a user leaves the chat screen, messages will be cleared, but either participant can tap or screenshot to save anything they’d like to keep. Snapchat will alert users when friends are in the chat. If both are present, users can press and hold to share live video and chat face to face.

“There’s nothing like knowing you have the full attention of your friend while you’re chatting,” Snapchat says in a blog post.

Snapchat’s Chat update could be good news for brands who might be able to use the feature to speak directly to consumers. According to Tom Buontempo, chief business development officer and co-founder of kbs+ Content Labs, the live video chat feature extends direct communication between brands and individual customers in “the most transparent, open way I’ve seen to date. It’s essentially a FaceTime or Skype between brand and customer.”

In an email, Buontempo writes that as communication evolves, brands are challenged to move quickly and to communicate with their fans and followers in a way that balances fans’ one-to-one behavior with the scale they need to operate.

“However, unless Snapchat finds a way to scale video chat (a la Google Hangout), I’d expect brands to try and create alternate means of adding value to their fans’ existing video chats with things like backgrounds, stickers, etc. That said, it does make for an interesting customer service tool,” Buontempo writes.

Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy and innovation at mobile marketing agency Fetch, says the new functionalities prove Snapchat is moving away from being merely a social platform and into communications and messaging, similar to cross-platform mobile messaging app WhatsApp. It is another way of monetizing the platform, she notes, and opens up opportunities for innovation such as group chat on mobile or sharing digital multimedia.

“As Snapchat looks to monetize, in-app purchases will come first, as they continue to innovate and create services users will want to pay for. This is a trend that will continue to develop as major players within the messaging space start to develop a range of services that move beyond just communications, including social gaming integration, payment tools, and utilities that integrate into a user’s lifestyle,” Shah says.

Shah also says the new features mean Snapchat will be able to collect data on users, which will allow for ad targeting, which has proven to be more effective and provide a higher return on investment (ROI) for brands than traditional mass branding.

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