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Social media has become a central part of digital marketing, and billions of people worldwide now use social platforms on a daily basis. Collectively, the major social media platforms are responsible for several billion active users each month, and the number of messages being sent via all major social media channels is almost incalculable.

Thus, companies in a wide variety of industries are now aware that they need to be active on multiple social channels, and this has played a significant part in the growth of this phenomenon in the last few years.

Unquestionably, the biggest social media platform in the world remains Facebook, while Twitter also retains a massive popularity. LinkedIn has done a very good job in recent years of branding itself as a business-focused social media channel, while the popularity of Instagram has particularly intensified in the last twelve months.

Snapchat Growth

But another social media platform which is also making exponential gains recently is Snapchat. This photo-oriented social media site should be of particular interest to digital marketers given its mobile nature. The importance of reaching mobile users has been emphasised numerous times in previous Digital Tourism Think Tank articles, but in particular there is now strong evidence available which suggests that travellers are becoming more reliant on mobile technology before, during and after their journeys.

Snapchat it still nowhere near the size of the market-leading Facebook, but its user base and reach is growing quite rapidly. The number of ‘snaps’ posted on Snapchat on a daily basis has now reached 400 million, indicating that this is becoming a commonly utilised site. In some localities the platform has had a particularly significant market penetration; for example, in Norway 50% of mobile users are already using Snapchat on a regular basis.

But perhaps the two most significant aspects of Snapchat relate to demographics. Firstly, the site has been associated with a particularly young audience. And, secondly, the majority of Snapchat users are female, with the social media platform stating that 70% of its current 60 million users are female.

Certainly Snapchat offers significant marketing potential, but at the time of writing marketers are still attempting to deduce how to use this platform most effectively. However, some companies are already taking the plunge and attempting to advertise their wares via this new and exciting social platform.

Marriott International Campaign

One such example is the hotel chain Marriott International, which is currently introducing a branded Snapchat programming campaign. The Marriott obviously has a prominent name worldwide, turning over in excess of $12 billion per annum, and it has now also become the first hospitality brand to use Snapchat as the centrepiece of advertising campaign.

The Marriott campaign began on 18th December last year, and will last until nearly the end of February. In order to ensure the maximum impact from this revolutionary campaign, the Marriott chain has partnered with several social media influencers. Those participating in the campaign include Shaun McBride, popular Vine contributor Brittany Furlan, television show creator Casey Neistat and British filmmaker and personality Louis Cole.

It is notable that the Marriott campaign is particularly focused at younger travellers, and in order to entice this demographic effectively, four chosen social media influences have been dispatched to various key Marriott properties worldwide, absorbing itinerary suggestions from fans and documenting their journeys on Snapchat.

In explaining their decision to go with Snapchat, the Marriott have emphasised that they reviewed this social media application as an excellent way to reach a younger audience. The application also presents an excellent opportunity to create customised content for mobile marketing.

By launching this Snapchat campaign, Marriott International is hoping to create an indelible impression on the next-generation of young travellers and tourists. Creating a positive image of a brand with people at an early age can pay off handsomely at a later date.

Other companies such as Macy's have dabbled in Snapchat to use sponsored advertisements, but the Marriott campaign is unique as it is an attempt to create original content and basic campaigns based on feedback from followers. A particular target of the campaign is this so-called ‘Millennial’ group.

The Brand Community

Another important aspect to understand regarding this campaign is that it is an attempt to create a brand community. Interaction is an increasingly important part of contemporary digital marketing, and one which social media is perfectly aligned with. Once the Snapchat campaign has been cemented, there is also the possibility of the Marriott International cross-posting popular images and videos other social media platforms.

Snapchat may not yet have the sort of penetration that Facebook in particular offers, but this Marriott International campaign does illustrate that it can be used to target very specific demographics. Being a first adopter and an innovator also provides upside for a brand, and although the direct payoff from a Snapchat campaign may be relatively small in the short-term, becoming a pioneer can have longer-term advantages.

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