Dip Your Toes Into the Snapchat Pond

I recently received a simple email from my manager: “Let’s talk about Snapchat geofilters.”

One of my goals this year is to launch our own library Snapchat account and grow it into another way to reach our customers via social. Talking about Snapchat geofilters certainly fits into that conversation and I was thrilled to start exploring this option for the library.

First. Why use Snapchat at all? A report earlier this year in AdWeek stated:

  • Snapchat has more than 100 million users active each day.
  • 8,796 photos are shared on Snapchat every second.
  • Snapchat users collectively watch 6 billion videos daily.

So the audience is there. And it’s growing.

Next: Teenagers. Aren’t we, as library marketers, always lamenting about how difficult it is to target teens? They’re good at ignoring our messages, right? But that doesn’t mean we should give up. We just have to work harder. Be more creative. Go where they are.

A study by Pew Research Center reported last year: 41% of all teens age 13-17 who are online use Snapchat. (Only topped by Facebook and Instagram at the time of the study.) Many experts believe Snapchat will keep gaining more and more teen eyeballs. So why not join them there?

Also not to be dismissed: As of April 2015, 30% of millennials regularly use Snapchat, according to the site Digital Marketing Ramblings. Another elusive group we seem to grapple with targeting.

There are a number of ways you can use Snapchat to promote your library. (More about that in a future blog post.) But first, my library is going to start with geofilters. I think it’s a good place for you to start too.

So — what exactly are geofilters? Snapchat describes them as “dynamic art for different places.” Basically, when someone takes a snap using Snapchat, they can flip through a number of different filters.

Some are basic such as giving the photo a vintage look like in Instagram. Another one lets you add the current temperature to your snap. But Snapchat also knows your location, so it offers targeted filters (geofilters) just for you to use where you’re standing at the time of the snap. For example, Snapchat offered me a Cincinnati skyline filter for this photo of my reluctant-to-pose doggie.

Snapchat filters allow you to add graphics to your photos & videos.
Snapchat filters allow you to add graphics to your photos & videos.

Cool, right? Even cooler — Snapchat lets users create and submit these filters themselves.

There are two ways you can go about it. Free and paid.

The free version is great for us libraries. 1) Because it’s free. 2) Because Snapchat asks that the free “Community Geofilters” highlight a city, local landmark, or another public location. Bingo! That’s a library. Not only are we public locations, but for many of us, we’re landmarks too.

The Community Geofilters cannot contain any branding and are simply submitted for consideration. There’s no guarantee it’ll get added as a filter by Snapchat. If you want something branded and guaranteed, Snapchat wants to charge you for it. Businesses and individual customers can purchase “On-Demand Geofilters” for their event, business, or a specific location. Brand logos and trademarks are permitted when paying. Snapchat has more information about the paid format on its website. (Think big splashy library events such as grand openings, or a big-name author talk.) Here’s an example from GE and Universal Studios.

GE & Universal Studios branded Snapchat filters.
GE & Universal Studios branded Snapchat filters.

But for now, let’s focus on the free version. Snapchat makes it really easy to get started online. You’ll first be asked to consider this information:


You’ll also want to carefully read through the Submission Guidelines for important tips such as: original artwork only, no hashtags, no photographs, etc. You’ll be able to get the exact specs for the design in the guidelines too. (And even better: Snapchat offers downloadable templates for both Illustrator and Photoshop when you get started.)

Further along in the filter creation process, you’ll be given a map to pick the location for your filter.

During the uploading process you'll select the area on a map where you want your filter to be available.
During the uploading process you’ll select the area on a map where you want your filter to be available.

Most likely this will be your library’s location. If Snapchat accepts the filter, your customers will then get to choose it as an option to add to their photos when using Snapchat in or near your location. You’ll want to do some additional marketing to let folks know to look for (and use) your new filter after it’s accepted.

What should your filter look like? As long as it fits into the Snapchat guidelines — your options really are endless. Remember, no branding. So don’t just slap your library’s logo down and think that will work. You’ll want to get creative. How would your customers want to “jazz up” their photos when they’re in your building? Maybe an “I Love Reading” type graphic? Or a sketch of something recognizable in your library? If you have a mascot, use it! (Remember, no photos.) Someone with a little artistic talent could draw a version of your mascot.

Start brainstorming. Design a couple, submit them and see what happens! We’re still in the early phases at my library, but I’ll keep you up-to-date. It’s a fun way to dip your toes into the Snapchat pond. So, come on in, the water feels good!

Are you using Snapchat? What do you think of it? What are some of your ideas for “Community Geofilters?” Tell me in the comments below!

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Learn more about the author.

Opinions are my own. This post does not necessarily reflect the views of my past or present employers.


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