When thinking about health communications, selfie-generating messenger app Snapchat is perhaps not the first channel to spring to mind. Yet, from photo-filters to video micro-stories, the app’s trend-setting features are becoming increasingly embedded in how we use media. As audiences grow and change so are the ways that they are accessing, creating and sharing content. There is a sense that other social media channels have been playing catch up with a new generation of engagement behaviour.
However, social platforms are seeing shifting allegiances; a recent report suggests that Snapchat is losing users to Instagram Stories fast and last month Facebook also announced their own version of the stories feature.
Despite plummeting viewing figures for Snapchat influencers, opportunities for communicators to target specific audiences still abound. There has already been some inspirational examples of brands making excellent use of this fast-paced, highly visual and pseudo-intimate medium.
In the field of health communications there is the potential to exploit these imitable qualities of this technology to tackle potentially sensitive and serious topics in an accessible and innovative way, from using a photo filter to drive disease awareness, to using video stories to connect diffuse communities.
Rather than a whimsical gimmick or millennial distraction, should we be seeing this platform as a potential way to speak directly to healthcare professionals, through a device that we each use every day – our mobile phones?
Whilst it might seem like a leap to consider healthcare professionals using an app whose core audience is below 34 years (41% of users in the US are aged 18-34)in a professional capacity, the reality is mobile technology has already become an integral part of healthcare. Couple that with the growing popularity of accessing and sharing micro video-based media and it is clear that now is the perfect time for brands in the healthcare space to think creatively about how to use this channel to connect with their audiences in new and engaging ways.
Providing users with bite size news articles and 10 second video clips, the Discover function hosts media outlets which range from The Economist and National Geographic to Buzzfeed and MTV. This is suggestive not only of the diverse interests of Snapchatters but also demonstrates an existing demand for soundbite-style media. In essence, this function takes digital banner ads and embeds them in media with which users are actively engaged, as they flick through the channel’s content with the touch of a screen.
We are all familiar with how increasingly competitive communication channels have become, as digital technology is enabling users to access vast amounts of data at a higher rate than ever before. The attention of consumers has become more strained and there is a parallel with the time-starved lives of healthcare professionals. Communicating succinctly and standing out from the crowd has never been more important – or more difficult.
It is perhaps not surprising then that Snapchat’s succinct and visually-led way of delivering content is becoming increasingly popular. Of course, even with the highly targeted advertising opportunities that companies are now afforded, the Discover function is admittedly currently better suited to reaching broader audiences than say oncologists or a particular field of specialists that you are trying to target.
However, the app’s investment in building these functions and the uptake from media outlets, including the BBC, is telling of a growing appetite for novel digital content. Insight can still be gained from what style of content is working well with users in the consumer sphere and companies should be looking out for further developments down the line.
For now what, if any, are the suitable opportunities within this versatile and progressive medium for talking to the medical community? Some potential considerations are:
Lack of public forum
Snapchat Stories allow users to view 10 second video clips uploaded up the channels of those they follow; this can be friends, influencers and media outlets. Within these stories there are advertising opportunities but there is also the option of creating your own a channel to host content.
Generating a targeted list of followers is one way in which you can get snappy content in front of your audience. This could be brand announcements or best practice demonstrations. In effect, you are limited only by the 10 second time limit and your own creativity.
The short-lived nature of the content and users’ fleeting engagement could even be seen as beneficial to the field of healthcare communications. Unlike Twitter or Facebook where commentators are able to publicly leave messages and community management is a round-the-clock job, Snapchat stories do not currently allow for users to comment.
Event and location specific capabilities
Perhaps the function Snapchat is most famous for, filters directly encourage user engagement, asking them to pose for photos and upload to their own channels. Snapchat has been offering brands the chance to sponsor and customise geo-filters for a while and can cost as little as $5 per day to build and run.
For example, creating a location-specific tag for an event and inviting users to use and share is one way to encourage event attendees to actively engage with your brand. Snapchat will provide ‘use’ and ‘view’ rates so that you can measure the performance of your filter. If you can incorporate this with a measureable CTA – such as to visit a conference stand or take part in a competition, you can potentially shape a more dynamic brand engagement,that you can quantify.
Value in offering multiple touchpoints
Weaving digital elements effectively into a campaign requires planning and insight in to the behaviours of the audience in questions. However, as communicators there is huge value in orchestrating a variety of opportunities for your audience to come across your message. Living in a connected world it is increasingly in the digital space where the opportunities to create multiple touchpoints exist, where brands can direct users to their other channels, work their content across devices and create a connected user experience.
As WE's recent Stories In Motion research testifies, we are living in a world of multiple devices, multiple channels and multiple types of content. Knowing how to engage audiences with these throughout the day is critical to brands understanding how to best design content strategies. Brands must think beyond static content, and design their content in a way that leverages this world of multiplicity.
In healthcare communications, the opportunities to communicate directly to the medical community are highly regulated, but companies who understand and work with the regulations can make use of all of the avenues available to them.
When it comes to communications it is always important to make sure what you’re creating and sharing is adding value to the conversation, and not just jumping on a gimmick for the sake of it. A deep understanding of audiences and insight into their behaviour will drive successful use of the next generation of social media engagement.