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Euromonitor International Interview Series: Andrew Cunningham, Community Lead at Huge

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Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview focused on Snapchat and the travel industry with Andrew Cunningham, Community Lead at the digital advertising agency Huge. He has written more detail about his thoughts on brands and Snapchat here. [Editor’s Note:  This interview was conducted on October 10th before many of the latest Snapchat features were announced.]

Do you think there are sub-industries in tourism, such as destination marketing organizations, attractions and live events that are better suited to using Snapchat? Or should everyone be thinking about Snapchat?

Snapchat is definitely not for everyone – like all social media, it needs to be carefully evaluated based on key business objectives, overarching digital strategy and available resources. That said, the ultra-personal nature of Snapchat - Stories and Our Story in particular - lends itself quite a bit to the tourism industry and sub-industries as a whole. The demographics skew young so targeting millennial would need to be a priority as well, but Snapchat’s ability to showcase unique destinations and attractions in a casual first person perspective is a great fit for the platform. The speed and simplicity of video storytelling in Snapchat is unrivaled in social media right now.

Do you know how people are using Snapchat on their travels?

Snapchat is definitely becoming a go-to outlet for slice-of-life, unrefined moments from travel and vacation. This is especially true for video, which is the easiest to share without the social pressure of validation/likes to go along with it. It’s much more casual. Bear in mind that cell reception/WiFi access is a necessary part of Snapchat – taking videos and photos and trying to upload later isn’t doable with Stories, so this can be restricting.  With that in mind, and the fact that there’s no record of the moment once it’s disappeared, it’s safe to say Snapchat isn’t replacing other social media outlets anytime soon; it is, however, becoming a more top of mind battle in the moment itself. A user must choose to use the Snapchat camera or the regular phone camera. It can be a big decision to make. Instagram remains in the moment, too, but is more of an outlet for perfect picturesque moments. Facebook has taken a backseat to Instagram in this regard, but still gets plenty of mileage on photo album “recaps” once the vacation is over. In essence, Snapchat is a window into a fleeting moment of a vacation, whereas other platforms showcase the highlights.

Why should the tourism industry be using Snapchat?

One particularly attractive and unique quality about Snapchat is that its content is “unfakeable.” Photoshop and special effects are cut out of the equation, and what’s left is a real moment that (in theory) anyone can experience. This novelty is very much a contributing reason for its current popularity, as users can live vicariously through one another. Tourism in particular has access into some of the most amazing, unique and oft-unseen corners of the world, and to be able to showcase that on Snapchat plays perfectly to the platform’s strengths: sharing exclusive content not typically seen elsewhere. It’s a very appealing hook. Additionally, more than half of Snapchat’s users are international, so featuring destinations all over the world is a natural fit. It feels like just a matter of time before more brands begin to flock in.

How would you advise the tourism industry to use Snapchat?

Again, it depends on the greater business goals and the brand strategy – there’s no blanket answer. That said, there are a number of possible tactics that can be used – the key is to, again, play to the platforms strengths and don’t fake it. If executed properly, sending a small team (2, even just 1 person with an iPhone) to different destinations could be surprisingly cost effective and drive a lot of buzz, as well. Unsolicited note: I like to travel, and can make myself available for such ventures.

Are there limits to the amount of content that can be shown to avoid overloading users?

It depends on how strong your content is, but for now the 30-60 second range is the sweet spot for video – anything less might be too vague, and anything more can be a turn-off. That said, the Electric Daisy Carnival stories on Snapchat exceeded 200 seconds in length and were a major success – it really depends on the audience and what they’re looking for.

Do you think Snapchat has competitors in the new iMessage features and Whatsapp?

Private messaging will always have a special place in content sharing, where users can be themselves a bit more than their “public-facing” social media self. That said, public social media sharing – at least for the time being – is here to stay, and allows users to share and show off to their larger network with greater ease than iMessage or Whatsapp. It’s become a natural behavior.

What is the future of Snapchat and travel?  Do you think the new geofilters product and the hints of Snapchat Discovery will have an impact on the tourism industry’s marketing?

It will be interesting to observe any changes in the novelty of disappearing content; it appears here to stay for now. Similarly, it will be equally important to track mobile video sharing technology on old and new platforms alike. For the time being, Snapchat and its ephemeral content service have carved out a stronghold in both categories.

Geo-filters are already being seen in more locations, including event-specific locations like ESPN’s College Gameday, where a filter is available just for that Saturday’s game. Their reach is likely to expand farther and farther.

It’s difficult to speculate on just how much of a game-changer Discovery will be, but it’s very likely to disrupt how the current user journey – for now, it’s something for all brands to keep a close eye on.

How should Snapchat fit in with the company’s overall social media strategy, especially in travel where everyone has the options to be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram?

As previously stated, all social media channels must be carefully evaluated based on business goals and KPIs, overarching brand strategy and available resources. Snapchat still has limited analytics to prove success, but if Snapchat’s strengths complement the goals of a brand or company, it should be prioritized accordingly.

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