38586 To Snap or Not to Snap? How Snapchat Can (and can't) Help You Reach Young People

Carli Smith, MA, Rescue | The Behavior Change Agency, Washington, DC and Chris Norris, MA, Rescue | The Behavior Change Agency, San Diego, CA


The social media site Snapchat can provide an effective means to communicate with youth subcultures. This study looks at how to identify a target audience’s social media preferences and use patterns, how to know if employing Snapchat makes sense given a targeted subculture, and ways to use the site at events to engage with an audience.

Program background:

Teens who identify with the “Country” subculture are a subpopulation with particularly high rates of smokeless tobacco use. This subculture has proven resistant to traditional anti-smoking campaigns. Down and Dirty is a lifestyle branded anti-smoking campaign that targets youth ages 13-20 interested in trucks, mudding, and other Country activities established in previous formative research. The campaign’s goal is to make living tobacco-free more appealing by aligning this subculture’s values with tobacco-free lifestyles.

Evaluation Methods and Results:

Down and Dirty created digital profiles for members of its target audience, or subculture, in order to understand their social media habits. This formative research indicated that Snapchat was a popular social media platform.  The campaign used Snapchat to promote branded events, as well as Down and Dirty’s other social media accounts.

The Down and Dirty campaign sponsored and attended events that aligned with the interests of its audience’s subculture. Campaign staff used Snapchat at such events to communicate the brand’s authenticity and create messaging that was culturally appropriate and reflected its audience’s social media usage patterns.

Snapchat’s functionality, including the recent addition of geo-filters, allowed campaign staff to interact with members of the audience attending an event, creating content that could reach other audience members not present at that particular event. This content included video, or “snaps,” of a brand manager and street team arriving at an event, the event’s main attractions, the core tobacco prevention messaging, audience members interacting with the brand, and the campaign team wrapping up the event. Down and Dirty’s Snapchat is increasing its follower count everyday thanks to these activities. As of April 2017, the campaign has employed Snapchat at 8 live events and plans to continue to use it for all future events. Across 4 2016 events, Down and Dirty spent $1,835.02 on Snapchat geofilters, which resulted in 404 geofilter uses and 18,595 geofilter views.


Digital metrics, anecdotal evidence and campaign staff’s responses indicate that the use of Snapchat amplifies the brand’s messaging and gives it a more authentic and personable feel. Down and Dirty’s brand manager, and its street team, are themselves members of the target audience’s subculture.  These staff’s execution and presence in “snaps” are perceived to give the brand additional credibility with the target audience.

Implications for research and/or practice:  Brands and campaigns could utilize Snapchat to communicate with target audiences given those audiences are active on the social media site.  Snapchat can be an effective channel to communicate with a target audience, particularly at events, if that specific subculture is present and staff have been appropriately trained in its use.