Snapchat for Patient Recruitment?

Nils Schäfer, Online Marketing Manager

Snapchat. The One to Watch

Savvy marketers monitor social platform usage to identify new targeting opportunities for specific population segments. Social media requires continual monitoring to take advantage of rapidly-evolving adoption rates and preferences. Following the theme of rapid evolution, this post is focused on the potential of Snapchat for patient recruitment. As recently as 2014, Snapchat was largely unheard of, but lately, industry thought leaders claim it has the potential to outpace Twitter.

Snapchat operates in a similar way as Instagram, as a photo and video-messaging app. Users post and send “snaps,” (photos and videos with captions) to other snapchat users (snapchatters). The snap disappears after 10 seconds. In shorthand, snapchat is known as the ephemeral messaging app.

While many sources claim that Snapchat is the fastest growing social platform, it has approximately half the user base of Instagram (estimated between 100 and 200 million active monthly users). Statistics also suggest it has a highly engaged user base, with an estimated 400 million snaps per day. Available demographic profiles suggest the user base is the youngest (13-34) — even younger than Instagram.

Ad snaps – quick videos and photos—appear in users’ Recent Updates feed. Ad placements are also available in the Our Stories live feed, which compiles users’ videos and photos of major events. However, like the user-generated snaps, ads also disappear after a short span. Important for advertisers, Snapchat ads fill the screen. The new ad formats – including the sponsored lens and 3V (Vertical, Video, Views) are popular and engaging.

It is important to note that expert opinion of Snapchat’s foray into advertising is mixed. It is reportedly pricey, and the platform lacks the advanced analytical capabilities of the other big 5 (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+), and it offers limited ad targeting. It currently does not support the ability to include links to external landing pages or microsites. Even more important, ads involving “pharmaceuticals” must be approved on a case-by case basis.

Earlier this year, Snapchat announced development plans for an application programming interface (API) allowing for advertisers to buy with more precision and automated frequency. It also allows for more types of ads, including those with calls to action, for installing apps, buying apps or form fill-outs. However, API launch can take up to year, considering development timelines of the other big 5.

On the surface, Snapchat doesn’t offer much of a compelling reason to advertise with them today for patient recruitment, but social channel advertising is fast-moving and ever-changing. Considering the ability to target narrower population segments is absolutely critical for recruitment success, and the near-daily evolvement of social advertising, Snapchat is worth watching. Importantly, it is already used as a source of indication-specific patient communities.

In the future, when younger demographics are heavily represented in your target patient population, Snapchat is likely to be part of your digital mix. It also has strong potential for Phase I and other studies involving healthy populations.

But for now we’re taking a wait and see approach while their ad platform evolves, and more analytics become available.