When venturing into Snapchat, a new social media platform for HP, the team knew they had to create a content plan, while also challenging themselves to put up on-the-fly content.
Through over a year of consistently testing what worked with users and what didn’t, HP finally found a voice on the platform and a steady source of engaging content. See how they were able achieve a story retention rate of 68%.
“Our target audience is young: Gen Z and millennials, and these groups are very tech-savvy and know what they want from brands ... our goal was to really connect with these people — [and] connect authentically,” said Stef Brower, Global Social Media, HP.
With HP’s customers mainly falling into the categories of millennials and Gen Z, the company needed to be in the same spaces they were, day in and day out, and “come across as an authentic voice in that space, but also adding value into their everyday life,” she said.
It wasn’t enough, she said, to just have a Snapchat account; they needed to find topics that HP could own and be knowledgeable on within Snapchat.
The visual nature of the social app worked for the company from a product perspective because “HP is moving beyond the standard laptop. We’re really focusing on innovation and design with every product,” she said.
As a large, well-known brand, HP didn’t want to jump into any new platform without investigating it carefully.
“We didn't want to invest a lot of time in a platform strategy that was going to be a flash in the pan and gone the next month,” Brower said.
Before investing significantly in Snapchat, she and her team investigated and followed the platform’s progress, and they joined the platform almost two years ago. They gave it time before launching to make sure that it was attracting the right audience — millennials.
The issue with Snapchat that made it unlike all of HP’s other channels — Facebook and Twitter for example — was that it was much more low-production than what her team is used to.
“I think we were used to getting an agency in and creating something very polished that goes through rounds of reviews, and that's just not how Snapchat works. That just wasn't the nature of the platform,” she said.
This was a challenge not only within her team, but in getting management expectations aligned with a less polished, even irreverent Snapchat approach.
It was important to be aligned on that approach because “we didn't want to look like we were a brand that came there and was just publishing content that was not in line with everything else you see on Snapchat,” Brower said.
The team then had to face the challenge of what exactly to post. The brand voice was entirely different from all other social media channels, and Snapchat is a very in-the-moment platform.
“We’re not at live events every single week, but we wanted to keep our content fresh,” she said. “What is a story we could tell week over week that we could really own?”
It took at least a year, Brower said, to get into a comfortable rhythm with Snapchat content.
“We didn't go out of the gate with a detailed content plan. Week over week, we would concept different stories, and then finally, after a lot of learning and experimenting, we found an angle that could deliver consistency,” she said. “We got to topics we could really own it.”
After testing out different story lines, the team was able to find their own best practices in both storyline and in using all of the features Snapchat has to offer.
“We found it was important to use the native features of the platform: doodles, filters, etc. … because it’s what felt natural on the platform,” she said.
The main goals, Brower added, were to grow a follower base on this platform, the way they had with others like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. They also wanted to use Snapchat content views as a key metric to show that HP followers were engaged.
There was still a lot of experimenting to do, but it was all about testing and learning to grow, she said. As storylines progressed, so did the way the team judged success.
“Since then we've learned many ways to look at the metrics,” she said. “Are they paying attention? Are they staying engaged? Is there a big drop-off? Are they chatting with us? Do they like what they see? Do they respond, and say, ‘that's funny?’ Are we getting one-on-one conversations?”
Step #1. Test until you find your brand voice
From the inception of this project, Brower said, the team had determined that Snapchat was not only here to stay, but it was becoming a big force in the social sphere, so they put a strategy together.
HP recognized Snapchat as an opportunity that they could use to stand out, since most of the company’s competitors either weren’t in the space or weren’t participating fully.
“We felt that we had a really good opportunity, at least in the tech space, to own it and try to be that voice,” she said.
The team knew that they wanted consistent content, whether or not they were at visually exciting events like CES or TechCrunch. So, the initial strategy out of the gate was to launch with influencers as a way to grow a following.
“We knew we wanted to integrate all these different pieces, [but] the road map wasn't totally solidified. We were testing and learning,” she said.
The team utilized three influencers that they had worked with in the past — and did so to great success.
“They did kind of a ‘Dare or Dare’ takeover of our channel. It was a Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica, and we grew our followers exponentially in 24 hours with just the power of these guys,” Brower said.
After that, the team had to go forward with regular content alone.
“This was where it got kind of tricky, because we hadn't quite mapped out a story,” she said. They weren’t quite sure what topics HP would own in the space.
The team decided to brainstorm a story every week and keep track of what content was a hit, and what was a miss.
“Then we struggled a bit, because it's hard to create original content on the fly every other week,” she said. “We were just seeing that some stories weren't always successful, and they could feel random. We weren’t seeing a consistent narrative week over week.”
The team continued to put content out and learn from it, but “I just wasn’t feeling that it was totally our best work,” she said.
Then, the team turned a corner after the suggestion of a series called “What the Tech Wednesday.”
Not only was it consistent content that the team knew would be posted every week, instead of one-offs that didn’t connect, but it was quick, educational, fun entertainment.
The series consisted of two minutes of snaps or less on a tech topic, where “we leveraged the Snapchat filters, the stickers, all these different funny, entertaining ways that's the lighthearted, comedy aspect you get on the platform,” Brower said.
Step #2. Create a plan for efficient content
“That’s when we really started to find our stride, and it became so much more efficient. We were able to produce more content because it was just these quick little snippets around a pre-defined topic,” Brower said.
The team planned out the topics in advance, and at least one snap story went out every Wednesday to add to the series.
“It became a well-oiled machine, and it was much more efficient. We were spending less time on more views. Management was super comfortable with the series,” she said.
They reviewed a test snap every Tuesday and sent out the real snap on Wednesday. The story was always filled with lighthearted “did you know”-type factoids where followers could walk away having learned something new.
“We got a lot of good user feedback throughout the stories, and our agency captured that feedback. They took actual screenshots of people who were like, ‘that was so funny,’ or ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea how Bluetooth got its name,’ and things like that,” she said.
While the team produced event content and used Snapchat in real-time, they tried to clear that Wednesday timeframe for the “What the Tech Wednesdays” episodic content.
“Arriving at this tech topic that HP could really own and had a voice in was key for us,” Brower said. “Before that we would concept around seasonal or trending topics, and it wasn't always around tech. It didn’t feel that we had found our voice.”
Previously, the team tried to shove the brand into big conversations, instead of naturally creating a conversation the brand could be a leader in. For example, during the Super Bowl, she said, they would try to fit HP into a conversation about football, “but it really didn’t have anything to do with tech.”
Eventually, she said, they knew that the brand voice in the channel was around tech, and each snap story was going to be 10 snaps or less.
“We produced more content, it was more streamlined, it was quicker, it was more efficient, and it was about a topic that HP has a reliable voice in, which is tech,” she said.
Step #3. Learn how to work with influencers
“The goal out of the gate was — let's just get followers. Let's try to get the word out,” Brower said.
Because of that initial goal, the team experimented with using influencers, not only to learn what worked to engage followers, but to build up followers. We would host account takeovers, and the influencers would drive their followers to our account, saying something like, “Follow me, I’m on HP Snapchat today.”
When using influencers, she said, they had to be naturally woven into the weekly storytelling so that the users they brought over would stick around week after week.
Some of the influencer campaigns had very little to do with tech, she said, and even though the campaigns were often very visually interesting, they weren’t on brand for HP. She gave the example of an influencer who was driving a Lamborghini around a racetrack for one campaign.
“Yeah, that was cool and all, and it meshed with our campaign at the time, but it was sometimes random and not something we could own week over week, which was a downside if we wanted to keep followers,” she said.
While cool visuals and stunts like that worked in the short term, she said, when the next week rolled around and those followers realized that HP wasn’t continuing that storyline, they were going to unfollow.
“We realized that there is a much smarter way to integrate influencers,” Brower said. “We could have an influencer host a tech topic, and weave it into something they're passionate about.”
She gave the example that, in the case of the Lamborghini racetrack storyline, the team could have had that influencer and an HP host use it as a metaphor for a storyline on processing speed. That way, the story would still be primarily on topic for HP with a core tech message, and it would fit in to follower expectations for what they were getting week after week.
“Retention was much higher. When people start a story, they're more likely to finish it, because we telling more cohesive stories. People want to wait for the payoff at the end,” Brower said.
Brower said that it’s important to have a game plan when going into a channel like Snapchat, but you can’t plan for everything. Build in time to find your voice and audience.
“I would say for a year and a half, we were experimenting and trying to find our stride,” she said. “[Snapchat] is constantly changing. So even though we dived in … the platform would release an update and something would change. We'd have to think about how to integrate this new feature into our content.
While the team eventually found their brand voice in this platform, it was still constantly changing, she said. Every time a new feature was released, they had to begin experimenting with that, and see if it fit into the overall story.
Since finding their voice with Snapchat through a tech series, HP has seen:
Brower advised that going into an unfamiliar social media territory requires “a lot of experimenting. It's a lot of management [and] having faith in the team that's pulling this off. Not being afraid to be totally unpolished, but comfortable with being in the moment and having a more authentic and realistic voice.”
Finding their voice was a result of consistent testing and learning, she added, and although it took a long time, the team never considered quitting the platform.
“We made a commitment to continually stay invested in the platform and to continue to invest in storytelling, concepting and ideaing," Brower concluded. "It didn't happen overnight, but I don't think that any brand should expect it to."
1. "What the Tech Wednesday" tweet
2. HP Snapchat story example 1
3. HP Snapchat story example 2
Softway Solutions, Inc – HP’s Snapchat vendor
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