This is a sponsored feature
It may face tough competition from Instagram, but Snapchat remains a vibrant platform for social expression, while the app that kickstarted the ‘stories’ phenomenon continues to be a development ground for new video formats.
No wonder a number of labels and other music companies want to explore its potential as a marketing platform, although many have found Snapchat a tough environment to negotiate, given the ease with which its users can skip ads that they find unengaging.
(Data published by customer-acquisition firm Fluent in February 2017 suggested that 69% of American Snapchat users skip ads always or often, and that this rose to 80% for 18-24 year-olds on the platform.)
One of the firms helping them to tackle this and make best use of the platform is British startup Fanbytes, whose clients include all three major labels as well as streaming service Deezer and Apple Music.
“It’s my fundamental belief that Snapchat is a new form of TV for younger people, and every single person on the platform is actually their own individual broadcaster,” says Fanbytes’ 23 year-old CEO Timothy Armoo.
Fanbytes is Timothy’s third company, having sold his second, a media company which many money from display advertising.
“After coming off selling my last company, I realised that display advertising wasn’t really connecting with the younger generation so I had to figure out how to to actually create an advertising model which people would be interested in which added value rather than taking value,” he says. “I believe this is it and judging by the brands who have signed up to be part of the journey it appears people are catching on”
“What you have with Snapchat, and with Snapchat influencers, is a network of the new TV broadcasters, who can help you to spread your message. And that’s why we built the company: we are the TV network with more than 1,000 independent channels, and a strong grasp of how Generation Z is using Snapchat.”
There are two sides to Fanbytes’ business. The first is called Fanbytes Influencers, which uses what Armoo describes as a “sandwich ad” format where video ads from clients are bookended by clips from its network of more than 1,000 Snapchat influencers. This approach to couching branded content within influencer content has led to impressive view through rates of 90%+.
The second side is called Fanbytes Media, which is a network of owned and operated channels belonging to the company, which generate 65m monthly views collectively.
Clients pay for a certain number of views, with Fanbytes then deciding how many influencers will be required to deliver them – for example, a campaign seeking 3,000 views might require 4-6 influencers. Its emphasis is on completed views and engagement, rather than simply on impressions.
“It’s not us who decide what influencers but rather it’s our technology which does this,” explains Armoo.
“The software takes into consideration things like age, gender, and interest of the influencers audience then invites the best ones based on the ‘Fanbytes Score’, which is a measure of how engaged an influencers audience is.”
COO Ambrose Cooke developed the methodology used to calculate the Fanbytes Score as his dissertation topic at Imperial College University. His score wasn’t bad either: he got a first for the project.
As a campaign runs, Fanbytes provides an analytics dashboard showing engagement, views and clicks, to help clients manage their campaigns. Screenshots, completion-rate and clicks over time are also included in the analytics.
Fanbytes doesn’t just leave clients to draw their own conclusions from this data: it is also aggregating the learnings across all the campaigns that it runs, in order to make them as efficient as possible. “For example, having run hundreds of campaigns, we’ve figured out that Thursday between 6pm and 9pm is the best time to reach a young audience who are interested in hip-hop,” says Armoo.
Music and entertainment is one of Fanbytes’ key verticals, alongside lifestyle and comedy, and fashion and beauty. One example of a music-focused campaign came in January with Deezer.
It used the company’s Fanbytes Studio tool, which helps brands create augmented-reality content for Snapchat – in this case, a Deezer-branded boombox which was released as a Snapchat lens, and promoted through Fanbytes’ network of influencers.
Armoo explains that the tool is actually a crowdsourced network of young (aged 15-21) designers and editors, who create content for brands based on their native understanding of Snapchat’s culture.
“In Deezer’s case we put it out to the network and one of the people came up with the boombox, which was then distributed through us,” he says.
“We got more than one million views over 24 hours, and a lot of people took that AR lens and started playing around with it, using their own creativity. Deezer’s position was to help them be the best broadcasters they could be. And this is the idea: it’s creativity that wins, not something super-polished.”
This is an important part of Fanbytes’ offering: the raw creativity of its network of designers and videographers. It’s something the company has measured, too.
“If we take a polished version of content created by a brand and A/B test it against raw, amateur content, we find that [rawer content] outperforms the polished content by 4:1. It’s just outrageous!” says Armoo.
Another campaign that Fanbytes ran for Deezer focused on driving people to a playlist on the streaming service. The company compared its effectiveness to this kind of campaign running on Snapchat’s official ads.
“We count completion rates as the average percentage of the video watched. On average our branded content was watched 94% on our content, then 45% on Snapchat Ads. So we do over double the completion rate,” says Armoo.
“We often have people coming to us who are promoting an artist, and have been putting ads on Snapchat and finding that people are just skipping them,” he adds. “What we are doing is organic engagement.”
That’s a key part of Fanbytes’ offering for music marketers: that it’s solving the significant problem of “ad skippability” on Snapchat, a platform whose demographic will skip unengaging ads in a heartbeat – but who will also watch and respond positively to branded content that’s creative, raw and relevant.
Another campaign that Fanbytes worked on was for Warner Bros, creating a Snapchat lens for their artist Saweetie around her song ‘iCY’. The lens, when activated, rained money on the fan as they posed. It generated 852.7k views, 135.8k shares and 39.2k shares, but importantly for the label, also boosted the song on other platforms.
“This was not only a natural way to engage the audience but it also led to real results, we saw an increase in streams as the lens was being distributed,” says Elissa Ayadai, VP of fan engagement at Warner Bros.
Armoo is enthusiastic about Snapchat’s development as a platform, including its recent redesign, which has been much picked over in the technology press.
He says that one under-reported effect of the redesign has been to make it easier for companies like Fanbytes – and their clients – to grow audiences on Snapchat in a carefully-planned way, much as they would on Facebook and Instagram.
“If I were running a new Facebook page, I could guarantee that I’d get it to 100,000 followers in two weeks, because there are certain strategies and hacks you can use in order to drive real growth in your audience, but in the past, that didn’t used to be the case with Snapchat,” says Armoo.
“Everything was shown to people in chronological order [in their feeds] so there wasn’t an algorithm for you to be able to understand, and post your content to take advantage. Now with the update, it has become easier for people like us who understand it, to use those strategies.”