Snapchat. Have you heard of it?

Even if you don’t use it, you’re probably aware of its existence. Initially released in 2011, this fast-paced, photo/video sharing app has quickly grown in popularity over the last year, making it a true contender in the world of social media.

The concept is relatively simple. You take a picture or short video (called a “snap”) and send it to people who have connected with your account. The content, however, is only available for viewing for a few seconds after you open it before it disappears. You can also post snaps to your “Story”, which strings all your snaps together and allows them to be viewed by your connections for 24 hours.

And like most social media platforms that manage to last long enough, Snapchat has begun its transition from a novelty visual app to a legitimate business tool. Though its marketing potential has already been discovered by some major brands, it remains broadly untapped across the spectrum. However, it seems that’s about to change, especially with Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest declaration that 2016 is the year for Snapchat:

“…if you’re running a business in 2016, you need to be thinking about Snapchat as a channel to grow your customer base. Period….I haven’t seen this much consumer attention on one social platform since early 2007 and 2008 with Twitter.”

Now, there are already plenty of blogs and articles online about ways you can utilize Snapchat for your business (here, here, and here for example), and I’m not writing to add to the mix. Instead, I want to talk about why your business should add Snapchat to its social media marketing plan (you ARE marketing on social media, right?).

Two Words: Authentic Value

We’re going to be talking a lot about authenticity and value this year, because both are going to be huge in 2016—more so than they have in the past.

The reason? Millennials, mostly.

The millennial generation now makes up the majority of the workforce in America, as well as most of the voting age population. They are also quickly taking over the world of entrepreneurship.

Simply put, millennials are becoming a major influencing factor for brands, trends, and markets, and they like authenticity. Last year, Forbes reported that 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content. The same report found that 62% of millennials are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand interacts with them on social media.

Traditional advertising, on the other hand, doesn’t do jack squat. Millennials don’t care. They’re totally unaffected by it. And that’s what’s made social media marketing such a big deal. The product is almost irrelevant. It’s the brand you have to sell, and social media is one of the best ways to do that. And while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been (and still are) highly successful when it comes to brand awareness, none of them offer the same level of value and authenticity that Snapchat does.

Snapchat is extremely personal. Photos and videos are sent in real time with a very limited window for viewing, which means anyone who clicks on your Snap HAS to pay attention. Even further, it perfectly documents what’s happening NOW, in the moment, and there’s not much you can do in the way of editing. Everything is unfiltered. Every Snap is an authentic moment in your or your business’ life.

But there’s something else.

Chris Williams SnapchatIf you want to follow someone on Snapchat, you have to seek them out by looking up their username or Snapcode (a QR code, basically). There’s no profile to stalk, no stream or news feed to anonymously crawl. If you want to see what someone is up to, you have to follow them. Which means anyone following you actually cares about what you have to say. They’re a truly valuable audience member, and you’re truly valuable to them.

Of course, whether or not Snapchat is truly going to be beneficial to your businesses is up to you. But it’s defiantly something worth looking into. Especially since photo sharing apps, along with live streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat, are the future of social media marketing.

If you want to learn the basics, click here. Or, tell us about your success with Snapchat in the comments.