Snapchat: The Good, the Bad and the Crude

23/12/2013 12:27 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 10:59 GMT

'Tis the season for both reflection and prediction and at Space we've been talking about one of the most unlikely social media platforms to take centre stage this year - Snapchat. If you're unfamiliar, it's a simple photo and video sharing app that allows its 8 million plus users to send 'snaps' that have a lifespan of up to 10 seconds before self-deleting, Mission Impossible-style. In an age obsessed with recording every detail and heavy editing of one's lives, the transience of Snapchat offers a little room to breathe.

Psychologically Snapchat reflects the mindset of today's consumer: media is disposable and short attention spans are rife. Through our own research we've also discovered that 18-24 year olds are worried about how others perceive them. Whereas Facebook keeps a 'legacy' of their lives and antics, Snapchat is fleeting.

Despite a few controversies - a poll carried out by VoucherCodesPro in July revealed that 47% of 18-30 year old users have received nude pictures and 67% said they had received images of "inappropriate poses or gestures" - such an interactive and engaging platform presents an attractive medium to marketers and is one we're likely to see come to the fore in 2014.

Advertising on social media platforms continued to evolve massively in the second half of 2013. In October photo sharing app Instagram opened its doors to paid-for posts, carefully selecting participating brands that already have a strong presence on the platform, such as fashion label Michael Kors. There's been a good-enough response from users - mostly encouraging - and ultimately achieving the goal of creating conversations.

Most of today's popular platforms challenge advertisers to get a short message across creatively. Be it through Vine, YouTube spots and now Snapchat, each platform gives a narrow window of time through which to grab our attention and make an impact. Snapchat complements the immediacy in consumer behaviour and lends itself to creative ideas, using a unique 'act now or miss out' mechanic. At this moment in time, no other advertising platform literally disappears before the user's eyes.

There's a plethora of opportunities for brands to engage using Snapchat. Research carried out by crowd-sourcing social platform Tongal found that brands use Snapchat most for creating user-generated content, coupons, exclusive content and that 18 percent of people would highly recommend using the platform for product sneak previews. In September Co-operative Electrical invited A-Level and university students to get money off any laptop through its store with its appropriately titled 'Snaptop' campaign. After adding the brand's contact details in the app, the user would receive a picture message with a promotional code that lasted only 8 seconds before it 'self-destructed'. The campaign was a retail first and applauded across the marketing industry for its innovative approach to targeting young people.

Currently, the cost of advertising on Snapchat is incredibly low, making it an invaluable tool for brands with small marketing budgets. Though how long this will last is hard to say. Last month Facebook reportedly attempted to acquire the platform for a mouth-watering $3bn, giving a good indication that Snapchat has massive, untapped potential.