November 9, 2018 Heather James

Snapchat’s Fantastic Filters and How to Use Them

It may seem counter-intuitive to think that Snapchat, notable for its vanishing messages and stories, could have a lasting impact on an audience. Yet brand after brand have showcased their products on the app, vying for the attention of the social network’s 188 million users.

While the pictures themselves may not last long, the impression that a brand can have through the clever use of Snapchat’s custom geo-filters and lenses may last far longer—if used correctly.

Wait, What are Geo-Filters and Lenses?

App jargon can get a little complicated sometimes. Luckily, the two are more similar than different. If you picture Snapchat as just a regular camera, then a geo-filter operates like a themed picture frame to put around the image you send, while a lens is some kind of distortion you apply while taking the picture. In essence, it’s the difference between a holiday picture with a border of falling snowflakes, and a holiday picture where the subject’s face has transformed into a snowman’s.

Geo-filters often tend to be tied to location (you won’t be seeing Disney World’s filters when you’re in Disneyland), while lenses are available to every user, everywhere. Lenses are usually only promoted for a day or two. While geo-filters can also be temporary, many of them are permanent.

What’s the Best Use for Each One?

Geo-filters are great for promoting brand awareness. Since they’re tied to locations, chain businesses might have a filter for each of their stores, alerting any nearby Snapchat user looking for a cute frame that there’s a Starbucks or McDonalds in their area.

They’re also useful for reaching an audience that otherwise might not be tuned into advertising. One semester at my university, a student paid for a campus-wide Snapchat filter promoting his campaign for class president. Even the students who didn’t pay attention to student council politics were roped into the campaign. He won in a landslide, since, after all that, every single student knew his name.

Lenses, by contrast, are at their best when they’re fun and leave a strong impression on users. The more users genuinely like a lens, the more they’ll use it to take selfies to share with their friends. Take Taco Bell’s 2016 Cinco de Mayo promotion, for example, where they created a lens that transformed users into a taco shell with eyes and a mouth. The visual impact was so strong that over 224 million people viewed the ad in the single day it ran, making it the most successful promotion in Snapchat’s history.

So, Which Should I Use?

If you’re looking for a low-key way to get your brand’s name out there, then you can’t go wrong by using a custom geo-filter. Creating and submitting geo-filters is low-effort, and the filters can stick around for a long time.

If you want to have a short, intense promotion, perhaps for a specific event or holiday, then lenses will offer you a way to leave a memorable impact. To really stick the landing, your brand should have a unique voice and image that you aren’t afraid to get a bit silly with. To really engage with an audience for a limited time, then a lens will get users sharing and talking about your company.

Whether you want to turn your customers into tacos or to just let them know that you’re around, Snapchat filters and lenses can be put to great use. There’s no reason to hesitate—start Snapping!

Want to learn more about how to use Snapchat and other trending apps and social platforms? Contact the PR pros at TVG today to get started! Call (314)991-4641 or email us at

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