How to design a Snapchat filter that works for your business

Brea Weinreb

Snapchat Geofilters—otherwise known as those decorative location-based overlays that appear when you swipe right after taking a photo—are a great way to promote an event or new product, or just spread general brand awareness. Snapchat offers brands the capability to purchase their own on-demand Geofilters for an extremely low cost. Being that the on-demand Geofilter tool for brands is still relatively new, it’s a great chance for companies to tap into a new realm of viral marketing.

How to design a Snapchat filter that works for your business

Lets take a step back: what is Snapchat? For the self-proclaimed “old folks” or those who live under a rock, Snapchat lets users send one-off photos and videos to friends which self-destruct after opening. But the app has grown far past the days of teens sending inappropriate photos to one another and is now lauded as a major media platform, with media companies like CNN, Food Network and Buzzfeed retaining a permanent presence on the app’s Discover feature. Well-known brands such as Taco Bell, Free People, HubSpot (and even yours truly!) have also caught onto the trend, adopting Snapchat as yet another channel to reach their target audience.

If you’ve avoided taking your brand on Snapchat due to the younger demographics, now might be the time to reconsider. The app is quickly growing popular amongst the older crowd, with 50% of all daily new users over the age of 25. If you’re not ready to curate your own Snap Stories just yet, you can dip your toes in the water by designing a filter and sharing it with Snapchat’s Geofilter tool.

Geofilter How-To
Swipe right on the Snapchat app to access the Geofilters in your neighborhood.

At 99designs, we created not one but two Geofilters to celebrate 9/9 day this year and the results were great! But there wasn’t a lot of great documentation out there on how to design Snapchat Geofilters right, nor how to effectively use them to market your business. So we decided to fix that and wrote this article. Tada! Let’s get Snapping:

Designing a Snapchat Geofilter in 5 easy steps

By now, most people know what Geofilters are and how they work. If you don’t, check out this handy how-to from Snapchat. Now for the fun stuff!

Snapchat filter design in 5 steps

Step 1: Choose your concept

To start, circle back to why you are making this filter in the first place. Having a clear goal will make it easier to decide how your filter should look and what information it should contain. For example, if you’re making a filter to promote an event you are hosting, you’ll probably want to include the name of the event somewhere on the filter so attendees can let their friends know where they are. Meanwhile, if you’re using the filter to showcase a new product, incorporating the product in a fun way could help convert potential customers. Or, if you are a new business looking to spread brand awareness, including your logo or trademark will extend the visibility of your brand to not only people who use your filter but also to their friends on Snapchat.

After you’ve decided on why you are creating this filter and what the design needs to get across, you should think about your brand and how you can translate it to Snapchat. It’s important that your design fits in with your brand guidelines as well as with the general Snapchat design aesthetic (think playful, unfiltered and quirky). Keep in mind the artwork is going to be made public to millions depending on which location you choose, so it also needs to be universally understandable and appropriate. (That means you might want to reconsider using branded icons that only your existing customers recognize.)

Thinking about your brand spirit and imagery that represents your brand will help you decide on a concept that works. For 9/9 day we felt recreating famous artworks with a playful, graphic spin on them would be the best way to celebrate design and our brand spirit.

We also love how Skittles used their own product to create a rainbow over users’ faces. This took their their “Taste the rainbow” tagline to the next level and subsequently promoted their product in a fun and unique way.

Similarly, Bank of America’s llama filter brought attention to their #LLOVEYOURAPP hashtag by imposing a llama over user’s faces. The filter, which was a fun and unexpected surprise from a banking company, definitely led to a few Google searches along the lines of, “What’s with Bank of America and llamas?

Step 2: Lay it out

snapchat-fail
Oops, that didn’t work out as planned!

Another thing you have to consider is how your design is going to interact with the user’s photo behind it. There are two general types of Geofilter layouts: (1) those that incorporate the user’s face into the design, and (2) those that don’t. There are several things you have to consider for each.

If you are going to incorporate the user’s face, keep in mind that Geofilters don’t have the facial-recognition capabilities of Snapchat lenses, so not all photos will match up perfectly. Test out your design with several selfies to determine the optimal spacing of elements on the screen.

If you aren’t going to incorporate the user’s face, there are several ways you can approach your filter design:

  • Create a frame around the screen
    This is a more decorative approach that keeps the focus on the user’s photo. It’s not as flashy as other approaches, but when done right it can add an element of surprise to otherwise simple photos.
  • Play with text
    A text-heavy approach is best for brands looking to promote specific words, phrases or names of events. If you choose to go this route, consider incorporating subtle design elements into your typography to keep it interesting, like how Disneyland included Mickey Mouse’s ears to give it extra cute factor.

Regardless of how your design is laid out, Snapchat recommends taking up only 25% of the screen with design. The rest should be left transparent so the user has space to let their selfie shine.

Designers also need to keep in mind the specs for iPhone displays. Consult Snapchat’s Submission Guidelines before formatting your Photoshop or Illustrator document.

Step 3: Bring in your brand

99designs Geofilter
You can see subtly incorporated our lettermark logo so that it didn’t overpower the design.

Even though this is a “branded” Geofilter, there’s little indication of affiliation within the app. Snapchat briefly flashes the sponsoring brand’s name across the screen when the Geofilter is previewed, but this doesn’t get sent to people who receive the Snap, nor is it visible when users upload their filtered photos on other social networks. This means if you chose not to include any logos, text or branded trademarks in your filter, majority of people who see it won’t know it’s yours.

Luckily, there are ways to incorporate your brand without coming off as too sales-y. Examine your design and see where you can subtly incorporate your logo or trademark. If you look closely at our American Gothic-inspired filter, you can see we incorporated our lettermark logo as one of the buttons on the man’s jacket.

If you want to be more overt about your brand’s presence take a look at Gary Vaynerchuck’s filters, which include his trademarked names (such as GaryVee or Vaynerworld) in bold letters. This lets users know how to find him on other social networks by telling them what names he goes by. Snapchat doesn’t allow contact information like URLs, phone numbers or emails, though, so you’ll have to leave out the @ sign on any social media handles.

Gary Vaynerchuck Geofilters
via Gary Vaynerchuck

However you choose to incorporate your logo or company name (if you include it at all, that is), it should fit naturally with the design so that it doesn’t look spammy. No one, especially not people unfamiliar with your brand, are going to want to advertise your logo across their forehead unless it makes them look cool too.

Step 4: Test and export

You’re almost there! To ensure perfection before sending your filter off into the wild, consider adding a white stroke around any letters or dark items to make them pop. You should also test the saturation of your design by imposing it over both light and dark images to make sure it will appear clear over any photo.

Some final things to ask yourself before releasing your filter into the wild: Would I be happy to use this filter? Is this something I would find cool?

Remember, even though the Snapchat audience is growing older, you are still marketing to a large pool of millennials who will only use your filter if it catches their eye.

Save your design as a .PNG with a transparent background. Files should be 1080px wide by 1920px high and under 300KB in size. Snapchat rejects submissions that don’t meet their guidelines, so you’ll want to submit a few days in advance in case there are any issues.

Geofilter submission process

Step 5: Voila! Upload to Snapchat

You’re designed, tested and ready to go. Once you go to Snapchat’s website to upload your design you will prompted to choose a time and location for your geofilter to run for. You should be tactical about the square footage you choose as this will dictate who sees your filter. If you’re a location-based business, choosing square footage will be easy. Consider the blocks immediately surrounding your business for higher chances of increased foot traffic. Meanwhile, if you’re a B2B tech company it’s probably not beneficial to buy the area around a high school. Instead, you might look at areas densely populated with offices and coworking spaces. Geofilters cost $5 for every 20,000 square feet (which is pretty cheap, FYI) so you can even buy several separate locations to extend your reach.

Making it work for your business

Designing a Snapchat filter is only part of the challenge. You also have to put your marketing brain to work to get people using your filter and sharing it across other social networks!

1. Figure out your CTA

Before you plan your marketing strategy, you need to figure out what exactly it is that you want users to do. Do you want them to follow you on Snapchat, upload their photo on other networks or buy your new product? Like we said, contact information is prohibited, so if your goal is to collect emails, Snapchat probably isn’t the best channel for you. However, if you want to spread brand awareness and get people talking about you across other networks, geofilters can help!

2. Get the word out

So how do you go about getting users to do what you want? Your marketing strategy should align with your CTA and help you achieve goals you set out for your project. And, since Geofilters are location-based, you have an exciting opportunity to take your marketing offline. There are two ways of approaching your Snapchat marketing strategy:

Go old school with local marketing

Guerrilla marketing flyers
Our guerrilla marketing flyers in action!

For 9/9 Day, our main goal was to get people engage with us on Snapchat and send us their photos. In order to do this we needed to let people know our Snapchat handle, so we took it to the streets with a guerrilla marketing strategy. We plastered flyers all over Oakland and Melbourne (our two geo-locations) that told users what our Snapchat handle was and offered an incentive of a gift box to the best Snaps received. It worked! If you don’t feel like leaving your desk, though, consider tweeting at places in the area telling them to use your filter.

Go new school with hashtags

Since our filters were only in effect in the areas around our Oakland and Melbourne offices, we also wanted people to share their photos on other social networks to allow us to reach an even wider audience. We created a hashtag that users could use when sharing these photos so that we could keep track of all photos shared. We included this hashtag on our flyers as well as on our other social media channels, like Twitter and Facebook, to generate conversation around the filters and get more eyes on our Snapchat story. If your goal is visibility and virality, creating a hashtag will be helpful.

3. Measure success

Measuring performance of your filter can be difficult because Snapchat doesn’t offer much in terms of analytics, but there are still ways of measuring success and ROI. Snapchat lets you know how many times your filter was viewed and how many times it was used. You can then divide total cost by number of uses to determine cost per view.

Metrics from Snapchat
Snapchat lets you know how many times your filter was viewed versus how many times it was actually used.

If you created a hashtag for sharing on other channels, you can also count how many external shares you received. If you posted the Geofilter on your own Snapchat story you can also count how many watches and screenshots it got to measure number of impressions.

Time to get Snapping!

Planning in advance will help you succeed both in terms of design and marketing objectives. Determine what you want your filter to look like and what you want it to achieve for your brand, then get out there and get Snapping!

Ready to bring your brand on Snapchat but don’t have the design capabilities? Launch an illustration contest & have one of our talented designers bring your vision to life!

The author

Brea Weinreb
Brea Weinreb

Brea is the Marketing Coordinator at 99designs. When she's not working you can find her painting in her art studio, reading a good poetry book, or drinking boba tea while dancing around in suede fringe culottes and pretending she is Jimi Hendrix (actually though).

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