What Does the Lock Mean on Snapchat and How Can Small Businesses Utilize It?

As a small business consultant who assists entrepreneurs in maximizing their digital presence, I often get asked: what does the lock symbol mean on Snapchat, and should my business care?

With over 90 million daily active users in 2023, Snapchat presents a major opportunity for small businesses looking to engage with younger demographics. And within Snapchat, private stories represent a powerful, targeted marketing tool powered by that mysterious lock icon.

An Overview of Private Stories

First, let‘s break down exactly what private stories are on Snapchat:

  • Private stories allow users to share photos and videos with a curated group of friends
  • Only approved friends can view private stories, as indicated by the lock
  • Users have full control over who can view their private story

For businesses, this means private stories enable messaging to specific consumer profiles rather than an entire friends list.

Some benefits this provides businesses:

  • Targeted and personalized advertising suited to a story‘s viewers
  • Market research by analyzing engagement and traffic on each story
  • Improved relationship building through exclusive content

Of course, as with any digital channel, there are also risks to weigh, the main one being that viewers can still screenshot private content without consent. We‘ll come back to that issue later.

First, let‘s look at some real-world statistics on Snapchat usage that showcase the marketing potential unlocked by private stories.

Snapchat By the Numbers in 2023

  • 90 million daily active Snapchat users
  • 76% of users are between 13 and 34 years old
  • Users spend an average of 30+ minutes per day on Snapchat
  • 60% of users learn about new products on Snapchat

These statistics demonstrate Snapchat‘s immense reach among Millennial and Gen Z demographics. For businesses targeting younger buyers, Snapchat simply can‘t be ignored in 2023.

And within Snapchat, private stories enable more personalized, measurable connections with potential leads and customers.

For example, the fast-food chain Chili‘s ran a summer-themed private story that saw a 10.5% increase in foot traffic from viewers. The clothing retailer PacSun tailored different private stories to campus ambassadors which drove a 2.6x higher comment rate compared to their public stories.

Private Story Strategies for Small Businesses

As a small business consultant, clients often ask me: how can I leverage private stories based on factors like business size, sector, and target demographics?

Here are some of my top private story strategies for small businesses on Snapchat:

Local Shops: Geofilters by location, partner with microinfluencers related to your shop‘s niche

B2B Companies: Share industry news, behind-the-scenes with company culture to attract young talent

Restaurants: Promote secret menu items, deals, encourage foodie shares

Beauty Businesses: Early access for new product launches, makeup tutorials

Pet Companies: Pet of the week contests, deals in exchange for cute pet content

As you can see, there are so many creative ways for small businesses to leverage private Snapchat stories.

Compared to public social media, they enable more control, targeting, and engagement analytics for your brand campaigns and ads. The key is crafting stories tailored to your business‘ goals and audience.

Mitigating Risks of Private Stories

Of course, as mentioned earlier, private stories come with risks, the biggest being screenshotting without consent. Some ways businesses can mitigate private story risks:

  • Don‘t share anything overly sensitive in case it gets leaked
  • Enable screenshot notifications so you‘re aware if it occurs
  • Moderate your audience with care when first selecting private story friends
  • Explain etiquette clearly to your story viewers about consent

While being proactive is vital, at the end of the day, some sharing without consent may happen regardless. Businesses must take caution with private stories, but the marketing potential outweighs the risks when they‘re leveraged strategically.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, that lock icon on Snapchat may seem confusing. But by creating private stories, brands open the door to targeted advertising opportunities based on niche consumer interests, locations, demographics and more.

As with any digital platform, there are certainly risks to weigh. But the data shows Snapchat private stories enable small businesses to drive real results like increased foot traffic and engagement.

Hopefully this breakdown provided some clarity not just on what private stories are, but on how to leverage them for marketing success as a small business owner. Don‘t leave this powerful Snapchat feature locked away!

What questions do you still have on utilizing private stories for your small business? Let me know in the comments!