How (and why) to create a Snapchat geofilter for your next event

I know what some of you are thinking: "Snapchat is for kids. It's not for businesses. And it's certainly not for our business." It's funny. That's what a lot of marketing types were saying about Facebook back in 2010. Six years later, virtually every company has a presence on Facebook and the platform generated $17 billion in ad revenue last year.

There's a huge and relatively new marketing opportunity on Snapchat right now. They're called 'On-Demand Geofilters'. These filters are essentially location-based ads for brands, businesses, events and individuals. They're cool, the engagement levels with users are high and (for now, at least) they are a very, very cost-effective way of promoting your brand. 

What's a geofilter?

A geofilter is an image that you can overlay on top of a Snapchat photo or video to, for lack of a better phrase, jazz it up. Geofilters are location-based. Once you snap the pic or video, if you swipe sideways on the screen, you can flip through the filters that are available based on your geographic location. Below are examples of three geofilters I've used recently. In the first image on the left, I took the picture of Parliament Hill in Ottawa and added the text 'best country'. The red, stylized word 'Ottawa' is one of the geofilters available in that location. On the second one, the geofilter is the illustration of Middlesex College at Western University. In the third, it's the word 'Toronto', with the words 'Entertainment District' underneath. There are thousands of these types of location-based filters available around the world. All you have to do is swipe within Snapchat to find them. 

What's an on-demand custom geofilter?

So...location-based filters like the ones above aren't new. What is relatively new, however, is the ability for businesses or individuals to create and upload their own filters and then assign those custom geofilters to a specific geographic location for a predetermined amount of time. What you end up with, if it's done well, is basically an ad that people want to engage with, lay over their photos or videos and share with their communities. It's advertising that people are actually paying attention to. And it's a way to increase awareness for your company, brand, event, etc.

Snapchat made on-demand geofilters available this past February. The fact that so few businesses are using these filters right now (combined with the fact that these types of filters have such high awareness and engagement rates with users) means there are some valuable opportunities for organizations to obtain first mover advantage in this space and cultivate some meaningful engagement with their target audiences.


We'll get to the 'how' in a second. First, I want to tackle the 'why'. Snapchat remains one of the fastest-growing social media platforms and it's skewing older every month. Snapchat currently has more than 10 billion video views per day, exceeding the number of daily video views on Facebook. In short, Snapchat is increasingly where peoples' eyeballs and attention are. If you're a marketer, you owe it to yourself and your organization to at least investigate these filters, play around with them, get creative and see how you could use them to extend awareness of your brand. 

How to create an on-demand geofilter

1. Make your design

The first step is to create your actual filter design. Snapchat has some rules around this. The image needs to be a 1080 pixel by 1920 pixel tall, web-optimized .PNG file and the background needs to be transparent (so that you'll be able to see your pic or video underneath it). If you have someone on your team with some design skills, they will be able to create something fairly quickly in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. I've also used Canva to create filters (but note that in order to make images with a transparent background, you will need a paid Canva account). Failing that, you can hire a designer to create a filter for you. There are lots of enterprising creative folks who have started offering geofilter design services online. Snapchat also has a number of templates you can use to get you started. Another important point - your filter can't include any contact information (e.g. URLs, hashtags, social media handles, etc.). There's a full list of the submission guidelines here.

2. Upload your geofilter

After logging into Snapchat, choose your file and upload it. You will be asked to name your geofilter. Then click 'next'. 

3. Select the dates/times you want your filter to run

On this screen, you'll see a calendar similar to the ones you see when you book a flight or a hotel room. Select the date and time that you want your geofilter to start and stop. This is the duration during which people using Snapchat in the physical location you select will see your design as one of their geofilter options.

In this example, I've chosen my filter to start at 9:00 am on July 27 and to end at 5:00 pm on July 29. Please note that no matter where you're located in the world, you will need to schedule your filter using Eastern Daylight Time. 

4. Select the area for your filter

On the next screen, you type in the location or address where you want your filter to be active. There's a tool for you to draw a 'fence' around the location. The fence needs to be a minimum of 20,000 square feet. In the top left corner, you'll be able to see the size of the fence, along with the corresponding price. Bigger fence, bigger price tag. Having said that, compared with other forms of advertising, the costs for covering a given area are quite low. In this example, I've put my fence around the CN Tower in downtown Toronto. As you can see, it's just over 20,000 square feet and the price tag for having that filter active in that location for three business days is just US$28.50.

5. Enter payment

This is the last screen. Enter your credit card information, review all the details (filter design, dates/times, location fence, price) and then hit 'submit'. Please note that submitting a design doesn't guarantee it will be accepted. Snapchat will review your design and let you know by email if it was accepted or rejected (and if so, why). Common reasons for rejection are that you forgot to use a transparent background, the filter image takes up too much of the screen surface area or because it included a hashtag, contact info, etc.

Snapchat says it reviews on-demand geofilter submissions in one business day but to be safe, submit your design a few days in advance. This will give you time to make any last-minute fixes in the event it gets rejected.

Tips for when your filter goes live (and after)

While some people will certainly find your filter on their own, you can help that process along. Include signage at your event or in the delegate materials encouraging attendees to use your filter and to share their photos/videos on their other social media platforms (they can download the Snapchat pic or video featuring your geofilter and then share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. using your event hashtag). 

Once your geofilter has completed its run, you will also get access to some cool stats. Log into your Snapchat account, click on your account name, click on 'my orders' and then you will get a detailed breakdown of the numbers of views your filter got as well as the number of people who actually used it. As mentioned earlier, the cost per impression for these geofilters is a great value right now. It's a novelty, it's a fun element to add to your event but at the end of the day, it has the potential to increase engagement among your audiences and to increase awareness of your brand and your event. 

If you're in a marketing role, I really encourage you to do some testing with these filters at your next event. And given the extremely low costs, what do you have to lose? Two or three years from now, using these on-demand geofilters will be mainstream (and probably more expensive) and the first-mover advantage you have today will have disappeared.