Snapchat is the newest social tool that lets you share photos and video, or “snaps,” with the bonus of adding drawings or captions to whatever you record. Here’s the catch: Snaps disappear after a few seconds, and the sender gets to choose how many seconds messages will be visible before they self-destruct. The concept basically blends photo and video texting with the age-old tradition of sending notes with disappearing ink.

What’s the appeal? Less pressure to be perfect than on other platforms such as Facebook, where content is more permanent. It’s a simple way to share simple things, and in a world where every social media lover has to become their own personal public relations guru, Snapchat offers a stress-free way to say -- whatever. Here are five reasons your business should utilize the app:

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1. People use it, and they’re going to keep using it. Snapchat first caught on among high schoolers, but now college students have checked in to the craze. The app, designed by Stanford students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy as part of a class project, launched in Apple’s app store in September 2011. By October 2012, the company tallied its billionth snap. The company is estimated to have more than 30 million users as of December 2013, although they’re coy about sharing the actual number.

Scoffers might wrinkle their noses and shrug Snapchat off as another passing phase. But skeptics were momentarily silenced in November 2013 when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg offered the infant startup $3 billion in cash and was promptly turned down. Whether you’re keyed in to Snapchat or not, Facebook knows Snapchat’s hot, but Snapchat knows it’s even hotter.

2. Prove you’re a “cool” company. If you hadn’t heard of Snapchat before Facebook’s stunning $3 billion offer (or before you started reading this article), you’re not alone. That’s part of what adds to the inherent allure of the app. The number of users is growing exponentially, but it’s still new enough to make those who use it “in the know.”

The Snapchat frontier is still wide open for adaptive marketers who are ready to start exploring. Those who hit the ground running will have the biggest impact, plus the chance to define the ways marketers will use an emerging genre. Can anyone say, “Innovator Award”?

3. You’ve already built the audience on other social platforms. Snapchat is part social hybrid and part revolutionary, but adding it as a marketing platform doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel. After all, what about all those Facebook fans and Twitter followers you worked so hard to collect? Does Snapchat mean those metrics have an expiration date? Not at all. Existing social platforms can remain healthy even as they drive fans and followers to explore a new sharing tool with you.

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Incentivize your audience to join you on Snapchat and you’ll not only gain an instant audience on an emerging platform, you’ll find a whole new way to interest them. Offer mobile coupons, the chance to take a sneak peek behind the scenes, and the promise to deliver hot brand news to Snapchatters before anyone else, and fans will follow.

4. Embrace a new wavelength of messaging. Remember when YouTube grew in popularity and politicians began to realize the simpler, less professionally-staged videos were ranking better with audiences than pristinely polished ones? Savvy marketers are realizing the same is true of Snapchat. The app is supposed to be less-than-perfect, and that’s why people love it. The bonus for businesses is that you have the chance to kick your shoes off at the edge of the dance floor and have a little fun.

5. This is the new world of advertising. Traditional radio commercials were zapped by satellite radio. Television ads were nuked when digital video recorders careened on scene. And now, even digital recorders are being outrun by instant streaming. Mute buttons, spam filters, pop-up blockers -- all are ways audiences keep slipping through marketer’s fingers.

What if people actually wanted to engage with your brand? What if, instead of ducking behind junk settings and filters, people actually pushed a button of their own free will to watch your brand in action? Snapchat introduces a groundbreaking forum, one where people are interested in what you have to say and offer.

It may still be new, but it represents the new age of advertising.

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