Okay, I confess.
When Snapchat started gaining traction, I failed to see what the whole point of the app was. I tried it and I hated it.
Personally, I like to put some love into the content I create, so producing disappearing content felt like a waste of time and energy. And I’m not into sending NSFW stuff to people, so I thought that all those pesky teenagers could keep Snapchat for themselves.
I got over it, though. Snapchat is a wonderfully quirky little app.
But where most new apps are easy-to-use right out of the box, Snapchat simply does things differently. And this is why I wanted to put together this brief post aimed at all you grown ups who aren’t using Snapchat just yet!
How to Use Snapchat
One. In the main view, there’s a big transparent button. Tap it, and you’ll be taking a picture. Or as long as you’ll hold it down, you’ll take a video. You can also switch to the front camera and in this selfie mode, you can let the app track your face and add various types of virtual crazy masks.
Two. As soon as you’ve taken a picture or recorded a short video, you’re taken to the editing window. Filters aren’t as important as in Instagram, but there are a few filters to choose from if you swipe left and right. But more importantly, by just tapping the screen, you can add a message on top of your picture or video. Or you can just doodle something with your finger.
Before your edits, it was just a picture or a short video, but now after some quick-and-dirty editing — it’s a snap!
Three. Now, what to do with your snap? You have two basic choices:
You send it to one or more of your friends. In many ways, this is not much different from sending a text message to someone — it’s a chat app after all. The people you send your snap to get a notification in the lower left corner of their main camera window. Your message will be visible to your chosen friends for a few seconds, and then it disappears.
You can also add the snap to your story. Everyone who is following you will then get a notification in the lower right corner of their main camera window. Your story snap will be visible for 24 hours. If you add several snaps to your story within 24 hours, these snaps will be stacked on top of each other, allowing your followers to get glimpses of your life. You can also track who sees these story snaps.
Four. Send snaps to your friends (you become friends when you follow each other) or add snaps to your story for all your followers to see!
Grown Up Snapchat FAQ
Q: Okay, I get it. What you send to people vanishes after a while. But what’s the point? If someone sends an important message to me and it disappears after a few seconds, what if I can’t remember the details and I can’t reference the message later?
A: Snapchat is not a substitute for sending text messages or emails. It’s not even trying to be a useful resource in that way. It’s unconventional and meant to be fun and engaging. It’s not trying to be the most useful and efficient app in the world, but rather to be playful and deliberately quirky.
Q: But the whole vanishing thing: I get how it could be useful not to have some messages stored on someone’s phone, especially if you’re sending explicit messages, but that’s just stupid anyhow. I mean, everyone knows how to take a screenshot these days, right?
A: This is missing the whole point of sending content that vanishes.
Snapchat isn’t trying to be a “safe” way of sending messages to each other. Think instead of how Instagram works; a potential drawback of using Instagram is that your feed becomes a representation and a statement of you and your life. This representation can be quite stressful and, therefore, many feel obligated to post only carefully chosen pictures and video clips on Instagram. It kills much of the spontaneous fun of just capturing and sending something.
When it comes to Snapchat, you can just snap away and not be too concerned with quality, since you’re not adding anything to a stored public profile.
Q: Should I be using Snapchat as a grown up?
A: If you tell a young person that you aren’t using Snapchat, they might just sarcastically conclude that “it makes sense, since who would you be snapchatting with?” And this is somewhat relevant; I’m 36, and I don’t have a group of friends who I would be sending quirky doodles and videos to. If we want to communicate something funny with each other, we could just as well be using anything from text messages and emails to Facebook and WhatsApp.
But I still think that you should take Snapchat for a test drive.
My son’s grandparents live quite far away, so my wife Lisah and I use Snapchat to catch videos on-the-go of our son, Jack. We like how we don’t have to add to an online repository of very personal videos of our family. Of course, we don’t send anything that would be disastrous if it did “get out”, but at least, there’s no archived profile for us to manage.
Snapchat can be very engaging even if you’re only communicating with a smaller group of people, like your family.
Q: Should our company be using Snapchat?
A: There’s, of course, no one-size-fits-all answer. However, there are a few caveats to consider carefully:
Advertising on Snapchat is still very underdeveloped. There are options1, mainly for large media publishers (like sponsored geo-filters and promoted channels), but case studies suggest that there isn’t a solid business case here just yet. If you’re an advertising company, I would in most cases recommend to wait and see. New opportunities are bound to arise because Snapchat will need your ad budget very soon and their audience is attractive for many youthful consumer brands2.
Vanishing content is a new challenge for businesses. Content creation is, as we all know, very demanding. The upside is that evergreen content can be useful to your community over time. But with vanishing content, you need to produce a steady stream of Snapchat-friendly content — on a daily basis! So if your company doesn’t already have a solid content creation process, I would recommend focusing on more evergreen social channels first.
Snapchat doesn’t send targeted traffic to your web. Much like regular feeds on Instagram, Snapchat content isn’t designed to lead any traffic to sources outside of the app. For most businesses, Snapchat content won’t fit into their lead generation funnels. If you strive for youth branding activities and in-app engagement, then you can do cool campaigns, but it’s not ripe for driving traffic to your landing pages yet.
You must cross-promote to earn yourself a following. Without followers for your brand, your messages won’t reach your target audience. You can’t leverage in-app search functions (like with hashtags on Instagram), so users must actively search for you specifically to follow you, so it’s up to the brand to cross-promote their Snapchat account to earn a following. You need a critical mass of social followers elsewhere to grow your base quickly.
Now, these caveats suggest that most businesses would be wise to wait and see before jumping head over heels onto the Snapchat bandwagon. However, the app’s growth is impressive, and we can expect to see new opportunities for brands shortly.
If you aren’t using Snapchat, and you want to take it out for a test drive, download the app and feel free to add me as a friend (using the app, scan my snapcode below) and send me some test snaps — no need to be creative or clever. It’s a bit difficult to get comfortable with the navigation, but remember that it’s mostly just about swiping left and right.
If you are using Snapchat, please share your thoughts in the comment section below.