This time last year you would not have caught me near Snapchat. I would have told you not to bother, its a waste of time and it serves no real purpose to businesses and to marketers. Some people will debate this and some people will still say that Snapchat is a waste of time. Thats okay, everyone is entitled to an opinion but I’m going to tell you why I have personally done a complete reversal on my approach to Snapchat, what I like about it and why I am going all chips in.
You wouldn’t have to dig around much to find my previous content regarding Snapchat and my views of the platform. I posted a piece during the “big Snapchat leak” where thousands of photos were published online after they were leaked via third party sources. I stand by what I said back then, it was bad for the company, it was bad for the users and some of the content leaked had a big question mark over it. Thats not opinion, thats fact.
I frequently referred to Snapchat as a “platform that businesses and companies should not use as part of their primary focus when it comes to social media strategy” and said that “businesses should reconsider before using it at all.” So what changed?
Well…first off…I was wrong. I have no problem eating my own words, that is part of the game we play as content creators and publishers. Sometimes we get it wrong, and I feel it would be wrong of me to jump into Snapchat and start pushing it without publishing this piece first to explain why my opinion has completely reversed from a year ago because then people would be coming at me dragging up my past opinions on Snapchat.
Back in December 2015 I went back to Snapchat, I downloaded it again to my phone, logged into my account and started to explore the different buttons and functions. I didn’t post anything, I didn’t share anything, I just explored. From December through to March this year I approached the app in a different way than what I had done before.
I spent the past three months studying, listening and watching how brands, celebrities and social media influencers were using the app for themselves. I realised that the problem I had before was that I was trying to compare the value of Snapchat to the value of using Facebook groups and pages or the value of Twitter without focusing on where Snapchat users gain value. They were all using it in a fun and silly way, giving exclusive little insights into their lives but at the same time successfully promoting their brand or business on Snapchat. Something I personally thought would not be possible to do due to the nature of the platform itself.
I started realising that I was spending all my time focusing on the negatives, looking at the restrictions of Snapchat instead of looking at where and how users were finding value. When I started looking at influencers such as Amy Schmittauer and Gary Vaynerchuk using it, I started understanding it in a way which I had not done so before.
The biggest influencer who has opened my eyes to Snapchat has been Gary Vee. Recently I saw him telling Brian Fanzo to “GO HAARRD” on Snapchat in one of his Daily Vee vlogs. (11:00 minutes in)
What has compelled me to Snapchat over the past couple of months is that it is raw and real. It is not meant to be perfect, it is meant to be rough around the edges, on the fly and it disappears after 24 hours. It is all about the present, the right now moment we are experiencing and that is the moment that people want to share and want to live in.
Seeing Gary talk about Snapchat in Dublin on Monday has compelled me to go all chips into Snapchat and really start using the platform myself because the reality is that this is where the attention is going. This doesn’t mean I am going to stop using other social media, far from it. However I am not going to be a passerby and watch others jump on board while I wait to see what may happen down the line.
We need to be where the eyes are watching and by this time next year there will be more and more people watching Snapchat, so the time to get into it is right now! At the moment there is 125 million daily active users generating 8 billion video views per day. Content is being 100% consumed on Snapchat right now at an incredible rate. Still think the attention is not there? The Snapchat demographic is young but that is changing too, and fast.
New Snapchat users signing up are now typically starting to fall in the mid to late twenties bracket, but they are not alone. 30–50 year olds are also downloading Snapchat because they want to be in the game.
Get in there, start building it up and getting used to it before a year down the line where the platform will be saturated with new users. If you want to establish yourself on Snapchat, then you are getting to a point where you need to jump on the train now because 12–18 months down the line it is going to be much much harder to break through the inevitable noise.
What is good and what needs work?
Okay so some of the good stuff that I am loving so far is the following.
This is my favourite feature of Snapchat, the stories are a great way of sharing with all of the people who are following you. So it is you as one person sharing to many people, when someone replies to you then its a one to one conversation. Any reply on Snapchat is one to one so it means that people have something to say, its not about being seen and therefore it makes consuming content more fun and enjoyable.
Geo Filters are user created filters which are only available to you in a certain locations. So you may get different geo filters available based on what city you are in such as Dublin, New York, London ect.
This is a huge tool for brands who can now create custom geo filters for certain locations or events. People use that geo filter and it gets Snapchat users talking if there is a nice big graphical overlay on a photo which they may not have seen before. It provides context. It gives people an idea of where you are or what you are up to based on a graphic on the screen.
This provides a massive scope for word of mouth for brands.
It vanishes in 24 hours.
Another big favourite feature of mine, everything vanishes after 24 hours. Its meant to be rough around the edges, it is not meant to be perfect. The whole essence of Snapchat is that it is in the moment and that it is live and happening right there.
Text overlays and Emoji.
You can also write text over your snaps, change the style of text, move it around the screen and even doodle with your finger on your snaps. You can also add emoji, move them around your snap, resize them and rotate them. You can basically personalise the shit out of your snaps.
Analytics and data.
So here is where it gets a bit harder from a professional perspective. Analytics and data information pretty much sucks on Snapchat at the moment. However I do believe that better analytics and improvements are going to come over time. Value will be added to the platform over the next year as it grows.
“I’m not going to use Snapchat, its stupid, this is stupid. Its just for kids to send stupid photos to each other”
Not every business needs every social network, some businesses just are not suited for certain networks. So some businesses I would tell not to focus on Instagram but to concentrate on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. For some businesses, Snapchat will still not be a viable option for them and that is not a bad thing.
Is it still a stupid app for kids to send stupid photos to each other? No. We need to get the idea out of our heads. That was the impression I had of Snapchat for a long time, and it is the impression some people will still have when they finish reading this piece. Let me say it again, 125 million daily active users and 8 billion video views per day. Still think the attention is not there? We need to play in the whitespace where people are watching. As I have heard Gary Vee say in previous talks, “Market in the year that you live in.”
Far too many of us spend time and money on marketing methods that are out of date. The attention has moved, still paying to place you ad in print? Why? There is free advertising online, where the eyes are now fixed.
What do I snap? Who would be interested?
Snap anything, take snaps of you dogs, snaps of your family’s silly conversations, snaps of your mates in the pub, snaps while you work, snaps of you making food. Look, the platform is made of the silly stuff and it is for you to be creative. You don’t need to worry about what you are snapping, it is about building awareness and establishing yourself. Being real on here could get users talking about you or your brand. Looking to build your personal brand? Well this is where it is at.
Who will be interested? You are never going to know unless you try it but you may be in for a surprise. I certainly have been surprised with how many people are watching stuff I thought nobody would be interested in, throwing links down in Snapchat text overlays is also how I am looking to push people down the funnel to convert them to readers.
At the moment I still of course have a lot to learn. I have spent the last couple of months learning and watching others, I have only started posting snaps myself in the last 2–3 weeks and considering what style I want to approach my use of the app. However I can see what so many others have said so far, this is where the attention is moving now and that can’t be emphasised enough, it is crucial that people understand this.
But just look at some of the influencers using it and how they are benefitting from it, that is not down to silly little photos. Snapchat is meant to be silly, fun and relaxed, but there is also ways for brands to leverage those themes to provide value and build upon their identity. Social influencers are tapping in and providing value before the space becomes overcrowded and that is crucial.
It is crucial because when you wake up and decide to tap into it yourself either 12–18 months from now you are going to have to break through a while lot of noise to do it.
The approach to Snapchat is different though, it is not about selling your shit. It is about storytelling your day. Thats it, tell your story, post silly snaps, give people an insight as to what you are doing.
I will still be learning over the next couple of months and continue to watch how others use it but in the meantime should you jump on Snapchat — check out what other people are doing and what they are using it for.