There's no denying the rise of Snapchat. Teenagers love it. Their parents don't get it. But what is it, actually? And how does it work? We asked a comms person with a Snapchat-loving daughter.
by Carolyne Mitchell
Snapchat – it’s just for sexting right?
I’ll admit that the only reason I downloaded the app was to stay one step ahead of my teenage daughter. I downloaded it, played with it for a couple of days but there was no one else there so I pretty much forgot about it. A couple of months later while curling said daughter’s hair I watched over her shoulder as she snapped a long list of friends. What they were sharing was the worst possible selfies they could muster, double and triple chins, crossed eyes and extreme close-ups, open pores and all. It was the perfect antidote to the perfect make-up and trout pouts over on Facebook. The challenge was set – I got stuck in and before I knew it I was hooked.
As with other social media platforms it wasn’t long before I was trying to work out how to use it for work.
Now, before you think the council I work for is doing cutting edge social media, I haven’t actually used Snapchat professionally yet. I don’t want to use it for the sake of it – it needs the right project to work.
Without going into the details of how to set up an account and what buttons to press, Snapchat basically lets you share photos and film, either to specific people or to your story - a diary over 24 hours. Once you’ve created your content you set how long it’s on screen for. You can write text over the top and even draw over the top of photos.
But it’s the filters on Snapchat that the teenagers use it for and what make it so much fun. All the photos of people with dog ears and noses, or all the face swap stuff you’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter originated on Snapchat. So what you’ve heard about Snaps disappearing forever is all rubbish. All you have to do is download your own content or screenshot someone else’s and you can share it wherever you fancy.
You can also use filters on video to distort faces like a Hall of Mirrors and to slow down speech. I have struggled to breathe through the tears of laughter looking at some of the content Alyx and her friends have shared.
As an organisation I can see many ways to use Twitter. It would be perfect for competitions and simple customer service. If you’re a council or ALMO with museums or galleries the face swap filter would be genius – suggest visitors swap faces with the subjects of the paintings, run a competition for the best. It may be irreverent but it’ll get people talking and I bet the artists, if they were around, would think it was a hoot.
On the series side you can make a series of short films or photos to tell a story, complete with your text over the top. It could be anything from an adoption story to filling in a pothole. And that’s the beauty of a social media tool like Snapchat – give it to a comms team and a council service and they’ll come up with completely different ways to use it and stories to tell
You can tell the story of an organisation over a 24-hour period using the story function and because of the way Snapchat works and the rich content you can create it blows Twitter 24 out of the water.
If you run a big event like T In The Park or you have a big location campaign like People Make Glasgow you can set up a live story that other people can contribute to. When Alyx and I were in London the first time she snapped the London story picked up that when was in London using the GPS in her phone and asked her to contribute to the 24-hour London story. Flicking through these stories makes you wish you were there. I have watched stories for Vancouver, Coachella, London, Dubai, Madrid and the Kentucky Derby but I’d love to see the Edinburgh Festival, Goodwood Revival and Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival. Team Snapchat even design geofilters to create location appropriate artwork for your Snaps. Team Snapchat stories are always worth a watch to give you ideas of the things you can create but National Geographic, Comedy Central and Food Network get my votes.
And if you’re still not convinced here are some Snapchat stats to make you sit up and take notice:
· Snapchat is the best way to reach 18-34 year olds
· In the US more than 60% of this age group who own a smartphone are Snapchatters. There’s no reason to think it’s any different here. In a straw poll of my daughter’s friend this rises to 100%
· There are more than 10 billion video views on Snapchat every day
· Remember Snapchat was made for mobile so keep everything on the vertical – viewers are 9 times more likely to watch your content to the end if you stay vertical
· Remember the days when no one could see the point of councils using Facebook………
Carolyne Mitchell is Digital Team leader at South Lanarkshire Council.