Snapchat is not just a tool for teenagers to share messages they don’t want their parents to see.
While that continues to be one use, Snapchat is evolving into a multimedia storytelling platform that presents a unique opportunity for brands, artists, journalists, media outlets and more. Here’s why the founders turned down a few billion and why it’s going to be worth much more.
The My Story features allow users to publish and stack individual posts (photos and videos) in chronological order. Anyone ‘following’ can consume the posts from that user in a stream without being interrupted. This takes on the feel of a multimedia slide show or short film (hence the Story moniker). Posts are only visible for 24 hours and then disappear forever, creating an inherent need to regularly check back with the app.
Earlier this summer filmmaker and renegade marketer Casey Neistat began encouraging his vast audience to join him on Snapchat. The platform helps Casey connect with his fans more frequently, as he uses the My Story feature to distribute short films about his daily adventures. He also demonstrates how to create context and add color (literally and figuratively) despite the limited functionality within the current app. Being the disruptive innovator that he is, Casey saves his posts, stitches them back together to mimic the in-app experience and uploads every Story to a dedicated YouTube Channel.
After a quick tutorial from Casey I started experimenting with the app and immediately became a believer. Here’s one of the first Stories I captured while trying to score a tour of a secret underground music venue in Boston.
Snapchat randomly publishes a stream of user-submitted content around specific cultural events in what they call ‘Our Story.’ So far this has been activated for the Electric Daisy Carnival (a huge festival driven by the EDM craze), the World Cup final, this past Saturday’s college football kickoff, the Apple event, and NY Fashion Week.
This user-generated, curated, real-time stream of content feels completely different from any type of media I’ve ever seen. Our Story combines citizen journalism with the power of technology, the wisdom of the crowd and creative editing. There are endless applications where this could be useful and I can’t understate how powerful I believe it will be. From a marketing standpoint, it’s easy to see how this could become a sponsored feed that drives engagement for brands and revenue for the app.
Truth be told, the app is not intuitive and can border on confusing, yet millions of people have made it part of their daily social media diets. Should this really surprise us? Have we forgotten the early days of other social networks? Do you remember how often you saw the Twitter fail whale? When was that last time you were ‘Poked’ on Facebook?
We’re still in the first few innings of the Snapchat game, and that means there’s less clutter. Right now, there’s room for brands to stand out and create authentic connections.
I believe some of the skepticism lies in the ambiguity and contradictions that are inherent in the app, so I’ll take a stab at breaking them down for you here.
Personal Yet Public:
I’m not sure what you call video selfies, but when users employ this feature it makes the content extremely intimate. You feel like you’re along for the ride, sitting shotgun with the creator, traveling down the highway of life. Imagine if Blair Witch Project was shot with cell phones and streamed in real time. Wait, that’s actually a fun idea for a brand.
This personal perspective is juxtaposed with the fact that your profile defaults to public just as it does on Twitter. Anyone that finds your username can follow you, though you can block people.
Conversational Yet Voyeuristic:
At its heart this is a conversational platform, offering a new way to interact with others. In addition to the direct messaging capabilities, there’s a video chat feature that feels like a more intuitive version of FaceTime.
Although it offers these features, you don’t have to contribute content to find value in Snapchat. You can simply consume just as you might on other social networks.
Fresh Yet Fleeting:
The app is cutting edge because it provides a completely new framework for creating and consuming content.
However, it’s only fresh for a short time as the content in the Stories feature disappears after 24 hours. This creates a sense of urgency in an otherwise on-demand world and encourages regular visits to make sure you don’t miss anything. FOMO anyone?
Raw Yet Advanced:
Beyond the ability to overlay text, draw on top of your image and add a handful of filters, there are literally no editing features. This gives the content a raw and authentic feel, but also requires the creator to be more thoughtful about how they piece together a Story.
At the same time, the app is extremely advanced. This is because it relies on new technology and cuts out many of the typical hurdles we face when publishing, especially when it comes to video content.
I recently wrote a post about the advent of VCR’s and video rental stores from the 80’s. I left out the invention of home movie cameras as a driver of VCR adoption, but it’s relevant here. Do you remember the size of those home movie cameras? What about the challenge of transferring mini tapes to VHS once the cameras got smaller? Or the first ‘Flip’ pocket video camera that required you to convert the files from one codec to another before posting to YouTube and then waiting for them to upload? Snapchat didn’t invent real-time publishing of video from an app, but they should be given credit for iterating on this technology in a major way.
A few ambitious Snaps from our Business Development Coordinator Alex Stoyle.
Independent Yet Interdependent:
Snapchat is isolated and doesn’t allow direct sharing of content to other social networks. However, brands and personalities are growing their following on Snapchat by cross-promoting their efforts on other platforms. Clever promotions challenge users to ‘screenshot’ Snaps, share and tag them on Instagram, Twitter, etc. Just as any marketing plan should be integrated, that applies when building a following here.
Basically, Snapchat is a tool every marketer should be experimenting with. If you’re not ready to take the leap for your brand, set up an account to experience it for yourself.
Here are few good folks to add to get you started:
- GYKAntler (We’re launching our company account today!)
If you have trouble figuring out how to find and add someone (which is likely), feel free to send me a Snap or hit me up on another platform and I’ll be happy to give you a quick tutorial.