Don’t Give Up the Ghost: A Snapchat Guide for Dummies

By Posted in - ALL & Content Creation & Examples & Social Media on April 15th, 2016 0 Comments

Before we begin this Guide to Snapchat for Dummies, let me just state for the record that I used to be one of the said dummies, but thanks to months of intensive learning, I’ve come to love it. Less than a year ago, my younger and hipper colleagues were trying to persuade me of the merits of the image-based social network. I have teenage sisters, and assumed the sole purpose of Snapchat was to share photos of nights out and juvenile shenanigans with a select group of peers (i.e. not university admissions officers or future employers). Now I can use it to share amazing Tudor-themed birthday cakes:

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In all seriousness, Snapchat has an amazing array of uses that can help you, your brand or organisation in your digital strategy. It’s a versatile tool that can really help boost engagement with users, especially younger audiences.

A US study revealed this week that it’s now the most popular social network with teens. Its rise has been truly meteoric – only a year ago, the same researchers found that Instagram was the top social network with the under-20s, with Snapchat trailing behind Twitter and Facebook.

The grown-ups have been getting in on the action too. Entrepreneurs such as Everette Taylor and Natalie Diver use Snapchat to give followers a glimpse into their everyday lives – from attending the glamorous and uber-trendy Coachella Festival to giving a keynote speech at a major investors’ forum.

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Follow Natalie on Snapchat at nataliediver1

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Follow Everette on Snapchat at everettetaylor

How has the social network risen so quickly, and what’s behind its success?

It’s not just for teens

My initial assumption that Snapchat was all illicit partying and rude pics was one that was shared pretty widely when it first emerged in 2011, initially named Pictaboo. But in October 2013, Snapchat introduced the Story feature, in which a series of snaps could create a narrative. For example, if you were at a product launch, gig or open day, you could collate your videos and pictures into a mini-vlog of your experience. Soon brands, institutions and businesses from around the world wanted to get involved.

Untitled design (5)This was followed in January 2015 by the launch of the Discover channel. This allowed media outlets such as MTV, VICE and the Daily Mail to provide daily content, along with brand advertisements. Unlike more traditional advertising, Snapchat Discover is immersive, using audio, text overlay, animation and full-screen graphics to really engage with users. And rather than relying on users just seeing your advert in passing, Discover allows you to go directly to them, right in their palm.

Take a look at today’s Discover content from Buzzfeed. It’s a comic – funny, relatable, eye-catching. Perfect for their audience; young, digital-savvy but time-poor, looking for something entertaining in a quick, instant, bitesize hit:



We know it works too. BuzzFeed gets 21% of its traffic from Snapchat, and is constantly finding new and innovative ways to use the platform.

Starting small

Now I know what you’re thinking: “It’s all very well for these massive, resource-rich brands, but how can use it?”. Fear not! Here are our top tips, no matter your size, following or resource level:

1. Watch others

As with so many things digital, it’s only when you start actively using a platform that you know how exactly you want to use it. Use the Discover feature to see what kind of content brands and media outlets are sharing. Do they follow particular themes, or post stories from specific events? What is it that you do and don’t like about their content?

Thinking about what you like and engage with will go a long way in helping you develop your own Snapchat personality.

2. Find your narrative

Do you have a big event coming up? Perhaps you’re going to an important conference, or you’re an artist putting on an exhibition. This is a perfect opportunity for you to get a Story up and running, giving your audience a taste of what it’s actually like to be there.

Work out what you want to showcase, if you can grab quick soundbites from attendees, guests or colleagues, and make sure you do a dry run beforehand so that you’re comfortable with using the various features. If you’re working in a team, send each other snaps internally, play around with text, audio and animation, and give each other feedback before the big event.

3. Experiment

Use a mix of photos and videos, adding text overlay and emojis where you can (it keeps things engaging). Experiment with the length of your snaps as well; too long and your viewers might switch off, but too short and they won’t get chance to take it all in.

Get your friends and colleagues involved, asking for feedback on your snaps and any tips to improve. With new features being introduced on a regular basis – such as the new sponsored geofilters – it really is a continual learning process for everyone. Build up your confidence, find out what is working well for others and experiment, experiment, experiment.

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Happy Snapping!

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