A Guide To Snapchat

11th May, 2016 by

Social media’s newest big name is popular among teens.

When Snapchat came on the social media scene in 2011, many people didn’t know quite what to make of it. Why would we need yet another way to share photos with our friends, and why would we want these photos to disappear as quickly as we’d posted them? It seemed counterintuitive and contrary to what we’d been doing on other networks.

Slowly though, as the network gained traction, it became particularly appealing to a very particular subset: teenagers. These are not the kind of teens who grew up with Facebook in the mid-to-late naughts. Rather, they are the types who joined Facebook when their parents were already on it, thereby making that dominant social media network far less cool from their point of view. Snapchat offers an entirely different user experience that appeals to today’s teens in a completely different way and for a variety of reasons, not least of which is their parents aren’t on it or don’t completely understand it.
So, what is it about an app that lacks permanence which appeals to teenagers? Well, first of all, teens today are much more aware of privacy online than teens were a decade ago in the early days of social media. Whereas social media networks once encouraged users to put every picture from every party online, teens today are far more aware of the fact that they are essentially creating an online record of their lives when it comes to social media. Using Snapchat, where posts are ephemeral, means that there is far less pressure to consider just what you are posting, as you don’t have to worry about it being around for ever and ever.

In addition, the ephemeral and temporary nature of posts means that teens can be less exacting and considered when it comes to posting. Posting an Instagram at a festival, for example, would require picking the ideal photo, editing it, choosing a filter and considering how the picture will fit into an overall feed’s theme. This takes time and effort. Teens like the more instantaneous nature of pulling out their phone, snapping a pic, and sending it to their friends—even if it’s not the most amazing picture in the world. The raw, unedited and more real photos and videos that teens send on Snapchat feel more authentic and less staged than the carefully considered posts on Instagram or Facebook, and teens prefer that kind of intimacy and “realness”.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of “likes” and “favorites” on Snapchat means that teens are less bogged down by the popularity contest that often goes along with social media posts. They can be more creative and outlandish with their captions and the way they present their snaps, because they’re not aiming for the “perfect” post. Other followers won’t see if people reacted heavily to a particular post, so there is less risk involved when posting something that’s just mediocre.

For all these reasons and more, Snapchat has become the primary network where teens interact. This is bemusing to many, but in particular brands have been stumped by it. It’s difficult for brands to use Snapchat to reach their target audiences compared to a more straightforward platform like Facebook or Instagram. Due to its intimate nature, teens are less likely to follow a distant brand they don’t know personally on Snapchat compared to other networks. But of course, brands desperately want to connect with teens here precisely because of that intimacy. Some very creative and inventive brands have managed to do so using techniques like using the Snapchat stories function to livestream an event or major announcement such as Fashion Week or a celebrity endorsement, hiring social media influencers to do the work for them, and cross promoting their content on other channels.

Does your business use Snapchat? How successful have you found it? Let us know on Twitter @UK2.

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