Not too long ago I was contacted by a headhunter in regards to a possible position with a start-up firm in Naples, Italy in the field of social media. Ever since I was introduced to MySpace by a co-worker/friend many years ago I fell in love with using Social Media and often tried out new platforms before the mainstream took notice.
Do you remember MySpace? It was that online place we all hung out on before I saw everyone do the big migration to Facebook. You know the one, it was fun because we could post funny videos and music playlists to our wall and decorate it however we wanted. It was like creating mix tapes of our favorite music for our friends and when we put up Pink Floyd and Prince posters on our bedroom walls. Us girls would cut out our heart-throb movie star images from Tiger Beat back in the 80s and use tacky stick to adhere them to the ceiling over our bed. I believe the boys simply hid catalogs with their favorite models under their mattresses.
But then in 2008 something happened. Everyone decided Facebook was the best way to go and over the course of a few months I sat back and watched all of my USA friends join my international and traveling friends on Facebook. The interface was clean and uncluttered with less upload time. We could get right to the point of knowing what our friends were up to and there were no ads.
Fast forward about 9 years and Facebook has become a drug for many with the mindless scrolling for hours when you only meant to check an updated reply you received and browse for a few minutes. Now there are advertisements everywhere, memes took place of most personal posts, the timelines won’t stay in order no matter how often I reset my phone or computer’s preferred setting of Most Recent instead of Top Stories, and there are so many online quizzes that sometimes I feel like I’m in middle school again using a slam book.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and living so far away from all of my family and friends it’s the primary way that I am connected to many of them. I feel a little less alone when I can chat quickly to friends all around the world. Besides the connections, I love discovering interesting articles from pages I follow or that a friend with similar interests might post. However, some days it’s like when I used to watch t.v. and even with having over a hundred channels on cable there’s still not anything good to watch.
This brings me back to my point. I was about to interview for a new social media marketing-related start-up company where millennials are the influential audience their clients are looking at. I figured it was about time I looked at SnapChat so that I was current in the latest hot apps. Ironically, that company didn’t seem to be using it.
I hear the majority of millennials grew bored of Facebook long ago and as I understand it, they really only have it for the Groups and because their families are there. Supposedly most of them use SnapChat and Instagram. I do enjoy Instragram and that was an easy one to use. It cross-posts easily to Twitter and Facebook as well so it’s a great place to escape the noise of Facebook, though lately they have made some changes with their feed’s chronology and I’m not so happy when I check-in a few times a day to see the exact same photos as earlier when I had my last few minutes break.
Side note to Social Media App Developers: STOP CHANGING THE CHRONOLOGICAL FEEDS, Damn it!! I want to see the new stuff, not the sponsored stuff you think I should see because someone paid for it. I want to see the people I follow for a reason. Sprinkle the ads in a bit. After all, your site is free for me to use and I find value, but let me see what I really came for.
Please excuse that little rant… So, with SnapChat I did not ever hear anything good or appealing about it when that app first started up. The negative publicity on it that I heard of had to do with sexting scandals. I didn’t see any value in that and I avoided it up until now. Sometimes a site needs to mature a little (in the case of SnapChat, it’s very little mind you) before the advantages are figured out for those in the marketing game and somebody embraces it and is able to sell the platform to others who are looking for new ways to reach clients. Along with the app improvements as recently as January 2016, it is now easier to create content that lasts a little longer for you to take advantage of.
Follow the leader
Enter Joel Comm. He’s a social media leader who has done very well on Twitter and has written several books on the subject. I’ve been following him for years. At the same time as my offer for an interview I noticed a newsletter regarding SnapChat that finally caught my attention. Joel wrote a feature on Inc. Magazine and discussed some of the top users of SnapChat. From there I found a link that showed him with John Lee Dumas giving an overview with some great information about how to use it for connecting with an audience in multiple ways.
Following Joel’s advice, I signed up and started to play around with the app. First off, it’s not very intuitive. I did more searches to figure out how to do stuff and sadly discovered that the reason why I couldn’t do the puking rainbows that everybody else was having fun with was because my iPhone is too old. Damn you asshole in Rome that stole my iPhone 5!! I should be wearing a tiara of flowers right now. If you ever do read this, I know who you are and have evidence of your attempted identification theft. However, unfortunately for me, the police of Rome didn’t deem my case worthy enough to investigate.
Oops, excuse me, where was I? Ah yes, learning about SnapChat.
What did I learn? Do I think it’s worth getting involved in yet another social media app? How can it help you?
Let’s start with some info about how to use it and terms relevant to this particular app. I decided to experiment and use the app for about a month or so before I made any decisions about it. At first it was fun once I got past the first few days of realizing how to use it. There are several videos or articles online that can help with the basic functions since SnapChat doesn’t provide a lot of info on this and it’s not super intuitive. A recently published article on Social Media Today gives a good, quick overview on how to operate it.
What I found useful
After being consistent with the app for nearly a month I felt like I was getting better with my improv and speaking skills. I’m still not too crazy about doing selfie videos so I usually preferred doing commentary on what I was showing around me. I love to travel and do artsy stuff so this was usually what my content was on.
However, without a really good focus on my business (I have many varied interests) I didn’t want to create an audience that would start to ignore me because of not having a consistent theme to my content for them to rely on. That’s important if you are trying to brand yourself as an expert in any particular area.
Anyhow, following the tips I learned from Joel Comm and John Lee Dumas I was saving my daily stories at the end of each day so that I could repurpose them into edited videos to put on YouTube or directly on my websites. This worked at first and I got a good response from my first video that I was able to later share on Facebook.
My opinion about the app
After about a month’s worth of using the app I quickly grew bored of trying to produce my own content every day and was only checking in on a few people’s stories that I liked to follow. Much like what happens to me when I use dating apps. It takes some time, effort, and I was still trying to figure out my special focus.
Finally I found a focus I want to specialize in and with serendipity I was able to go to a very special, once in a lifetime event combining my two favorite things – travel and art. Through a generous and unexpected angel (who wishes to remain anonymous) I was given the travel funds to go to northern Italy to see and experience Christo’s Floating Piers installation at Lago d’Iseo. I had only the weekend to go before returning to my teaching job on Monday. I departed early on Saturday morning by train and returned late Sunday evening.
I got excited thinking about what I was going to do with my next video. I used this opportunity to create daily stories on SnapChat and improvised some great commentary that I wanted to later put together as part of an opening video on a new site I am creating for this focus. It was an exhausting trip, but I know I made sure to save my stories each night as I have always done before
However, after I got home to download everything from my phone that weekend to my computer, the videos weren’t there. I cried. Really. I almost never cry.
I didn’t take any videos with my regular camera or phone functions because I was alone and also trying to enjoy living in the moment of the journey and the event. I contacted SnapChat support on Twitter and they were helpful enough only to direct me to their website that said they don’t save anything. The only thing I can think of what had happened is that the daily stories didn’t save properly if the download did not finish before the app shut off and I didn’t watch it completely to the end to make sure it finished.
Needless to say, I’m a bitter about this part of my experience. After waiting a few days to not be as emotional about it, my own personal opinion is that it can be good for entertainment and to follow some great leaders for daily inspiration. I definitely recommend John Lee Dumas if you are an aspiring entrepreneur.
As with many other social media channels, it can also be a big time waster. There’s a reason I don’t watch TV and I try to control how much time I spend getting sucked into Facebook. If you are trying to market a particular business you have, then it can be useful but it will take some time I believe to build up a good and loyal following.
- If you decide to use it, spend a little time at first playing around with it before you build an audience. You might lose potential viewers if they see you playing around too much without providing any quality content.
- Find your favorite leaders to follow who are using it. Observe what they do and how they do it. Decide for yourself what would be a good way to share your info.
- Use GhostCodes, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and use hashtags to discover others and get people to find you. Be sure to interact with others during marketing events and let them know you are on SnapChat. My first weekend on SnapChat happened to be during the Social Media Marketing World. My interactions on Twitter and using hashtags helped gain some followers easily. Plan ahead for industry events that can propel you forward during the event.
- Keep your daily content short, interesting, and don’t over use the silly filters depending on the image you want to make of yourself. When people watch the stories later they may see them all in a continuous sequence so you don’t want it to be overly long or you may lose their attention.
- Check out Todd Bergen’s blog on Joel Comm’s story about SnapChat etiquette. (He does great daily tips on SnapChat too.) [edit note July 5th: Todd’s link is not based on Joel Comm’s story as he indicated in the comments below. I was unable to locate Joel’s story and Todd’s link covered many of the same etiquette points, so hearing/reading from two professionals actively using this app I incorrectly thought one had written about the other. Either way, it’s good advice worth paying attention to if you are planning to use SnapChat in your marketing.]
- For your sanity’s sake, SAVE and DOUBLE CHECK to see that your phone saved any content that you created that’s worth keeping before it disappears.
I’m sticking with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest for more of my own marketing. I’ll keep SnapChat, but don’t expect me to be an active user. If I decide to post something interesting, then I’ll give you a head’s up elsewhere so you can know to check it out before I publish videos elsewhere. There are only so many social media channels you can do effectively and still do your work as a solo entrepreneur.