I’m twenty-nine, okay? I was in college when Twitter launched. I remember flip phones, because I had a flip phone. I didn’t want Facebook at first, because it seemed too much like MySpace — but my older cousin did convince me to sign up as soon as I had a .edu email address. I took typing classes in elementary school. When I first got a phone, I was not even allowed to send texts — because each one cost about a dollar. That phone was actually, truly, for emergencies, because there was literally nothing it could do besides dial a number. And who the heck would I want to call if it wasn’t an emergency?
Plus, I know what a ‘dial tone’ is, and that completely gives me away if none of the above can convince you of this fact:
At least, in Snapchat years I’m old. I’m practically ancient. But I’ve worked in marketing, golldernit! I’ve written about Instagram and Twitter and social media in general; I coach people on how to build their blog and online followers. I’m one of those people that other people expect to use Snapchat. I should know how to use Snapchat.
And now, finally, I can use Snapchat.
For years this ghostly phenomenon has alluded me, but now I finally think I’ve got it. Or, at least, I’ve got it enough to translate it for anyone else out there who feels as clueless as I once did when faced with that strange, bitmoji-obsessed yellow icon. If you’re running a business, you’ve probably heard time and time again that Snapchat is where all the young’uns are at, and you’d better get on there if you know what’s good for you.
Well, I’ve Snapped to the edge and back, and I have a few stories to tell.
*Picks up pen with wrinkly, gnarled knuckles…and begins to write*
- Ask your friendly neighborhood teenager. This is how it begins. I don’t mean to disappoint you by starting my article with the advice to ask someone else, but the thing is, I’m still old. No matter how much I practice and research, I will never have the prowess of a teen Snapper. These kids are truly and completely the experts when it comes to this unconscionable little app. They get it. They get it on a level that we absolutely never will. So eat some humble pie, find the friendliest tween you know, and ask them for a tutorial. I spoke to three, of three different ages, so I could understand how to navigate the counterintuitive space. Because:
- Navigation is weirdly confusing. I honestly don’t understand why I can never remember that swiping left will take me to Stories. I think it’s partially because, when you open the app, you immediately see your own face — so, you know, if it’s early enough in the morning that can be pretty alarming. But for your own reference:
- Swiping LEFT takes you to Stories, where you can add a Story (a Snap visible to anyone who follows you). That’s also where you’ll be able to see your friends’ stories, or the big fancy brand stories from places like Vogue and Buzzfeed.
- Swiping RIGHT takes you to your contacts/messages, where you add individual snaps (private messages/photos/videos to individual people).
- Swiping UP takes you to Memories. That’s where you can save your own (and, obviously, only your own) Snaps and Stories for later perusing and reuse. Kind of like a glorified camera roll, but it definitely comes in handy.
- Swiping DOWN takes you to your profile info, including your name, Snapcode, and Snapchat Score. Yes, there are scores involved. Which leads me to an important but confusing point:
- Don’t worry about your Snapchat score. Seriously. Don’t worry about it. As a brand, the number you’ll want to keep an eye on is the number of viewers on your Stories. Get that number higher and it won’t matter what your ‘score’ is. Besides, Snapchat has been notoriously cryptic about how those scores are calculated and what benefit they have — if any. What we do know is that the more you use the app, the higher your score is, so basically it’s just an internal way to motivate users to stay active. But you’ll want to be doing that anyway, because the most important thing to remember about Snapchat is…
- Have fun. Snapchat’s designed for teenagers, not for brands. Teens like to have fun. They like to draw on their photos and chat with tons of people and write funny captions. If you already have a huge following, you can use Snapchat to connect with those folks, but if you’re expecting to grow from within the app? Your only chance is to sincerely enjoy yourself. Play. Be creative. Make silly stories and follow other people’s silly stories to get inspiration. This awesome artist now works full-time on Snapchat because she does such a great job doodling on her own photos! That doesn’t come from some huge strategic move; that comes from having lots of fun and being focused on what you enjoy.
Social media began as a way to connect with friends and have fun while doing it. Of all the apps, it seems Snapchat’s the one remaining most true to that purpose. They’re not here to help your business grow; they’re here to stay engaged with their legion of millennial users. Which means, if you really want to maximize your time on the app, you’ve got to start thinking like a millennial user.
Good luck, and Godspeed. Oh, and add me: username “heatherrwalters.” I’m trying to get my score up.