You have probably heard of Snapchat, but maybe aren’t sure what it is or how it works.
Don’t worry — while Snapchat has been around since 2011, it has only started to catch the imagination of brands within the last couple years. And most small businesses and organizations are only just beginning to explore how to tap into this fast-growing social network.
In this post, I’ll provide a quick overview of what Snapchat is, how to set up your account, and some quick ideas to help you get started.
But first, what is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a mobile messaging application used to share photos or videos that only last for a brief amount of time.
“Snapchat really has to do with the way photographs have changed. Historically photos have always been used to save really important memories: major life moments. But today… pictures are being used for talking.”
When a user sends a “snap” (the term coined for a photo or video on Snapchat) to their friend/follower, they can indicate the amount of time it will be viewable, from 1-10 seconds, before it disappears. Users can also add photos/videos to their “Snapchat Story” where the content can be viewed by all of their followers, as many times as they like, for 24 hours. This is the function that is being utilized by brands to reach their fans.
Why should you use Snapchat?
While you may not be familiar with Snapchat, it is one of the fastest growing social networks out today. In 2015, it is estimated that there are 200 million active users on Snapchat, with 400 million snaps being sent per day.
While your target audience may not be active on Snapchat today, there’s a good chance that they will be trying it out in the not so distant future.
Where do I start?
You can set up your Snapchat account in a matter of minutes. Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you get started:
1. Download the application and create an account
Use your mobile device to download the free Snapchat app from Google Play or the App Store.
Once you have downloaded the app and opened it, you will be asked to enter your log in information or sign up for a new account.
The sign up form requests basic information, including your email address, password, and birthday. Once this information is entered, you will be prompted to choose your username.
Your username is your unique name on Snapchat and will help your followers identify you. Much like your email address, it is important that your Snapchat username aligns with your brand. If the name of your business is Jack’s Backyard BBQ, consider a username such as JacksBBQ. You want to ensure that your followers recognize your username and understand who you are. If the username you have entered is available, you will see a thumbs up. If not, you will see a thumbs down as well as a list of similar username suggestions that are available.
Choosing a relevant username is also important because Snapchat does not have a profile like Twitter or Facebook. On other social platforms, you are able to include a brief description about your business and what you do. However, Snapchat does not currently have a profile feature. The only identifier of your business is your username. Choose wisely!
The app will then ask you to enter your phone number to verify you are not a robot. Be sure to use a mobile phone number, as the app will send a text including a verification code. You can remove the phone number from your account later, if you desire. However, if your business has a mobile phone number, it is a good idea to keep the number associated with your username. This way, when your customers use the “add friends from address book” feature, your Snapchat username will be listed, provided they have your business’ number saved in their address book.
If you would like to skip the phone number verification all together, you can opt-out and complete a visual test in order to prove you are, in fact, a human. The test requires you to select images that contain the Snapchat ghost.
Ta-da! You are officially the proud owner of a Snapchat account.
2. Working with your settings
Once you are logged in to Snapchat, you will be brought to the camera screen. In order to get to your settings, click on the ghost icon at the top center of the screen. This will bring up a user panel that allows you to see who has added you, your current friends, and add new ones.
Clicking on the gear icon in the top right corner will bring up your settings. Here you can change your name, see your username (which cannot be edited), change your password, and view the mobile number and email associated with your account.
One setting that you may find particularly interesting is the login verification. This feature helps to keep your account secure. In order to log in to new devices, you will need to not only enter your password, but also enter a code that is sent to the number listed on your account. This feature adds an extra level of security to combat the issue of hacking.
If you click on “manage” located under the additional services section of your settings, you can turn filters on or off. Using filters allows you to add edits to your photos, such as black and white effects and geofilters, which are filters that are only available in a specific geographic location (in order to use these, you must allow Snapchat to access your location via the location services settings on your device).
One last important setting to note is whether you want to allow other users to send you snaps. Most often, businesses use Snapchat for the story feature. The Snapchat story is a collection of pictures/videos created during a 24-hour span. These snaps can be viewed an unlimited amount of times by your followers. After the picture or video has been posted for 24 hours, it disappears. In order to take advantage of this feature, be sure that your settings allow “everyone” to view your Snapchat story.
However, some brands also allow users to send them snaps. This is often done to collect fan content or run contests. If you are planning to receive snaps from customers, make sure that your settings allow all users to contact you directly.
3. Send a snap!
Now that you have made your account and adjusted your settings, you are ready to send your first snap.
On the camera screen, you have a couple of options to adjust. First, the top right icon is used to switch between the front and rear cameras. The top left icon turns the flash on and off. In order to focus the camera, tap the screen where you would like the camera to focus.
When you are ready to take your photo, tap the large round button at the bottom of the screen. If you would like to take a video, tap and hold the large round button, releasing only when you want to finish. Snapchat videos can be up to 10 seconds long.
Once you have taken your photo/video, click the arrow at the bottom right corner of the screen. This will bring up a list of your friends. Choose who you want to send it to. To send your snap to your story, click on “My Story”, then click the arrow at the bottom of the screen.
4. Add text, emojis, drawings, and filters
Once you have taken a picture or video, Snapchat allows you to add text and emojis, doodle on your photo, and use filters.
To add text, click on the uppercase T in the top right corner. This will bring up your device’s keyboard, allowing you to type a caption. Snapchat captions have a strict 31-character limit, so keep it short and sweet! When you are done typing your caption, click done in the bottom right corner or tap on your photo.
Snapchat captions automatically default to white text in an opaque black bar. Want something bolder? Tap on the T again to create large white text. Tap again to center your caption. You can also move the text around by tapping and dragging, or change the size by pinching the text in the way you would to zoom in on a photo.
To add an emoji to your photo/video, tap on the sticky note icon to the left of the text button. This button will bring up a catalog of emojis. Click on an emoji to add it. Changed your mind? Tap and drag the emoji to the trash bin (which will appear in place of the sticky note once you begin to drag the emoji). These fun features can also be modified in the same way text can.
Want to draw something on your photo? Click on the pen tool in the top right. Tapping on this feature allows you to choose a color by dragging your finger down the color picker. Once you have selected your color, begin to draw on your photo. If you make a mistake, use the undo button to the left of the pencil.
Now that you have added your unique touch to your photo, you may be interested in using filters. Swiping left or right on your photo will introduce filters. There are three photo filters — sepia, saturated, and black and white.
Snapchat also has smart filters that use your phone’s location to create real-time information. For example, you can add the current time or temperature to your photo/video. Geofilters may also be available, depending on your location. For example, here at our Constant Contact headquarters in Waltham, MA, we can use this Waltham filter.
You’re on your way to reaching your audience on this new and exciting platform.
Need ideas to get started? Try snapping a picture of your storefront or a video of a happy customer explaining why they like your business. You could even give your followers a little sneak peak at something new your business is working on. Remember, you customers are following you for a reason. Make sure to provide them with fun and valuable content.
Snapchat can help make your business more human. Download Snapchat today and be sure to keep an eye out for our future blog posts to help you create a solid Snapchat strategy.
See us put our tips into action! Add ConstantContact on Snapchat.