Momentary Messaging: How to Maximize Snapchat for Storytelling

May 1, 2015


“Snapchat is the most personal and direct form of communication so it’s especially powerful,” says Gregory Littley, a lifecaster and creative strategy lead for Iced Media. “You must bring a unique storytelling aspect to Snapchat — think about if there’s a secondary story or something unique that a brand hasn’t been able to communicate elsewhere.”

As part of Social Media Week 2015 New York, Littley led an “Ephemeral Messaging Masterclass” on Snapchat, the photo messaging application that allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings and send them to specific recipients in the form of “snaps.” Users also set a time limit — up to 10 seconds — for how long recipients can view messages. Once sent and viewed, they disappear from the recipient’s device and from Snapchat’s servers.

Currently, there are more than 100 million monthly active users on the platform and more than one billion “Snapchat Stories” viewed per day. The app started out as peer-to-peer but is now peer-to-many with the arrival of the “Stories” feature, where influencers and celebrities often post snaps. Additionally, there is a new “Discover” feature, which is available to media partners and content publishers — CNN, Warner Music, Food Network and ESPN are several companies experimenting with it.

And the arrival of the new “Snapcash” feature allows users to send payments to one another.

Brands and communications professionals are beginning to leverage their presence on the mobile app in order to reach millennials and share stories in the moment. While brands still post on other social outlets and platforms, they are using Snapchat to roll out exclusive or limited content. Also, sponsored stories have the potential to reach everyone who has a public profile.

Snapchat has given users the opportunity to editorialize world events such as Australia Day, which showcased a worldview of how people were using the app, and brand integration such as the Samsung-sponsored American Music Awards livestream. Madonna even released a new music video for her song “Living for Love” via the Discover feature, which was available for 24 hours.

Creating a story

Remember to be “choiceful” with the features that you’re using, Littley said. A good Snapchat story should include the

  1. Geofilters
  2. A drawing element
  3. A video snap
  4. An image filter
  5. Varied text size and colors
  6. Emoji placement

Think about where you are and how you’re broadcasting to followers with geofilters — similar to location settings on Instagram. Change the placement, size and color of your text. Use a drawing element like a stylus so that your text is neater and more legible. Don’t overuse emojis — if you can say something with an emoji then why write it?

“Right now, Snapchat is purely an awareness tool,” Littley said. “It’s fast-paced and there is quick adoption. In an effort to service the chatter that evolves around the snaps, use a mix of story view and screenshots.”

Leveraging a brand

Because of Snapchat’s nature and the fact that photos disappear in an instant, there is more of an open conversation. Once a brand approves a story, Littley said, “it can push forward and have more of an open dialogue with the content creator and the audience.”

Some suggestions on how to do this are tapping a YouTube expert or a blogger to help onboard your Snapchat profile, launching a conversation calendar, editorializing your content and integrating your products. “It’s important who you reach out to and the legitimacy of their content,” Littley said.

It’s key to also think about a longer lead time since there currently isn’t a “staging hub” for producing content, so be careful about posting before the message is ready. Also, remember that third-party apps put your brands at risk, so it’s best not to link across profiles.

Littley also provided the following tips:

  • Clearly translate your story for Snapchat’s specific platform and its viewers.
  • Succinctly use video, images and text so that they are indicative of consumer behavior.
  • Present live events and exclusive experiences when possible.
  • Don’t “oversnap” — each message should live for about two seconds in a 10-snap story.
  • Make sure your snaps can be digested quickly.

Because it’s a closed network, “make sure you’re communicating your Snapchat activity on your other social media platforms — promote it elsewhere and thread that story throughout,” Littley said. “Hold out on a story and then amp it up on Snapchat — save two photos of exclusive gallery for Snapchat, for example — make sure a little ‘FOMO’ is mixed in there too.”

And if you don’t have the means to post to Snapchat every day, “then make it an event and service people with a very interesting, solid piece of content less often for more of an effect. Showcase or support the brand in a specific way on the platform to further the brand connection. There is no one answer for any brand.”


Snapchat by the Numbers

  • There are more than 100 million monthly active users on the platform.
  • There are more than 1 billion Snapchat Stories viewed per day.
  • The target demographic for the platform is users ages 15-25.
  • Seventy percent of Snapchat users are women.
  • One-third of the entire user base (40 million) lives in the United States.
  • 120 million users are sharing more than 700 snaps per day, which is more than the combined original content on Instagram and Facebook.  — Gregory Littley/Snapchat
Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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