Snapchatting Like The Teens

April 11, 2016

I was among the first wave of high school students to log on to Facebook in 2006, and I’ve been Instagramming my clothes and food for more than four years now. I’m also nearing my 10-year anniversary on Twitter, a social platform that has changed my personal and professional life so much that, without it, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog post. 

What I’m trying to prove by bragging about the length of time i’ve been on various social channels is that I try to be something of an early adopter when it comes to the Internet. 

But when it comes to Snapchat, I’m basically like:

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Maybe it’s social media overload, or maybe a busy work schedule and my looming 27th birthday simply means I’m a total NARP that no longer has the energy to keep up with the new #internet trendz, but so far, I have felt zero desire to spend any significant amount of time on the newest social media craze.

But that’s about to change.

The time has come for me to accept that Snapchat is here to stay. A few recent projects have made it very clear to me that I need to understand (or at least be able to intelligently explain) what this platform has to offer our clients, and the young people who consume their products. 

So, over the last month, I started snapping. While I will readily admit it took me about 500 times longer to catch on to Snapchat than any other social platform to date, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Teens (and millennials) LOVE Snapchat. If you don’t believe me, read the article linked above for some real insights into the … let’s say fascinating … world of teens today. Now, teens don’t hang out at malls or amusement parks, and if they do, they are experiencing those places through their cell phone. My boyfriend’s 13-year-old cousin recently informed me that Snapchat and Instagram are all that matter anymore. She only uses Twitter to tell her friends “Happy Birthday.” Who needs words when you have photos? [Writer’s note: Personally, this makes me want to die. But what do I know? I’m basically a dinosaur.]

Snapchat is not picture perfect. Probably unpopular opinion, but my biggest aversion to Snapchat is that it’s ugly. I very much enjoy scrolling through my highly curated, monochromatic Instagram feed. The second I open Snapchat, my eyes are accosted with bumpy videos, aggressively bright colors and so. many. emojis.

I don’t think this is all bad. While I do enjoy scrolling through lifestyle bloggers’ subway-tiled kitchens and $5,000 handbags on Instagram, there’s something about only seeing picture-perfect moments over and over that makes my life feel inadequate. Snapchat thrives on ugly selfies and snapshots into people’s real lives in a way that no other social platform dares to, and I like to think that Snapchat’s way of showing “the real” vs. “the perfect” offers teens today a way to see the world differently than the generations before them, and might even help build a little self love along the way. 

It’s not all naked pics! It’s actually pretty amazing Snapchat was able to overcome its reputation as “the ideal place to send your Tinder date self-destructing R-rated photos,” and turn into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. I have been using Snapchat for a whole month now, and maybe I just have a really boring personal life, but so far the most scandalous thing I’ve seen is a Britney Spears concert.

It’s also increasingly become a place to share news. While I can’t say I’ve done a deep dive into the Discover section, I’ve seen some incredibly well-produced Snapchat content from outlets that I’m already reading on my phone. If media outlets can give me a better user experience on Snapchat than I get on Twitter, or even on their websites, I’ll be more than happy to oblige.

You can create filters for anything! I’m not huge into the idea of making myself look like an 80-year-old woman (I mean, why spoil the surprise), but have to say I was shocked to go to my hometown last weekend and see that Windom, Minn. (pop. 4,577) has its own GeoFilter featuring an illustration of our county courthouse:

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Cool, huh? Little did I know, you can create a filter for anything — even your birthday party! Stay tuned for Fast Horse’s GeoFilter.

Despite shaky analytics (for now), brands need to pay attention. If you’re targeting young people and you’re not thinking about Snapchat, think again. Because analytics are still murky, reporting results — and therefore proving value — is still tough. But the platform is being used far too much for brands to ignore it all together. Whether it’s having brand page, or using influencers to spread your brand’s messages via a third party, having a presence in the space young people are truly “hanging out” is going to be more important than ever.

Even though your photos disappear, Snapchat is made for sharing. Just ask all my coworkers who feel the need to change their profile pictures to face swaps that will HAUNT YOUR DREAMS.

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Okay, fine. It’s actually kinda fun! Snapchat may never be my favorite social platform, but I am finally getting the hang of it. I do like being able to click through pieces of my friends’ daily lives that I normally wouldn’t see through other platforms. Plus, I get to keep tabs on my teenage mentee, who seems entirely unimpressed by my presence on the platform. But I’m trying! I can even write nearly 1,000 words on the matter, so I’m basically a pro.

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