We’re five weeks into my unofficial primer for indie and self-published authors looking to master social media, and this week I’ll be examining what is often perceived as the most “faddish” social media platform of all, Snapchat! In past weeks, we’ve taken a gander at some bedrock philosophy for social media marketing as well as peered rather more closely at Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. But when push comes to shove, these three social media platforms–and Facebook, which I’ll get to in due course–are far more widely used by authors to reach their followers than Snapchat. Why? Because on Snapchat, everything is temporary.
Let me hit the “rewind” button for a moment. What exactly is Snapchat, for those of us who aren’t already familiar? It’s an app. Specifically, it’s an app(lication) that can only be used and viewed from tablets and smartphones running Android or Apple’s iOS platforms. Users take pictures or videos (“snaps”) and distribute them to a controlled list of recipients; these recipients (termed “friends” within the app) can view the snaps for only a few seconds (the length of time is determined by the snap-taker) before they are irrevocably lost to the ether (with a few exceptions). Snappers can customize their pictures and videos with a few filters and the addition of some (limited) text before sending them, but the app is about as streamlined as they come.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of aggressive marketing through Snapchat yet, it’s probably because the app interface prioritizes privacy. Unlike Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and to an extent Facebook, Snapchat was designed primarily for use between people who know each other in real life, and for use on the fly. Even Instagram can be viewed on a regular laptop or desktop computer by using an internet browser–but then, Instagram is a forum for the artistic and beautiful, and Snapchat is a forum for the wacky and weird and private and time-sensitive things.
Debunking the Great Instagram Myth: “It’s all about the nudes.”
We’ve all heard the stories: Snappers who find themselves in compromising situations when someone takes a screenshot of their latest snap, in which they are sans clothing, and distributes this screenshot without approval––and, apparently, a conscience. The fact that snaps don’t stick around has led some to––and I’m putting this indelicately––regret their choice of friends, but those who use Snapchat for this kind of exchange are in the minority (as they are with every other social media platform out there). Snapchat is not just about nudes, or even about the oft-reviled “selfie.”
If those who you follow with the app are the sort of people who spend their lives mountain climbing or heli-skiing, then you will end up watching a lot of GoPro camera footage. If you follow a librarian, bookseller, or author, you’re going to be seeing a lot of books and, very likely, clips of their favorite shows (with bonus giggles and voiceover reactions!). The sum of your Snapchat experience is determined by the people that you already like and trust. Snapchat does not promote narcissism or self-absorption––it helps friends share the texture and material of their lives with those who are physically absent. It also, importantly, promotes storytelling!
- John Green on Snapchat
Top 5 Best Practices:
1. Let people know you’re on Snapchat. Because this particular app doesn’t operate on hashtags and a search engine (unlike Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and pretty much every other platform out there), you can’t quite make yourself “findable” on Snapchat the way you can elsewhere. You have the option of adding people by Username, from your Address Book, by Snapcode, or proximity (even if another snapper is “Nearby,” you still have to opt-in to this feature––so again, your privacy is protected). The easiest way to get others to add you is to make an announcement outside of Snapchat––on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. You’ll receive notification that someone else has added you, and you can decide if you want to become “mutuals” by adding that person back.
2. Think of incentives that make use of Snapchat’s time-sensitive nature. A snap can only be viewed for 24 hours after you post it, and once someone taps their screen to view your snap, they only have 1 to 10 seconds to view it before it disappears (you determine how many seconds they have when you post the snap). Snappers can choose one snap a day to “replay,” but once they choose to replay a snap once they can’t replay it again, or replay any other snaps that day. This feature means that your followers usually only have one shot at getting your joke or viewing your behind-the-scenes footage. And while this may seem prohibitive to self-promotion, it isn’t!
Retailers can tell you that a timed incentive––like a 24-hour promotional discount, or a 24-hour giveaway competition, or a 24-hour scavenger hunt––is a great way to hook in new readers. Joe Warnimont writes that one streetwear company (Karmaloop) routinely grabs people, dresses them up with items from their clothing line, and then takes a snap of those people holding a picture of their latest promotional code. It might seem convoluted, but this kind of time-sensitive and exclusive material (only available to followers on Snapchat!) can generate a lot of buzz for a writer. You might take a leaf out of Karmaloop’s book and take snaps of strangers holding pictures of quotes from your book around town, or you might branch out and offer a one-day-only discount for your book on Amazon.
3. Take advantage of Snapchat’s “Stories” feature. One of Snapchat’s more interesting features is the way it allows users to build “stories” out of multiple snaps. Every snap you choose to post to “My Story” (an option visible in the “Send To…” tab) is compiled together. If you post five short videos (or three short videos and two still pictures) to your story, your followers will view them all in sequence when they tap your name on their “Recent Updates” feed. Some snappers go all-out with their stories, using the ten-second time limit as a jump cut to a new scene or clip, while others use their stories to quite literally tell stories(with illustrations, of course)! As an indie author, you’re used to telling stories in at least one medium. Why not try another? Statistics show that the majority of Snapchat’s users do, in fact, enjoy viewing their friends’ stories in addition to their individual snaps.
[ SIDE NOTE: if you have a particularly awesome day, you can save your stories to your phone. Just tap the ellipsis (“…”) to the right of your story and select the correct option to store it in your photo app. ]
4. Frame your content for Millennials. The average Snapchat user is young––in their teens or twenties––and female. This is painting with a broad brush, certainly, as there are plenty of snappers who do not identify as Millennials or female––but the statistics do create a big picture of who’s likely to find you Snapchat (as opposed to, say, Twitter). On the whole, snappers are more likely to be deeply engaged with the content they view than the average Facebook user, so it’s worth considering what sort of material a young woman is going to respond to.
5. Don’t panic. Snapchat feels different, so very different from the Big Five (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest). Its basic architecture and interface is alien to folks who sit in front of computer screens larger than three by five inches. It takes a while to get used to, and to figure out how to use, and to enjoy working with. It can also be highly addictive––which is one reason why it’s a good idea to give it a try. New readers might just become addicted to your book! Still, it’s not for everyone. (It turned out not to be for the King of Young Adult literature, John Green, who gave up on it within minutes of his first snap. (Although it’s worth noting that he was already so incredibly popular that he didn’t exactly need to try any new avenues for self-promotion.) Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but it is for the young and up-and-coming Millennial generation, which also happens to be one of the greatest per-capita consumer demographics when it comes to books––physical books and ebooks! Which is to say … give it time.
Most Overlooked Feature:
Live video. You heard me. Live video. If you’re in the midst of a Snapchat conversation with a friend or reader and your camera button flickers blue (it’s normally yellow) and you hear a strange noise, that means that both parties are actively viewing the conversation and you can start a live video chat. Essentially, you can do the Snapchat equivalent of Skype or Google Hangouts or FaceTime with your fans. All you have to do is tap and keep your finger down on the camera button. A circular image pops up––live feed from your smartphone’s camera––and you drag that circle to the bottom before releasing to keep the video going. Each party has to do this step separately in order for both people to see each other: which is nice, because you’ll never be forced to show your face, if you’re not in the mood or not free or not sure what’s happening. It is entirely possible to have a one-sided conversation as a result, which is slightly less fun than it sounds. Still! Imagine all of the possibilities for you to surprise your fans with quick hellos and insider information!
I hope you’ll join me in building this Social Media Primer! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of social media know-how. ♠
||ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.