Snapchat; A Few Months in. Here’s What you Need to Know!

This is what my iPhone’s battery consumption looks like.

Need I say more? I’ve become somewhat intrigued aka addicted to this platform that just a few months ago, I dismissed as silly. I was very wrong.

Here is me on Snapchat. If you’re there, come say hi!

Over the past few months, I’ve heard it all.

“Snapchat? Really?” <Insert confused and somewhat judgmental facial expression here>

“Snapchat… Oh, yea, that’s that app kids use to send pics of inappropriate things, isn’t it?”

“C'mon Hillel, what could I possibly have to do on Snapchat?”

And on and on.

Snapchat has a problem. Well, Snapchat has many problems, but we’ll address those a bit later. The company’s main problem is people’s perception of the platform. It seems first impressions matter. Who knew?

Since you and I both know that if I throw out numbers, that you won’t be convinced, so I won’t bother. I can tell you how Snapchat has 8 billion video views a DAY, but you’d still think the platform is insignificant to you.

I could tell you that Snapchat has hundreds of millions of active users that don’t just use the platform, they LIVE on the platform, but would that matter? No, it wouldn’t, would it…

So let’s learn from our mistakes, shall we?

Raise your hand if you said one of the following sentences in your lifetime:

  • “I will never have a mobile phone. If someone needs to reach me, they know where to find me. I don’t want to be accessible at all times.”
  • “I will never join Facebook. It’s a time waster!”
  • “Twitter is dumb.”
  • “Why would anyone in their right mind put their credit card into a website for anyone to steal?”

Keep your hand raised. Don’t lie. Raise it high. Now let’s both acknowledge the fact that you are reading these words on your smartphone on which you have Facebook and Twitter installed and with which you just bought something on Amazon 30 seconds ago…

Don’t dismiss this platform. Not until you have tried it, really tried it, understood all it has to offer, experience its insane reach, and decided it wasn’t for you. Anything less is you making the same statement as you made above.

“You can’t make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s no longer a mistake. It’s a choice.”

So I want to answer two questions for you here:

1- Why should you use Snapchat?

2- Is Snapchat perfect and what are the biggest challenges the platform faces, from the perspective of a business and user experience?

Let’s keep things interesting and start with question two. I know, I like to live on the edge.

Snapchat is far, like galaxies away from being perfect. The problems you probably picked up on after 30 seconds are real and no one denies them. Having said that, despite the following challenges, Snapchat has astronomical metrics that are only growing, so keep that in mind.

The Worst UI of Any App on My Phone

The user interface of Snapchat is painful. It is painful because the onboarding is unclear, the gestures are unintuitive, the location of the various buttons/options is awkward, and nothing about the app is obvious. Nothing.

I asked my followers on Snapchat for some feedback on their biggest challenges with the platform. I got tens of great responses but the best one was from my friend Charlie Evan. Follow him here:

Pasting his message below as is.

Snapchat challenges

[ ] Big one: prioritizing the snaps I want to watch. If I follow many people, it is almost impossible to watch all snaps since it can be very time consuming. It could be amazing to prioritize snapchatters according to parameters that I will define or in other words: filters.

[ ] Being able to start a video snap and save it for later to post. (like Vine)

[ ] Being able to pause or go backwards on someone’s snap.

[ ] Background music or sounds as a feature.

[ ] Saving stories on a timeline and not just gallery downloads — Snapchat is by far the best story telling platform. I wish I could save old stories on a timeline so I could go back and see how I have evolved over time, see how my storytelling skills changed.

[ ] Can not tag people

[ ] No hashtags

[ ] You can not choose an image from your library and add it to your story

[ ] Disappearing messages should be a choice

[ ] Adding sound to a picture

[ ] Technical problems- your black screen for example. A lot of audio-video missmatches

[ ] A Snapchat widget for quick snapping can be nice. instead of opening the app

Well, that was comprehensive. Thanks Charlie. Ok folks, honestly, I can talk about how the UI is broken for hours, but I think you get it. If you are looking to join a platform based on its esthetic, there is nothing to see here.

Simply put, it’s as if the Snapchat team didn’t think this through when building this app. I can only imagine the team meeting in Snapchat HQ when they were building this thing…

  • Marketing guy: “How are people going to find interesting accounts to follow?” “

Product guy; “Eh, not our problem.”

  • Marketing guy: “How does one increase their audience within the platform?”

Product guy: “Spam your Facebook and Twitter friends to follow you on Snapchat, obviously.”

  • Marketing guy: “Cool so you let users tell a 24 hour story? Like they can upload pics and stuff?”

Product guy: “Nope, no uploading pics to your story..”

Once again, I can go on for hours here. Snapchat does not have a good user experience. It just doesn’t. Not by the traditional standards at least. And yet? 8 billion daily video views.

Ok enough about how broken Snapchat is because honestly, at this rate of growth, Snapchat is probably the most important platform since Facebook and giving up on it or dismissing it because of its UI/UX is a huge mistake.

Why? Why Should You Care about Snapchat?

Well, I guess the answer to why you should care about Snapchat depends who are you and what you do.

I can only speak from my experience over the last few months and I’m fairly certain you can draw your conclusions from me.

Wisdom ain’t a Bad Thing, is it?

Who doesn’t want to get smarter? I get smarter every day on Snapchat. Sounds like a big statement, right? Well, it’s an accurate one.

Mark Suster, know him? If you work within 100 miles of tech, then you need to. You need to know him and you need to follow him on Snapchat.

Here. Scan this and add him. Trust me. He makes me smarter every day!

There are countless accounts on Snapchat of people, some well known, some not so much, who share pearls of wisdom there on a daily basis. Why Snapchat? Because it’s easy and requires little preparation. But the “why” doesn’t matter. They are there and you are not.

Relationships Matter

Whether you are a startup founder or a plumber, relationships are at the foundation of business. Snapchat is a fantastic and totally casual place to form and maintain good relationships.

People on Snapchat are themselves. Why? Well, because the story disappears in 24 hours anyway, so why not be myself?

Ever hear of Justin Kan? You know, the guy from Justin.TV? No? The guy from Twitch? Socialcam? Now a partner at YCombinator, the Silicon Valley accelerator that gave birth to companies like Airbnb? Yea he’s kind of a smart and successful guy.

Do yourself a favor and add him.

Justin on Snapchat is kind of legendary. He’s also kind of a celebrity. And yet; I was chatting with him yesterday (mainly telling him how big of a fanboy I am, but still….). Because on Snapchat, everything is super casual and chill!

There are some phenomenally talented people on the platform that deserve your attention and they are available at the snap of a finger. I am deeply and fundamentally proud of that pun. Just sayin.

Self Perspective is Kinda Awesome

I haven’t really seen anyone else talk about this so it might just be me but I really enjoy watching people’s 24 hour story as it unfolds.

There is something super interesting in watching your own story, as well. I love looking back and seeing how much I accomplished that day, right as I’m about to crash at night. How did my mood change throughout the day? Was I productive enough? Was I extra goofy today? There’s just something unique about it. You can’t understand until you try.

Watch my story by following me here and please send me feedback!!

PR. Yes, Public Relations. Yes, on Snapchat!

Ok, here’s one you surely didn’t expect to see in a post about Snapchat! Do you have any idea how many awesome journalists are active on Snapchat??

Wait!! Do not do what you are about to do!! Don’t go pitch them on Snapchat!! Were you really about to do that?

What I mean to say is that good PR professionals establish solid relationships with journalists and get them relevant stories based on their preferences. Guess what you can do yourself if you use Snapchat right?

Find good journalists/bloggers/influencers and learn about them and their preferences for stories. Want some examples? Below is a long list of some awesome folks.

How do I define ‘awesome folks' and how did I choose these people? Simple. They produce valuable content. They don’t self promote. They aren’t selling anything. They just have fantastic snaps.

Know these guys? You should!

Well, we established above that finding good accounts to follow is difficult so here are four more. Follow em!

Ok, this is too much fun! Four more!

All those people are either journalists, bloggers, or influencers with millions or followers. If that’s important to you, get to know them on snapchat!

Here are some more “plain old” good people to follow. Just downright good people.

Ok I am getting addicted here.

And two more shoutouts.

Interested in conversion optimization? Don’t know what that is? Follow Talia! Do it. Trust me!

Last but not least, because Snapchat is not easy, you should follow Snapvice, a cute new service by Ben Lang and Shai Knecht (follow them too!)

The bottom line… Is Snapchat perfect? No! Is it going to kill Facebook anytime soon? Negative. Will it take you time to get used to it? Absolutely. Should you spend that time and effort investing in it? You’d be a fool not to!

“Skate to where the puck is going…”