Why I Was So Wrong about Snapchat and Why You Probably Are Too

I, like you, read all the headlines. The financing rounds. The valuations. This thing called Snapchat, the one that kids use to send pics was all over the place. But it wasn’t for me.

“Why do I need another place to post pictures and send messages?” I said. “The UI is so bad, the experience is painful!” I said.

I could not have been more wrong.

Rewind a few years. I’ve been working with startups at all stages for the better part of the past decade on all things “growth.” I put that word in quotation marks because I am not even sure what “growth” means. I help startups with clarifying their pitch, figuring out their home run, knowing their competition, reaching out to journalists, establishing a social presence, and approaching investors. So I’ll just call it “growth.”

Anyway, one of the few things I tell almost all startups I meet is that when it comes to marketing, no one should dismiss any platform. If I hear one more person say “No one uses x and I’ve tried it and got no engagement”, I might lose it.

Every platform out there deserves your attention and until you spend months there actively generating content, engaging with others peoples’ content, and building meaningful relationships on a platform, you are not authorized to dismiss it as pointless. That is what I tell startups.

Then it hit me. I was not practicing what I was preaching. There were two platforms out there that I was dismissing without sufficient research. Two platforms that were clearly making waves but did not manage to pull me in. Medium and Snapchat.

As far as Medium? Working on it. Let’s talk about Snapchat.

A few weeks back, the pressure was adding up. Many friends and colleagues started to mention Snapchat and how I am missing out almost on a daily basis. Lookin at you Ben Lang, Roy Povarchik, and Shai Knecht. It was all Gary Vaynerchuk, a man I learn from regularly, was talking about.

It was time. I had to give it a chance. Here were my preconceived notions about Snapchat and the reasons I never gave it a real chance.

  • Snapchat is for, well you know what…
  • The UI/UX is so painful. Anyone who says they like it is just convincing themselves.
  • Why do I need yet another platform to share my thoughts and content?
  • The kids are there but my colleagues and friends are not.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

So here is what transpired. I started snapping. I asked some friends for help on tricks and how to get the most of it. I snapped some more. I watched stories. I asked for ideas on accounts to follow. I followed them. Snapped some more. Fell in love. No, seriously. I love Snapchat.

So let’s dissect my first impressions and why they were dead wrong.

Snapchat is for you know what…

It’s not. See, the issue with first impressions is that they are strong. They are very difficult to get rid of. Take Yo for example. A stupid messaging app that just sends people a “yo”, right? Wrong. I use Yo daily to get real time push notifications about different events and news to which I subscribed. But it doesn’t matter how I use it because most people still think of it as that stupid messaging app and always will.

Do people send inappropriate pictures on Snapchat? Probably. Do messages and pictures disappear on Snapchat? Yes. Is that what the platform is for? Is that how most people use it? Absolutely not.

There are so many creative things you can do on Snapchat, there are so many creative things people do on Snapchat, I totally see why kids love it and why Zuck offered billions for it.

Here’s the thing. Snapchat, the company, not the app, should have realized the brand they were creating when they originally focused on the ephemeral thing. Now that that is what most people think about, the marketing team should be focusing 100% of their energy on changing that impression. Not easy, but necessary.

The UI/UX is Too Painful

Is Snapchat as easy to use as Facebook? No. Is Twitter? No, but that is a topic for another time. My point is, yes Twitter is not exactly the sweetheart of the market based on its stock price, but most people I know who are active on Twitter love the platform. More importantly, the number of global revolutions and just general impact that Twitter has had is the best indication that its difficult on boarding process and its user base “problems” are temporary. It is an important platform, bad UI aside. Twitter and Snapchat alike.

As far as the Snapchat user experience, yes, it is not as intuitive as I would like but that is actually part of its charm. No seriously, hear me out. I know it sounds like I am convincing myself here and maybe I am, but there is something kind of fun about discovering new features and gestures every time I open Snapchat.

That aside, the interface definitely has some quirks and inconsistencies but none of them are deal breakers for me. Let’s put it this way, if you can tolerate some Google products (ahem Maps), and if you enjoy Twitter, then you should not see Snapchat’s UI as a barrier for you to start using it. Try it. For a week. It’ll grow on you just like it did on me.

Another Social Platform? Why?

So after just a few weeks on Snapchat, I find myself sharing things there that I don’t share anywhere else. I honestly don’t know if it’s the fact that my story disappears there after 24 hours or that the nature of the platform is just more casual and laid back then others.

I will share one thing that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks since I started snapping. I get a LOT done throughout the day. You see, I share my story on Snapchat. I give my followers a glimpse into my day. No planning, no posing, just snapping. Then, at the end of the day, I often watch my story and realize, wow, I sure did accomplish a lot today.

Snapchat has given me a very interesting perspective on my life and that is something I cannot say for any other platform.

Kids are There. My Colleagues Aren’t

Ok I am not really sure what I can say about this besides that is just wrong. Every time I share something on Snapchat, I see more engagement than my previous snap. Remember, I’ve been using it for just a few weeks and while I cannot see how many followers I have (one of the quirks I mentioned above but probably a very strategic decision), I do see how many people viewed my video snaps and my stories.

I’m seeing an average of 70–100 views on each snap. Multiply that by 20–30 snaps a day and you have some pretty insane numbers for week two on a platform.

Over the past few weeks, I have coordinated many ZCasts with people on Snapchat, I have pitched journalists (ahem, Jon Russell), and have even spoken to my investor about a follow on round.

People are there. Real people. Smart people. You should be too.

As for the way kids are using it, this Buzzfeed story might blow your mind.

I am Hilzfuld. Add me. Enjoy. Thank me later.

I cannot believe I just wrote a whole post about Snapchat and didn’t even mention the filters. who am I kidding? The filters are what makes the platform so addictive!!

One more thing. I wrote this from beginning to end on my iPhone 6s Plus using the Medium app. The Medium iOS app is that good.