Eight things I learned while I tried to snapchat a conference

I was lucky to be invited to Visual Social Media Lab’s Conference “Picturing the Social” which took place in Manchester 20–21 June 2016. I snapchatted the whole thing and learned so many things, so I quickly wrote them down.

While Snapchat already came up in participant’s accounts in my own research about two years ago and I was following some academic thinking on Snapchat (like the excellent writing of pioneer and Snapchat researcher Nathan Jurgenson), I hardly ever snapped myself, mainly because none of my friends were using it. They changed the software a lot since the release in 2011, and I finally got hooked because of the face recognition function and selfie lenses earlier this year.

Inspired by the queen of academic snapchatting, Jill Walker Rettberg (read Jill’s reasons why you should spread your research via Snapchat and her recommendations for accounts to follow), I thought “Picturing the Social” was the perfect venue to try and snapchat my experience of these fantastic and intense two days.

These are my very personal learnings and I am sure there is more professional advice to be found elsewhere, like this amazing looking book by Paul Bradshaw (son of Carrie Bradshaw?). But I am a big fan of error culture :) So if you want, take a look at the “My Stories” from two days of conferencing and decide yourself what could be improved!

Day 1 (see program here)
Day 2 (see program here)
  1. It keeps you really busy — it gets hard to focus on the presentations, snap them and to follow the hashtag on twitter at the same time.
  2. It’s not a conversation, it’s broadcasting — means: you do not get any instant likes or replies. Although two people screenshot a snap I took and sent it back to me via snapchat-chats with laughing smileys and comments — thaaanks :)
  3. It only makes sense as quite personal account on conference content, I guess otherwise you would probably only do quite boring snaps and not get to use all the emojis. Don’t try to be exhaustive (eg. to feature all speakers equally)! Then again, I guess a lot of brands try to do exactly that, snapchatting and promoting at the same time. But my feeling is, the structure of the software really amplifies personal narrations.
  4. Snapchat eats your battery really fast, which is superannoying. So bring a battery pack, charger etc!
  5. Boring basics: Be aware of light (lights are generally too bright), sound (too muffled), perspective (too far away); of course we are not trying to produce a glossy promotion-video, but if the things you show are hardly visible, that sucks.
  6. Vary length and mode of snaps — this is a really hard one. And again, no attempt for glossy promotion-video, but you probably want people to enjoy following you. Length of snaps of course depends on what you show, for example: cat meme> 3 seconds might be enough. complex chart > 10 secs are necessary to read it. The thing is, while you are busy listening to the speakers and choosing emojis, you tend to forget to change and set different timeframes for each snap.

7. Your primary audience are the guys following you on Snapchat! They usually don’t look at the whole thing at once but at bits and pieces throughout the day. It is not meant to be a video although of course it makes sense to share your “story” somewhere else, too. This means it maybe doesn’t have and doesn’t have to have a classic dramaturgy or narrative.

8. You can not snapchat your own talk. Unless you are talking about snapchatting a conference. So if you wanna spread your own topic too, you can either ask someone to support you or maybe just do some snapping about your topic later on. There is no rush.