Getting to Know the Ghost

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Snapchat

Mar 14, 2017 · 10 min read
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Snapchat is the latest platform taking the social media world by storm.

Since its launch, in September 2011, Snapchat has shown incredible growth. The Venice, California-based company now boasts over 161 million daily active users and , daily.

And with consumer attention comes ad dollars, with many major brands turning to Snapchat as a way to connect with their audience. Gatorade is one of the brands getting involved; they ran a sponsored Lense during the Super Bowl and .

So how can you get in on the action? And how can you use Snapchat to grow your business?

Ready? Let’s get started

What is Snapchat?

In a social media age where saving and preserving moments has become the norm, Snapchat found a way to go against the grain.

With Snapchat, every moment is temporary. What’s shared is rarely saved. It’s about in the moment connections.

In its rawest form, Snapchat enables us to share temporary, self-destructing photos, videos, and messages (also known as ‘Snaps’). Images and videos will last anywhere from one to ten seconds, and users can embellish each Snap with captions, drawings, and filters.

Once a Snap has been viewed, it’s gone forever.

Though the temporary nature of Snapchat may sound a little strange, when you think about how we interact with each other day-to-day, Snapchat mimics that behavior closer than any other social network, :

The way Snapchat works is much closer to how we communicate face to face than any other social network. What I mean by this is that: when we talk to each other, passing in the halls or just living out our lives, those moments disappear. Snapchat emulates that behavior and psychology.

Sidenote: The infamous ghost in Snapchat’s logo is named .

Snapchat 101: Everything you need to know about getting started with Snapchat

So we’ve covered a little about what Snapchat is, but how exactly does Snapchat work? Let’s dive into some of the main features, and frequently asked questions.

What’s a Snap?

Snap is the word used to describe disappearing photos and videos — the main functionality of the app. When you send a Snap to a friend, you can make it last anywhere between one to ten seconds and then once it’s been viewed, the Snap will disappear.

What’s a story?

A Story is a collection of Snaps played one after the other. , unlike Snaps sent to individual friends, can be viewed by anyone who follows you. Stories last up to 24 hours after being posted and people who follow you can re-watch stories as many times as they like.

Pro tip: When you’re watching a Snapchat story, you can reply to a particular photo or video by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.

Since their launch on Snapchat, the Stories format has taken the social media world by storm with Facebook rolling out and .

What are Memories?

With , you can now, for the first time, share photos and videos captured outside of Snapchat to your Story.

Memories enable Snapchat users to tell bigger stories that incorporate more than just in-the-moment photos and video. Instead of purely spontaneous content, Snapchat can now be used to share much more thoughtfully — similar to the approach you’d take with and , where the content you post doesn’t disappear.

How does chat work?

Snapchat also has a , to start a conversation with someone just swipe right on their name from your recent Snaps page. Like Snaps, Chat messages disappear once you’ve read them.

More than of users use the app’s chat function every day.

You can find out more about how Chat works in the below video:

Lenses and Filters

Whether you want to add an Instagram-style image filter or add a monocle or mustache to your selfie, Lenses and Filters are fantastic, and fun, ways enhance your Snaps.


, Lenses are a fun way to augment your snaps.

Lenses are usually funny or goofy animations that are overlaid on top of your selfie and .

Snapchat explains how Lenses work :

When you’re using the camera to take a selfie, just press and hold on your face to activate Lenses. You can play with Lenses before taking a Snap — just select one from the row at the bottom and follow the on-screen instructions!

Here’s an example Lens:

Sponsored Lenses

To achieve long-term success, any social network must figure out their monetization strategy.

Initially, Snapchat and a . However, for now, they seem to have settled on sponsored Lenses as their primary revenue stream.

Around a month after releasing Lenses, Snapchat in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox, who used the Lens to promote the release of The Peanuts Movie.

Since the first sponsored Lens, many brands have tested the water. One uber-successful example is Gatorade’s sponsored Super Bowl Lens which — that’s almost as many views as the game got live in TV ().

Snapchat these sponsorships for between $450,000 and $750,000 per day.


Much like other social networks, Snapchat allows you to to enhance your content with filters. To view the filters available to you swipe right after recording a video or taking a picture.

Pro tip: You can add multiple filters to an image by holding a finger on the screen once you have one filter selected and continuing to swipe.


Geofilters are unique overlays for Snaps that can only be accessed in certain locations. Here’s an example from Monterrey, Mexico:

Creating a geofilter

Anyone can submit their own geofilter, and Snapchat encourages artists and designers to use this these filters to bring their own style to the Snapchat community.

Here are Snapchat’s recommendations for geofilter submissions:

  • Filters must be submitted as a web-optimized, transparent PNG
  • Your PNG should have a width of 1080 pixels and a height of 1920 pixels
  • Your PNG must be under 300KB in size

Sponsored geofilters are currently being rolled out with a few and are working on launching a .

To learn more about Snapchat geofilters and how to submit your own, check out our guide:

On-Demand geofilters

Snapchat have now introduced a third type of geofilter. On-demand geofilters enable anyone to pay Snapchat have their own, unique geofilter available in a specific location for a set amount of time.

As :

The minimum size for these geofilters is 5,000 square feet (enough to cover an office building) and the minimum amount of time the geofilter can exist is 30 minutes. On the other side of the spectrum, users can spread their on-demand geofilters as far as 5,000,000 square feet.

The turnaround time for review is about a day, and pricing starts at $5.

This is hugely exciting and could open up a wealth of opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to use Snapchat as a marketing channel.

Imagine you run a restaurant, you could create a filter to celebrate a new dish and make it available in your town. Or a local cinema could run a geofilter for a new movie coming out. The possibilities here are endless.

Discover: Snapchat’s media destination

In January 2015, , “a new way to explore Stories from different editorial teams.”

Discover launched with 11 top media companies such as ESPN, The Bleacher Report, CNN and Vice. Discover put these brands in a prime position to grab the attention of Snapchat’s young audience.

Here’s how Discover works:

How to add friends

There are a number of ways to add friends on Snapchat. The first thing you need to do is tap the ghost icon displayed at the top of the camera screen and select the ‘Add Friends’ option.

From the ‘Add Friends’ screen you can add other accounts by Username, from your Address Book, by Snapcode or Nearby.

Add by Username

If you know the username of the account you’d like to add, just type their username in the ‘Add by Username’ field and then tap on the ‘+’ button to connect with them.

Add from Address Book

This option will enable you to search the contact on your phone to see who is already on Snapchat. From here, you can also send an SMS invite to anyone who isn’t currently on Snapchat.

Add by Snapcode

A Snapcode works just like a QR code and you can add friends by scanning their Snapcode using your smartphone. You can scan a Snapcode directly from someone else’s Snapchat app, or scan it from a photo you’ve received via email or IM.

To scan a photo that includes a Snapcode, you just have to tap on ‘Add Friends’ > ‘Add by Snapcode’ > ‘Photos.’

Add Nearby

Nearby is a location-based feature, enabling you to search and connect with other Snapchatters who are in the same area as you. Tap on ‘Add Friends’ > ‘Add Nearby’ and Snapchat will find nearby users.

Sharing your username

Snapchat has also released a way to share your username publically and allow people to connect with you.

To do this, tap on ‘Add Friends’ > ‘Share username.’ This will then generate a link for you that will look something like this . If you share this link with someone, they can then add you on Snapchat (this works really smoothly on mobile, on desktop your URL will link to a Snapchat download page).

Snapchat icon guide: What do the emojis next to friends mean?

If you check your Friends list on Snapchat, you may notice icons/emojis next to some of your contacts, for example, a 🌟 or a 😎.

Each of these emojis means something different, and they change over time based on how you interact with that friend. These emojis are private and will only ever be seen by anyone other than you.

Here’s a breakdown of :

  • Gold Star 🌟 — Someone has replayed this person’s snaps in the past 24 hours.
  • Yellow Heart 💛 — You are #1 best friends with each other. You send the most snaps to this person, and they send the most snaps to you.
  • Red Heart ❤️ — You have been #1 best friends with each other for two weeks straight.
  • Pink Hearts 💕 — You have been #1 best friends with each other for two months straight.
  • Baby 👶 — You just became friends with this person.
  • Face With Sunglasses 😎 — One of your best friends is one of their best friends. You send a lot of snaps to someone they also send a lot of snaps to.
  • Grimacing Face 😬 — Your #1 best friend is their #1 best friend. You send the most snaps to the same person that they do.
  • Smirking Face 😏 — You are one of their best friends …but they are not a best friend of yours. You don’t send them many snaps, but they send you a lot.
  • Smiling Face 😊 — Another best friend of yours. You send this person a lot of snaps. Not your #1 best friend but they are up there.
  • Fire 🔥 — You are on a Snapstreak! You have snapped this person every day, and they have snapped you back. Increases with the number of consecutive days.
  • Hundred 💯 — 100 Day Snapstreak. The 100 emoji appears next to the fire when you snap back and forth with someone for one hundred days in a row.

Verified account emojis

If a story is shared by a verified account (usually reserved for well-known public figures, major brands and celebrities), you’ll see a custom emoji next to their name, so you know they’re the real deal!

Emojis for official stories vary from person to person. For example, the basketball emoji 🏀 appears next to official NBA stories, Calvin Harris’ stories are accompanied by a tiger 🐅, and 🔑.

Over to you

I hope you found this post useful and discovered a few new Snapchat features and tricks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Snapchat. Do you actively use the app? Have you tried using it from a brand perspective? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?

Please feel free to add your thoughts and experiences, and I’m excited to jump in and join the conversation.

The full version of this blog post was first published on the on March 14, 2017 by Ashley Read.

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