For a while now, I’ve been trying to understand Snapchat. Not just how to work the app technically, but also what makes it so popular. Why do people (Millennials) love it so much? And through my process of discovery, I began loving it myself. In the past there were times when I’d wish someone would explain the ethos of the app to me. Now that I’m starting to grasp it, I thought I’d share it with those that are in the dark like I was.
More Than Narcissism —
On the surface, Snapchat seems very narcissistic. Why would I broadcast myself so much? And especially why on that platform where I can’t edit it and it disappears anyway? I thought of Snapchat as a megaphone for self-absorbed people. My mistake was not realizing that as humans, we are all self-absorbed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But Snapchat turns out to be more. It is a window into your life that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Snapchat is real life. The value it brings is authenticity. The sort of authenticity that is hard to find on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram where everything is edited and polished.
Snapchat’s core value is real face-to-face authenticity.
It is hard to see that value from the outside. And for those of us over the hill, it’s hard to develop the habits and mannerisms (selfies and 10 second videos) required to engage inside the app.
It feels foreign and weird and the interface only amplifies those traits. The app opens as a camera rather than a content stream, encouraging you to engage immediately. Taking a selfie video is literally like talking to yourself in the mirror out loud. It’s a tough adjustment to make — talking to your audience when all you see is you.
From Consumption to Creation —
Since it was too intimidating initially to create content, I began by consuming content. At first I watched my own friends’ stories. Then I began following more public accounts. Here are my favorites —
DJ Khaled — djkhaled305 — This guy epitomizes the ethos of the app. He puts out quality content daily, including snapping meetings with famous people, snapping from the stage whether he is the DJ or the keynote speaker, and even snapping while he exercises on an elliptical fittingly dubbed “elliptical talk”. If you don’t know who he is, here is a primer:
Gary Vaynerchuk —garyvee — Gary is the reason I got into Snapchat in the first place. He convinced me that the platform would become a crucial marketing hub in the next few years. Gary snaps a lot from airports and you really get a better sense of his hustle mentality. He also wrote the definitive guide to Snapchat’s history:
The Snap Generation: A Guide to Snapchat’s History
Just a little over four years ago, Snapchat was supposedly just an idea that founder Evan Spiegel and friends had while…
Mike Vacanti —mikevacanti — Gary’s personal trainer and fitness guru. He is fun to follow because he is obsessed with living and eating healthy and you can learn a lot by watching the guy.
Ebony Kenney —ebony_kenney — A model and professional poker player, who also happens to be a friend of mine. Her stories are usually positive and uplifting. She is not shy about sharing her life including her love for her family, her dedication to health and fitness, and even behind the scenes of her photo shoots.
Ebony Kenney, official website
Welcome to the official website of professional poker player, TV host, model and actress Ebony Kenney.
Wayne Collie — kountry_wayne — This guy is super funny. I’ve been following him for a while on Facebook and I think he is just getting started on Snapchat. I look forward to seeing more of his content.
If you want to surround yourself with the people you admire, and they are hard to reach, Snapchat is as close as it gets.
Keep in mind that you also have friends that already use Snapchat. If these celebrities don’t entice you, watch your own network to get the hang of it.
The Default Camera —
Once I started using Snapchat as a camera, I never went back to the iPhone or even Instagram camera. Snapchat is unique because it allows you to write, draw, filter, and annotate your photos and videos on the go. The utility is too good to pass up especially since you can save your content and post it to Instagram and Facebook anyway.
The funny thing is that it’s a one-way street. You cannot import Facebook and Instagram content into Snapchat stories directly, so Snapchat becomes your default content source.
As a camera with an integrated editing tool, it offers a lot of room to get creative.
It helps that they keep adding cutting edge features. You’ve probably seen their facial recognition software that imposes 3D imagery over people’s faces. They recently began offering advertisers their own 3D imagery that integrates with the content the users create.
Brands will soon line up in droves to be featured in this content because it is the closest that virtual can get to literal. I can almost taste those Skittles!
The Liberating Feeling of Forgetability —
As I began to create more content I noticed something unfamiliar but comforting. Everything I posted was gone in 24 hours!
The knowledge that it would disappear removed my apprehension about posting more often. It was liberating. It mimicked real life in that the moments came and went. Thus, my content became more authentic. I became more authentic. Imperfection no longer mattered because it was temporary, like memories. And like memories, the best ones could be saved.
The Evolution of Media —
If you examine the history of media, you will notice that it is evolving quickly. Only 200 years ago writing was the only way to communicate through long distances of space and time. Then radio allowed for audio communication which revealed nuances in tone. Then television allowed us to see the nuances in body language. But it was all still contrived. It was scripted and planned. Then reality shows emerged where even more authenticity was offered and consumed. Now, Snapchat is the natural next step, whereby the content is as easily discarded as it is consumed, making it more natural and authentic as a result.
It is the closest thing to how humans communicate face-to-face. You could argue that Facetime, Periscope, and Meerkat are closer, but those are like phone calls in a world where everyone prefers text messages.
The Authenticity Revolution —
This shift towards authenticity will only expand. Just take a look at the massive support from young people for the 2 most unlikely presidential candidates: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Whether you like them or not, you know they are who they say they are, and not some contrived version of themselves. That authenticity is their appeal.
Imagine Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio putting out content, real unedited, unrehearsed content, on a daily basis on Snapchat. Would they dare? It’s hard to imagine because we don’t know the real them. It’s not hard to imagine Bernie or the Donald though.
Snapchat is teaching kids how to see through the fake bullshit and the fake people. It is delivering authenticity at scale. It is ushering an authenticity revolution where the real wins and the fake loses. That is a future we can all look forward to, and that future is here.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Please add me on Snapchat!