If you downloaded Snapchat when it first debuted on the social media scene in 2011, you likely “snapped” a few pictures of yourself or your friends, used the platform’s drawing features to doodle on your pictures, posted those pictures for your handful of followers to see and then, after exhausting your doodling capabilities, deleted the app a few weeks later.
At least, that was my experience.
But five years and 100 million daily active users later, turns out Snapchat isn’t just for selfie-snapping teens and a handful of doodling adults anymore. In fact, as of June 2015, 39% of Snapchat users were 25 to 44 years old.
Whether you’re building your personal brand , looking for creative ways to market an organization, or just plain ol’ curious about the intriguing social media platform, suffice it to say: Snapchat of 2011 is not the Snapchat of 2016.
Ready to take it for a spin? Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Who Uses It?
While the majority of users are still females in their teens and early 20s , they’re not the only snap-happy group.
A new and growing demographic? Mothers who are using the platform to share pictures of their kids. As mom of four, Rachel Kincaid, said in an article published in NYMag , “I held off for the longest [time], and now I’m utterly confused but I mean, I see some serious potential.”
In the past few years, many brands have also joined, embracing the nugget-sized content and playful attitude native to the platform. As Jeff Beer reports for Fast Company , businesses like Taco Bell, GrubHub, and GE have joined Snapchat, using the platform to create fun, creative content for its followers.
How Does it Work?
Here are the highlights:
- Snapchat’s a photo and video-sharing platform that allows you to take a picture or a video, draw and add captions to your heart’s content, and share your content with your followers.
- The “snap,” as they call it, stays unopened until your followers sign into Snapchat and open it. (The way it surfaces content is unlike Twitter or Facebook where, if you don’t sign in for a few days, you can still catch up on what your friends tweeted and posted.)
- Once a snap’s opened, it’s only available for one to 10 seconds—you determine the time of availability within this range—before it disappears from your followers’ feed. Although, as we discovered during the unforgettable sexting scandal headlines , nothing ever really disappears on the internet, so be wary of what you share.
- If you want to chat with a friend one-on-one (rather than just send pictures), Snapchat offers a chat and video chat function. The function is similar to texting, and the video chat looks like FaceTime. You can save any pieces of the conversation you’d like by tapping on it—once you exit the chat, Snapchat deletes the rest.
- Snapchat also has a newish feature called “Stories,” that, according to the platform, allows you to “string Snaps together to create a narrative that lasts for 24 hours.” Think of it like a “Day in Review.”
- Snapchat is rolling out a “Discover” feature as well, which highlights content from a variety of media organizations, including Vice, BuzzFeed, CNN, National Geographic, and ESPN. And, unlike one-to-one snaps, which disappear after you open them, content posted by media organizations within this unique channel doesn’t disappear.
If you want a full Snapshot tutorial, screenshots and all, Maya Kosoff has created the ultimate guide .
What Do People Share?
At its core, Snapchat is a fun, playful platform. More recently, it’s made strides in the brand-building career sector. Still, if you join, be prepared to see tons of selfies and picture doodling along with inspiring professional development ideas including:
- Behind-the-scenes pictures and videos
- Mini tutorials
- Q & A sessions
- Snippets of live and taped interviews
- A mix of inspirational and funny quotes
- Product demos
- Coupons and giveaways
How You Can Use It
If you’re looking for a job or building your personal brand and want to figure out how to make Snapchat work for you, here are four suggestions to get you started:
1. Seek Out Potential Employers
Take a look at your list of dream jobs, and find companies on the platform that are doing interesting things. Pay attention to the content they’re posting and how they’re engaging with followers via this exciting social media tool. You may be able to incorporate examples of how an organization is using the platform (e.g., “I was impressed with how you debuted your spring collection on Snapchat”) in your cover letter or interview, positioning you as a social media-savvy candidate.
2. Give a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Your Life
While you want to keep the content playful—otherwise, it’ll stick out like a sore (boring) thumb—you can still focus on showcasing the skills and expertise you want to be known for. For example, if you’re looking for a job as an event planner, you could use the “stories” feature to create a tale documenting how you’re preparing for an upcoming event. This’ll be a heck of a lot more interesting that writing a few lines about it in an email.
3. Turn Your Resume into a “Story”
This advice won’t work for every job you apply to (or even a handful). You’ve got to really know your audience before you ditch the old paper application in favor of a creative hire-me campaign, but it’s worth considering depending on the company and position. To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, check out a Snapchat resume example created by Elski Felson.
4. Follow Media Feeds
Think of what organizations and companies can help you on your career path, and begin building your Snapchat stream. Check out the “Discover” section on the social media platform to get started. From a long list of media organizations (posting full articles, videos, and photos) under this heading, you can choose which ones interest you and begin following. Keep in mind that while you might find great content on these channels, they don’t necessarily demonstrate how the majority of brands are using the app.
A reminder before you jump in: You do not need to be on every social media platform to successfully grow your personal brand, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what’s trending to stay relevant. If Snapchat works for you, awesome—happy snapping. But, if it doesn’t, and you gave it a fair shot, stick with the social media platforms that work for you. You can always try again in 2021.