Have you heard of SnapChat?

In 2011, a Stanford University junior and his buddy were trying to figure out how to send pictures to girls which would disappear shortly after they were viewed. (I’ll leave the types of pictures to your imagination. They probably weren’t screen grabs of the night’s homework.) From the humble beginning user count (127 in July 2011) to now, Pictaboo became Snapchat and now has 100 million daily users. (Learn more about Snapchat’s history here.)

I am one of the 100 million and I am scrambling to figure it out!

WHY should I figure out Snapchat?

Why am I scrambling to figure Snapchat out? I have several reasons.

  1. Brands are increasing their presence on Snapchat. As an influencer, I want to be able to demonstrate to a brand that I am proficient (and trust me, I’m hardly proficient yet!)
  2. I work for Weaving Influence, and we help authors grow their online influence. I’m not sure how many of our authors are going to be a demographic “fit” for Snapchat but if one of them is, I don’t want us to be in the position of saying, “yeah, we don’t really know much about Snapchat”
  3. I have teenagers! I like seeing what is going on in their lives! I don’t know if there is any academic research about this, but I am positive there is a correlation between adults being open to learning new applications and teenagers being on those applications. Although she wasn’t personally pictured, I felt like I was experiencing my daughter’s Disney College Program service celebration virtually real time through the DisneyHousing Snapchat account!
  4. It’s fun! Many of my friends compare it to “old Twitter” (when people used to actually interact with one another and find deeper connections). I’m not sure that’s the right definition for me, but where else can I spew a rainbow out of my mouth just for the heck of it?

HOW Do I Figure Out Snapchat?

Now that we’ve discussed the why, let’s talk about the how.

I can tell you that I am in no way equipped to do a thorough 101 on Snapchat (but I have found some great resources!). If you want the 101, I recommend Snapchat for Influencers from MomSpark and Lynda.com’s Snapchat Tutorials. Note: both resources charge a fee. It is a sign of how hard Snapchat has been that I have been willing to cough up cash to figure it out. In the meantime, here are a few lessons I have managed to learn! For the ones I learned from other Snapchat users, those users get shoutouts:

Navigation. Honestly, my navigation strategy is swipe furiously up, down, left, and right until I get to where I want to be. This is pretty much the least logical interface I have ever used. Practice makes perfect though, and I am getting better at ending up where I want to be.

How to record a voice snap. I learned this one from Austin Iuliano, who sent me a snap after I had added him following #ChatSnap, a weekly twitter chat for Snapchat fans held every Wednesday at 2 pm ET. He explained how to leave a voice snap (you hold down the phone icon and talk … it’s that easy!). Once I knew, I was able to teach others.


How to change the length of time your snap stays on screen. My friend Neil (thetk42one on Snapchat) said, “your snaps don’t stay up very long.” I had not taken the time to figure out how to change that, so he sent me a tutorial (in pictures). Now everyone has ten awesome seconds to see my incredible snapchat creations!

That Snapchat metes out replays sparingly. This one I learned from my daughter, who explained you only get a limited number of replays (darn it!).

That there’s a difference between sending an image to your story and sending it to an individual. this lesson came courtesy of SnapChat ninja Laura, who sent a message saying “You’re great but I don’t need to see your images every. single. time.” Message received! (And we’ve had QUITE A FEW LAUGHS about many Snapchat-related incidents.) I still can’t figure out why someone would WANT to go to my story … guess I just have to keep working on making them compelling!

How to use filters, how to follow others, and many other lessons. My Type-A parent community especially understands that “bite sized is best” when it comes to learning Snapchat. Their Old Farts Guide to Snapchat is a) useful and b) contains links to some really fun snapchatters!

BUT, Honestly, What Are the Bad Parts?

It’s hard on the middle-aged memory. Since snaps disappear after a certain amount of time, the process strains the already-addled brain. I have had more than one occasion where I received a witty response ……. to a snap I couldn’t remember at all.

For brands, it’s difficult to track ROI-related metrics. Not that it’s easy to track ROI via other channels, but with Snapchat it’s even more of a mystery. This article explores Snapchat’s difficulty measuring “the core metrics necessary to prove success.”

It can be distracting. Just ask Kourtney Kardashian, who was pulled over by law enforcement mid-snap. (Obviously a choice she made, just saying it’s yet one more distraction!).

Snapping Up Some Conclusions

The community around Snapchat is the most generous community I’ve run across recently in their willingness to help a newbie learn. And they don’t wait to ask what you need to know. (Or heck maybe I’m just giving off an utterly clueless vibe!).

In the context of my work with Weaving Influence, it is imperative that an organization which prides itself on helping authors navigate the online world be “up” on apps which are becoming more prominent. I am betting the other brands who are doing the same will benefit from their choice.

Now, about the “fully clothed reference” in the title. You may wonder why I say that. Here’s why. A while back, I got a message from Laura (the leading lady in my Snapchat education journey) with this message: “UMMM……”

Her  message was in response to this lovely image which was in my “story” and a direct message to her (because this was before she cut me off from that dual story/message approach):

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I had no recollection of taking this picture or of sending it to my story OR to my friend. (I do actually know what it is … it’s the view from my dining room table of the light fixture above, which I apparently immortalized during some of my frantic swiping across the screen trying to figure out how to navigate Snapchat.)

That’s why I say, if you are one of the approximately 75% of Americans who take their smartphones to the bathroom with them you might want to save your Snapchat experimentation for another time.

Otherwise, you might inadvertently send your own personal image right down the toilet.