Snapchat is a unique social media platform that relies on sharing experiences from around the world rather than building a “brand” with likes and followers. Snapchat is an app that gets the Internet. The Internet is about sharing experiences, not comments and likes. This Android & iOS app lets you share experiences with your friends. But more importantly, it curates snaps from all their users around the world and shares them with you!
Tutorials already exist online: Here, Here and Here. I mainly want to tell you why you should be using this app. And why I love it. I know that many of us old folks (over 30) think Snapchat is for teens about sexting. But that’s not true. It’s actually really great!
Unfortunately Snapchat got a bad rep in the beginning because teens used it to share nekkid pics. The initial idea of snapchat was that your pictures will self-destruct after a selected amount of time; from 1-10 seconds. But that novelty wore off and Snapchat knew exactly where they should go from there.
Before I get into details, you need to know that Snapchat Live Stories are one of the most amazing things on the Internet. Using the gps on your device, you can add your snaps (pics or video) to a Live Story near you. This can be anything from a city like New York, Dubai, Dublin, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, etc. Or an event like March Madness, Daytona 500, Election in the UK, NY Fashion Week, Dubai World Cup, etc. So then people who aren’t there, like me, can see this curated feed (curated by the Snapchat staff) of live pics and videos from the city or event. It is an incredible way to share an experience. And, like twitter, you have to be concise because you can only record 10 seconds of video.
Live Stories & Geo Tags
Snapchat uses location services on your smart device to let you add your snaps to a local Live Story. These Live Stories are actually curated by the Snapchat team. They pick the best ones and then these are shared with all Snapchat users. It is amazing! There have been Live Stories of major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Dubai, and others. There have been Live Stories of major events like the World Series, March Madness, UK Election, World Cup, and others. This is all based around your actual location. So you have to be there! You have to be at the event or in that city. It’s not a hashtag that anyone can use. Someone can’t spam into the Live Story with an unrelated photo or video. These are solely based on location. Plus, they are curated fairly well.
The Live Stories are an amazing way to really see, first-hand, other experiences around the world! And snaps are fairly mundane so it’s a really neat insight into just day-to-day life in other cities in other cultures. Then some aren’t mundane at all. Lots of people have backstage access to events and now we can see it. Unedited, 10-seconds worth. It’s pretty great.
Geo Tags are Snapchat provided embellishments that “tag” your photo/video with the location. There are thousands of these! There is a geo tag for almost every Manhattan neighborhood, for every borough, for special events, for hundreds of world cities. Even small towns have them. It adds a neat little bit of flair to your snaps. I love finding new ones.
After you have taken a photo or video, swipe to the right and you will see various filters including a clock, temperature, black and white, then also geo tags. Keep swiping to the right to cycle through them. Eventually you will get back to the beginning. You can also swipe with two fingers to use two filters at once (Android).
Here’s a collection from some of the Live Stories that were featured on Snapchat within the past 24-hours of writing this:
Live Stories are International cities or events that anyone can see. However, Local stories are events or neighborhoods that you can only see if you are also in that city. As long as location is enabled on your smart device, the nearest local story will pop up. For me, it’s New York City. Here are some samples of what you’ll see. If you have a problem with FOMO, this may trigger it. But I actually like seeing all the cool things that are happening in the city right now. Also, it’s neat that celebrities use it because it gives a good inside look. Remember, stories only last 24-hours. So everything you see in a story happened in the last day. Having such real-time social interaction is really cool.
Unfortunately, there is a learning curve to using it because there is not an actual tutorial within the app. It’s an elitist thing I think. Young whippersnappers think they’re smarter than us old folks because they can figure it out and we can’t.
The initial screen is a camera. On the left corner is flash toggle. The right is selfie toggle. The bottom left goes to your friends. And the bottom right goes to Stories.
Push the big button one time for a photo. Or hold it down to take an up-to-10-second video. Hit the X on the top left to delete and start over.
For video you now have four options. The bottom left will toggle sound for your video. Middle saves it to your gallery (your phone). Right will add it automatically to your story. Then far right will show your list of friends to send it to. You can also send it to your story or a local story through there too.
Snapchat is unique from the other social apps because it requires engagement. In order to view a photo or watch a video, your finger has to be on the screen at all times. As soon as your finger leaves the screen, the photo/video disappears. This is for everything! So while you’re watching these amazing stories from other cities, you are actively engaging your phone. You can’t just put it down and watch. This is great. It means you can’t multi-task. Amazing!
Also, it’s important to note that you can only post photos or videos that you just took. You cannot import from a gallery like on Instagram. So no later-snaps. They are all live. This means no photo editing! (or very little? maybe i just haven’t figured that out yet). But it doesn’t matter really because your photo will only be there for a short period of time. So stop photoshopping your double-chin and embrace the reality of you! See! Snapchat is for the inner beauty of all of us.
Videos can only be 10-seconds long maximum. This may seem pointless. But the beauty of it is you can string your 10-second videos together. And they are published in the order you take them. Because no post-production posting, remember? It’s all live. So you string several 10-second videos together and, like twitter, it really makes you think about being concise and efficient.
Adding Text & Emojis
One of my favorite things about snapchat is how easy it is to add captions or even drawings to your photos and video. I am not a video editor. And with snapchat I don’t have to be!
On your photo or video, tap the screen. A box will pop up for text. Type something. Then click the screen again. It will show up with a black bar behind it. Now at the top right click the T. This will change your text to a different type. Now, click on your text. And you will see color options! Pick a new color. Then click anywhere on the screen. Now… put your finger on the text and you can move it around. You can also use two fingers to make it bigger or smaller. Or turn it sideways.
Now, click on the pencil at the top right. Pick a color. Then use your finger to draw. Some people are very very creative with this! I am not one of them. But there are many times where I want to draw on a photo. Sounds silly but it’s really neat and fun.
You can also add emojis as text and add them to your photo in fun/goofy ways. Like when I put the top hat emoji on my cat. Or pretend he is eating a piece of pizza.
Different from Other Social Media
Snapchat is very different from Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. That is why it’s a bit harder to “get”. This is also why I love it. For starters, you cannot comment on someone’s snap. Though you can send them a message, either chat based or a snap. This will not be anonymous since it is linked to your username and/or phone number. Snapchat does allow you to block users, as well. You also can’t “like” snaps. Again, you have to take actual effort to send someone a message. In this way, posting on snapchat is a bit like broadcasting. It’s about engaging but in a different way. The sense of community is broader than on other platforms.
Snaps featured in the curated Stories are anonymous. As you view a story, usernames are not displayed. It’s not possible to start following someone this way. They would have to put their username on the snap (and then I doubt Snapchat will select it for the story). Also, your number of followers and number of times each snap is viewed is not public knowledge. You can see exactly who has watched your Story. You can also see if someone took a screenshot. But others can’t see this. So there is less of a need for the false community, where people will buy followers just to push up their numbers. You can see a user’s snapchat score if you are following them.
Your snapchat Score is the sum of the number of Snaps you have sent and received. It doesn’t have much to do with people viewing your Stories or following you. It’s about how often you use the app.
If you’re sharing a photo, on the bottom left you can choose your self-destruction time. 1-10 seconds. Videos will play the whole way through, up to 10 seconds. Once the person views it, they cannot view it again. Except! There is a chance to do one replay a day. Photos & videos in your stories are different. They are visible for 24-hours. Then they self-destruct.
Of course, at any time, someone can take a screenshot. Snapchat cannot prevent that. However! They do alert you when someone takes a screenshot of a particular photo or video. You can’t stop it from happening though.
I know the idea of self-destructing photos that aren’t sexy photos sounds weird. But, you know what, I don’t need one million photos of my cats saved to my camera. I will take one million photos of my cats. But I don’t need to see them again. Seriously.
Okay. The self-destruction thing is kind of one-way. It cannot be viewed by anyone on your list. But! It likely will be saved on the Snapchat servers. Just like your Facebook information isn’t deleted after you delete it. Etc. That’s how things work nowadays. Information is left on servers for a period of time. They can relinquish the data to authorities if it becomes necessary. So don’t get too hasty about this.