How Snapchat impacts your audiences
Millennials like me have seen, experienced, and even contributed to the exponential technological changes over the past few decades. From VHS tapes and dial-up internet, to Gameboys and burning CDs for my crushes, to my first iPhone in high school and the MySpace page I didn’t tell my parents about-- I grew up alongside some of the most dramatic changes to the way humans engage with technology. My peers and I were among the first to adopt new gaming systems, mobile phones, and social networks. Our brains developed with video game controllers and smart phones in our hands. And consequently, it only takes us a short time to adopt new technology, and it takes us an even shorter amount of time to ditch the platforms, apps, and gadgets that aren’t worth our time (you can thank our abysmally short attention spans for that).
We had short love affairs with AIM, YouTube, and Tumblr, but Snapchat has proven to be one of the only hits that’s here to stay for millennial social media users. Snapchat came out when I was a senior in high school, and all of my friends and classmates quickly fell in love with the ability to send funny or embarrassing disappearing photos and videos-- the associated risk of sending a message was now much lower than on other platforms where your past words and images are preserved to haunt you for posterity.
Of course, this low-risk zone invited some people to use it for risque purposes (I won’t get into the sexting scandal among a group at my alma mater referred to as the “Sexy 6”... ) but anecdotally, my peers and I have used Snapchat for honest, decent, and generally comedic, communications. Throughout the evolution of the platform, the core use case of Snapchat for millennials remains friend-to-friend communication. We’re not getting our news from Snapchat (we have Twitter for that), and we’re certainly not carefully curating our content (that’s what Instagram is for). And despite the vast amounts of money brands pay for spots on the Discover page, I’d bet money that most of us only spend a tiny fraction of our time looking at the Discover feed. We’re spending the majority of time in our own Snapchat inboxes and looking at our friends’ stories. And of course, playing with the latest wacky filters.
Instagram may have introduced stories and disappearing direct messages, but without a doubt, millennials are staying on Snapchat. Instagram’s new functionalities are useful for viewing more candid content from our favorite creators, but our communications with friends will still be going down via Snapchat. While we’re there, we may occasionally interact with branded content, but only if it’s meaningful, useful, and/or particularly entertaining. So here we see my previous sentiment flipped on its head: when Snapchatting friend-to-friend, Snapchat is laid-back, hardly ever serious, and very unscripted, but when we’re considering following brands on Snapchat, we seem to generally opt for those creating well thought out and helpful content. Think tutorials, interviews with CEOs, comedy skits, and Q&As. My favorite brands on Snapchat, and the only two I follow are Everlane and MeUndies. I vibe with Everlane’s core value of radical transparency and enjoy their Transparency Tuesdays series in which they candidly answer questions about their products and processes. I follow MeUndies simply for their hilarious skits-- I don’t even own a pair of MeUndies, but I hear that they live up to the hype. If and when the day comes that I order myself a MeUndies subscription, they can thank their social media team because if it wasn’t for their Snapchat game, I would’ve written MeUndies off as just another trendy subscription service.
Brands looking to capture a millennial audience on Snapchat need to walk the fine line between candid and contrived. We want authentic and behind-the-scenes, but we don’t just want snaps of you packing orders and playing ping pong. Be thoughtful, amusing, and genuine, and our attention is yours.