For a long time, I hated Snapchat. Most days, I still do. I reluctantly tap the red square next to a name, only to find another double-chinned selfie.
I click on “stories” only to watch 110 seconds of someone eating brunch. We get it, you love bottomless mimosas. Who doesn’t?!
I hated Snapchat because it often validated poorly executed content.
It’s a quick consumption platform where we hear the low-quality phone audio of a live concert, or see pictures that weren’t worthy of a perfectly crafted Instagram filter.
I’m guilty too—most of my Snapchat stories consist of doodles drawn on my dog. Seeing so many hastily made Snapchats drove me crazy. But, then I realized, that’s the point.
In the very first Snapchat blog post written in 2012, co-founder Evan Spiegel makes a compelling statement:
Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion — not just what appears to be pretty or perfect. … We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.
This premise changed my perspective on Snapchat, and I began to realize what an amazing tool it can be. The biggest win for Snapchat is that it challenges users to make something interesting and tell a story in a limited time frame. My dislike turned into appreciation when I saw people (and brands) bring the creativity I craved. Flash forward to 2015, and Snapchat is on its way to becoming a media juggernaut.
The Winning Formula
The first brand I followed on Snapchat was Taco Bell. What I love about Taco Bell (aside from chalupas) is its ability to find creative ways to connect with its audience. When announcing new products, Taco Bell often asks users to screenshot Snapchats and add their own doodles. For example, when Taco Bell launched a new breakfast item, it created a screenshot voting system and then carried out the storyline the next day. It’s easy to participate and fun to see it all play out. With minimal effort, you’re instantly part of a bigger narrative.
Another interesting strategy comes from Burberry. The luxury brand gave Snapchat users a behind the scenes look at its spring/summer 2016 collection, a day before it hit the runway. I find it particularly intriguing that a highbrow fashion brand now embraces the unpolished quality of Snapchat.
For a tomboy who can’t function in heels, high fashion always felt very unattainable to me. Seeing a brand I typically associate with refined preppiness mixing it up on a medium that’s a bit gritty gave me a newfound respect for Burberry. The raw content felt much more real and accessible than the airbrushed world of print ads.
When we take a step back from brands and view them from a user’s perspective, the fundamental reasons to use Snapchat are:
- It’s fun and lighthearted. Think doodles, Geofilters, and Lenses.
- It takes you behind the scenes in a way that makes you feel like you’re in on a secret.
- It’s a quick way to share part of your day.
Successful brands keep this criteria in mind and make Snapchat feel natural, imaginative, and interesting. Although Taco Bell and Burberry are complete opposites, they each fearlessly explore new territory. And it seems to pay off in a big way.
A Show Of App-reciation
While Snapchat and I had a rocky start, I’ve come to recognize its creative potential for storytelling, and I commend its call for a more honest representation of our lives. In a time when we obsessively manage our digital personas, Snapchat forces us to lighten up and keep it real.
With the exception of a few filters, Snapchat can provide an authentic look into the human experience. On any given day, there is a real-time “Our Story” that showcases Snapchats from cities around the world such as Mumbai, Tel Aviv, and even my hometown, Portland, Ore. It’s a window into the lives of others and a chance to see firsthand that we are more alike than different.
Snapchat forces us to live in the moment, however exciting or boring that moment is. It gives us the ability to tell our stories without the pressure of perfection. And it can even remind us that we don’t need to take life—digital or physical—so seriously. Snaps to that.
Kelsey Wilkins is a senior writer at Swift.