Technology / 11.14.17
Snapchat 101: The What, Why and How from Those Who Are Rocking It
Social media has had a huge impact on entertainment, especially when it comes to drawing crowds to live events. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all being used to build brands and interact with fans, but nothing has had the same impact as Snapchat. Why? The viral photo and video messaging app lets users take photos or record video then add text, drawings and/or geofilter overlays before sharing them with a controlled list of recipients. The twist: Those who receive these “Snaps” can only view them for a few seconds. Users who want to share their Snaps for a longer period of time can build stories that expire after 24 hours.
Launched in 2011 with little fanfare, Snapchat has since skyrocketed in popularity with over 3 billion Snaps daily, as reported by the company for Q1 2017. Snapchat’s attraction, especially among millennials and those who want to tap into this lucrative demographic, is its ability to connect with people “in the moment” and provide them with a different brand experience. It is quickly becoming a social media app of choice for artists, athletes and organizations that are trying to build a younger fan base.
To talk about Snapchat and how it is being used in entertainment, social media experts were enlisted for a panel discussion at the 2017 INTIX Annual Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans. Participants included Christina Pryor, manager of ticketing system administration at Opry Entertainment, Alex Restrepo, social media manager for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, and Riley Sheldon, marketing assistant for Tulane University Athletics. The discussion was moderated by Nick Begley, senior marketing manager for AudienceView.
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Nick opened the panel discussion by focusing on features that set Snapchat apart from other social media platforms and make it so incredibly popular with younger audiences.
“More than 60 percent of American 13-to 34-year-olds who are smartphone users are using Snapchat,” Nick says. “It’s a very elusive and highly desirable demographic, and this is where they’re playing. They’re not playing on Facebook like many of us are. That number (of users) is continuing to grow as more and more of those 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds are getting phones. The first app they’re downloading is Snapchat.”
Why is Snapchat so popular? Nick lists the following six reasons:
- It’s ephemeral. You’re left with a memory but no transcript. “Every conversation we have and everything that we go through in life doesn’t always have to leave a transcript behind,” he explains. “That is really popular with the younger generation, especially the 13-to-35-year-olds that are using it. Having images delete after you send them has changed what it means to take a picture. With Snapchat, a picture isn’t about saving a really important moment, it’s about communicating.”
- It starts with a camera. In fact, that’s the first thing you see when you open the Snapchat app. This compels users to create rather than consume content. “This one key decision has resulted in billions of daily Snaps. The first thing you think about is creating, and then you move on to consumption,” Nick explains.
- Vertical is the new horizontal. This is a “game-changer,” according to Nick. Snapchat users are viewing video in a portrait orientation on their phones, instead of the traditional landscape formats. “This has been a little more challenging for advertisers and sponsors,” he explains. “They are forced to create video ads vertically, which is a different mindset and a different approach. But again, that’s what makes the content unique, especially from an advertising standpoint. They have to shoot specifically for Snapchat.”
- Snapchat’s “instant expression” model is the opposite of Facebook’s “accumulation” model. This makes the experience a lot less stressful for the content creator because anything they share can only be viewed for an extremely limited time.
- It allows the user to be authentic. It’s you, it’s raw, it’s in the moment and everyone knows it.
- Privacy is precious. Nick again stresses that there is no transcript, which increases the user’s comfort level. Users can also choose their audience each and every time. “If you want to share a Snap publicly, you can. If you want to share it with one friend, if you want to share it with a group of friends, you can do that too. The idea behind it is that intimacy builds relationships.”
Unique stories for a unique platform
The Opry knew it couldn’t just copy what others were doing when it decided to use Snapchat. The team had to find a unique way to tell their stories, explains Christina.
“Pepsi was one of the highest-rated Snapchats that we looked at. They are doing fantastic things on their Snapchat. However, their brand is about selling a cola. Our brand is about selling a show, so our personality is not exactly going to match Pepsi’s personality. So, while we could get ideas from Pepsi, we really had to ask: Who are we? What can we do on Snapchat?”
For example, Christina says the Opry’s five-member social and digital media team is now using Snapchat for media announcements to reach people who don’t necessarily go to the Opry on a regular basis, but like the country lifestyle and watch the Country Music Association Awards and/or the Academy of Country Music Awards.
“We sent a Snap out asking, ‘Who would you like to be sitting next to at the awards show?’ This is a way for anyone on Snapchat to show their opinion and Snap it back to us. We got all kinds of Snaps back just for that.”
Garth Brooks has been quoted as saying, “No offense at all to the people sitting in the seats, but the real show is backstage. That’s the Opry.”
With that in mind, Christina says, artist takeovers of the Opry’s Snapchat account are among the most popular and effective.
“You get to see these artists being themselves and showing their own personalities in a way that their publicists aren’t regulating. And it’s not just the younger artists that want to do it; it’s some of the older artists who have been around for a while, like Reba and Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton loves Snapchat takeovers,” Christina explains. “Snapchat is definitely growing because that’s the demographic artists want to break into. That’s your tweens and your teens that some of these older artists might not be as well known around, so they want to show what they are capable of doing. They want to learn Snapchat so they can get new fans in that younger demographic.”
As for concerns from publicists, Christina echoes Nick’s thoughts on Snapchat being so ephemeral ― “if they don’t like something, it will be gone in 24 hours.”
Athletes love takeovers too
Alex is also a big fan of Snapchat takeovers and feels they are one of the most effective uses of the app. He shared an example of a time when Saints’ defensive end Cam Jordan took over the account at the Pro Bowl.
“I noticed that got a lot more response than when we were doing it,” says Alex. “I think it’s because you see a side of Cam you normally wouldn’t see. You hear his voice; you see his mannerisms. He was treating the account like it was his own account. He’s a very nice guy and he uses the platform himself. Any chance you have to peel back the curtain, show more of their personality and create the one-on-one connection, I think that’s key. This is so authentic, where it still has that feel like texting a friend or texting a relative where it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a message from Drew to me.’ The player is really talking to our whole audience on Snapchat, but it feels like he’s just talking to me because it’s not this big page or big boosted commercial. It’s this raw, authentic video.”
Fans of college athletics like to get up front and personal with Snapchat too.
“Every game day we like to film our athletes warming up pre-game and then we capture exciting moments during competition,” says Riley of Tulane University Athletics. “We have a tradition after a win ― our team lines up at center court and faces our fans. We go through our hullabaloo cheer. During that cheer, our student athletes really get into it and our fans love it. After the cheer is over, our band plays second line music and leads our team off the floor, back into the arena and we ring our victory bell. That’s something that really resonates with our fans. We try to keep that consistent every game because it is something that people recognize. Overall, we try and give our followers on Snapchat that behind-the-scenes access and walk them through game day from start to finish. Those fans that want to follow us but may not be able to attend the event in person, they get to experience game day from their phone.”
Athlete takeovers are also popular on campus, both with the fans and the athletes themselves.
“We had a prominent student athlete in our office,” recalls Riley. “One of the things he said as he was getting ready to leave is that if we ever want to do a student athlete takeover, he’d love to do it. Whenever we try to film our athletes for whatever reason, they are really receptive and we’ve never had any pushback. Our fans love to see what our athletes are up to when they're not competing.”
From simple messaging app to crowd pleaser
When Snapchat first started, Alex looked at it as just another messaging app.
“I didn’t get it,” he says. “I thought it was just for texting your friends. Then one of my friends who is really social online told me to try it out. I downloaded it and realized that a third of my contacts were using it. So obviously it’s working for some people. I realized how instant it is, how you can send a video, send a picture without wasting your data or wasting space on your phone, and use filters.”
Then, along came Spectacles. The camera-equipped sunglasses, Snap’s first hardware offering, are ideal for sporting events.
“It has dramatically helped by giving fans a different, first-person point of view.” Alex explains. “For example, we had Anthony Davis dunk a basket with them on and we had Drew Brees throw a pass at practice, so fans had that vision. The players like them, so we give them Spectacles, and in 10 seconds, it’s done. Also, on game day, we can do a story, like Saints versus Cowboys. Snapchat will do a major story where they collect our Snaps and fan Snaps, so it gives a great collection of the theme of how the day is going at the event too.”
Tapping into a passion — one fan at a time
While Alex feels Snapchat remains behind other social media platforms in terms of total audience size, he recognizes that Snapchat attracts a younger audience. “On the Pelicans side, we’re trying to showcase our content to a younger audience for them to start to become fans of the team. Snapchat’s younger audience demographic can help us reach that target group.”
More to the point, Alex says that of all social media, Snapchat seems to have the most passionate fans and that is working in their favor.
“As an example, we have 4 million followers on our Saints Facebook page, but if a paid post gets really, really good, at most, it will get 1 million engagements, so we only get a fourth of our audience. The number looks really good, but in reality, it’s not as authentic as it seems. With Snapchat, we have 90,000 followers, but we’ll get anywhere from 45,000 to 55,000 people engaged with a single Snap. So, we get half of our audience without putting money behind it.”
Alex also likes the fact that Snapchat isn’t into the bravado of Facebook and other social media platforms, which focus on having the highest number of followers.
“They’re into showing appreciation and engaging true fans. These are the people that matter and pay attention to your content. I think it’s more important to see how many people are opening our Snaps instead of how many followers we have. Yes, we have 4 million Facebook followers but only a million at best will see what we do unless we put money behind it. I like Snapchat’s approach better,” Alex says.
Alex recommends that a significant established presence on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram helps teams and organizations use Snapchat more effectively. “You need those other platforms to promote your Snapchat account,” he says. “It’s hard to promote it without any other platform.”
Engaging fans year-round
Of course, in sports, there are off seasons, which poses a different challenge for the Saints and Pelicans as they strive to maintain interest when they’re not playing.
“Our boss is heavy on producing content and giving fans a reason to think about us all year,” notes Alex. “We’ll do things like a scavenger hunt in a popular area and we’ll Snap where we are, then leave a signed photo or a signed hat. The only issue with it is that you are limiting the audience of people who can win it to people in New Orleans, so some fans get upset.
“We’ve had Q&As or Doodle contests and a player will pick their favorite. We know game days are a focus during the season, but we still want to find different ways to engage and grow our audience in the off-season. A large part of that are contests and events. We have an off-season program, like community events, so there is still a lot going on. As important as game day is, we still find ways to engage our fans in the off-season and build our audience during that slower time.”
When it comes to reaching students, Riley says Snapchat is his favorite app.
“We find that Snapchat and Instagram are the two best mediums to reach our student body. Facebook is the medium that we use to reach our older fans, but I think that within the next few years, Snapchat will certainly become our biggest following among our student body.”
Perfect tool for promoting upcoming events
Tulane’s social media team uses Snapchat heavily to promote upcoming events, for example, by giving away free t-shirts at women’s basketball games.
“They are geared toward the student body and we have been utilizing Snapchat to promote these t-shirts. We take a picture of the giveaway item and use text on that item, then say come get one of these at a specific game before they are gone. It’s been effective because students give us feedback and say they saw it on our Snapchat. We also see that people are screenshotting the image of the giveaway item presumably to send it around and show their friends, to say ‘look what Tulane is giving away at this game, we should go!’ We use Snapchat a lot in that respect, and we also film our student athletes. Our student athletics will give a shout out and say we’d love to see you at our women’s basketball game, come out and join us! We definitely utilize Snapchat a lot to promote upcoming events.”
Geo-filters a big hit
While Spectacles have drawn applause from those who can get their hands on the in-demand hardware, Riley remains focused on the app’s software features.
“I’m a big fan of the geofilters,” he says. “It gives our students and our fans an opportunity to record their time at our events. Geofilters put a timestamp on an image, so I’m a big fan of that. I also like how they are now doing stickers on Snapchat and the fact that you can use emojis too. When we are trying to target our student body, the use of emojis and fun stickers to spice up our pictures and our Snaps are a great feature for us. I would say the geofilters and just the stickers and emojis are great tools and my favorites.”
The ability to add a customizable geofilter to a photo is one of Christina’s favorite Snapchat features too.
“We have a geofilter of the Opry for our venue and we do geofilters for special shows, like the Opry goes pink, the plaza parties and our Opry birthday weekend in October. Geofilters give fans a specialized experience,” she explains.
INTIX thanks Nick Begley, Christina Pryor, Alex Restrepo and Riley Sheldon for sharing their experiences at our 2017 conference. Members with questions can reach Nick (email@example.com), Christina (firstname.lastname@example.org), Alex (email@example.com) and Riley (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly via email.
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Tags: INTIX 2017 , Social Media , Snapchat