Snapchat for Journalists

Snapchat_slateAs of June 2016, Snapchat users are creating roughly 10 billion videos a day, (according to Snapchat’s information) and they’ve passed Twitter as the number two social media channel (via more active daily users). If you’ve not dived into Snapchat yet, it’s time to take it more seriously.

You’re Not Too Old!
I recently read an article that said Snapchat was designed to confuse anyone over the age of 35, well it worked. I’m 35, and it’s taken me a few years to “get it.” With the help of colleagues and some of my journalism students, I finally feel I have a good handle on it. It’s advanced texting, which these days is almost all social media.

Fresh Eyes!
First up, forget everything you know about other social networks. The reason Snapchat confuses people is we want to compare it to other social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Snapchat is designed to manipulate the swiping features of a mobile device.

Username and Screen nameMy Snapchat
When you sign up you need to decide a display name and a username. The username can not change once you’ve decided on it, but you can change your display name as often as you like.

Location, Location!
Next, you need to decide about sharing your location. Personally, I don’t like doing using location on any social network. In this case, you’ll lose access to some filters if you don’t (but not all of them).

Call Me Maybe?
You also will need to associate a cell phone number with it so they can verify you’re you. Finish setting up the account and verification and then resume.

Now we can finally get down to business. When you launch Snapchat, you’re taken to the capture screen where you can snap a still or a video. The longest video can go 15 seconds, but if you’re creating a story, you can build on to that. More on stories in a moment.

Swipe it!
Remember the app takes full advantage of all the swiping you can do on a device. So swipe right, and you can launch a chat with someone., swipe left and you’re back to the capture screen. Swipe left again, and you’re on the My Stories, Discover and Live Video section.

Now before we get too much more into the swiping one thing that confused me was the reminder to always swipe back to where you started from. If you swipe right, you’ll need to swipe left to go back to the main screen, the one where you capture video or stills. Same if you swipe up, down, left or right. Anytime you get confused as to how to “get back” just swipe in one direction or another or quit the app and come back and you can start over.

When you swipe down, it brings us to our account profile which is our username, screen name, finding friends and account settings.

Of course, there is that big yellow ghost in the center. If you share that image, it works as a QR Code for other users to connect with you more easily. They can use it to follow you by uploading it or scanning it from their mobile device. You can even add a little Gif of yourself within the ghost (or anything you can record) or leave it blank.

Story Time!
If you’re a journalist or any storyteller, my advice would be to use Snapchat’s Stories feature. You can find stories by swiping left from the capture screen.

Each snap you capture can be added to your story for 24 hours. You can continuously add more media to your story, and it builds like a timeline, but the media expires after 24 hours from when it was uploaded. If you record a video, that video can be only 15 seconds long, but then you can add another 15-second video to it, or a still image. Just keep building a timeline to your story. You can swap back and forth from video to images or just one of each. This action is where the storytelling power lives within Snapchat, and also what makes it so popular.

As you go through your stories feed, you can tap on a friend to see their story, watch it play out or tap to advance it. If you double tap, you’ll go to the next story from the next friend in your feed. If you swipe down, you’ll go back to the stories page.

In this same section of the app, you can look at your stories, the stories of people you follow or you can dive into Discover.

Discover is a place where top publishers will post longer formatted stories. If you swipe up while in the Stories section, you also be able to see a “live” section.

To go back to the capture screen by tapping the upper left-hand corner purpose camera, or by swiping right.

Go Vertical
The beauty of Snapchat is the use of the camera vertically. Most videos or photos look silly on other social networks when used vertically, but that’s the only choice on Snapchat.

In the upper right-hand corner, you can choose which camera to use, facing you or away. You can also select this by double tapping in the center of the capture screen.

To capture a still image just tap the big circle as you would for any photo on your phone.

To record video, hold down the big circle and watch the 15 seconds speed by as you record your video.

Whether it’s a video or a still, once you’ve to capture it, you can add text, emojis, or filters by tapping on your face before taking a picture, then take the picture with the filter on.

On the lower left-hand corner, you have three choices, share in a chat with a friend, download the image or video or send it to My Stories.

Building Stories
For most journalists or storytellers, adding it to “my stories” is going to be your best tool. Once you’ve started to add media to your stories, you can now build off of the timeline and add more video or stills. There is even an option to go back to “my stories” and delete anything you don’t want or even download it.

There are certainly more features than I had time to cover (like chatting with friends and going deeper into Discover). Leave your questions in the comments or snap them to me and I’ll pull them together for a follow-up story. Again, don’t go into thinking about Snapchat by comparing it to other social networks, it’s own beast and it thrives on utilizing all the swipe action.

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