Snapchat: The Next Big Thing for Photographers (Part 1)

Snapchat: The Next Big Thing for Photographers (Part 1)

Since the birth of social media, almost every business, public figure, and of course, creative, like us, are discovering new, interesting ways to engage with their following to portray value. In our industry, engagement and creativity in garnering it is very essential because of the abundance of noise and content that exists in the social media world. By constantly looking for new ways to engage with their fans and projecting value to clientele, there are always innovative ways to fill the gap. With that being said, there’s a new kid on the block and its name is Snapchat. 

So, Why Snapchat?

Yes, I know; I hear you. You could find yourself asking: “Snapchat? Isn’t that the app all the teenagers are using these days?” To answer briefly, yes, but it's now more than just teenagers. Influential people like John Mayer, Jimmy Fallon, Arnold Schwarzenegger and popular brands such as Nike, Amazon, and H&M have taken over the Snapchat stratosphere. Even The White House is in on it! I will explain why Snapchat is a force to be reckoned with in the social media age we live in today.

Snapchat: Personality, Relationships, and Communication

There are many reasons why Snapchat can be useful for you. It allows you to engage with your audience at a personal level; with that, you organically build a relationship with your following, 10 seconds at a time. You are able to send videos and photos directly to other users or to your "story" that all your fans can view. Snapchat does not display the amount of followers; therefore, it’s not exactly how many followers you have that matters, but rather, how effectively you communicate with them!

As Benjamin Von Wong notes:

Snapchat opens up the possibility of real, unfiltered interaction with people of all genres – famous, ordinary and purely entertaining. While Instagram and Facebook might update once a day, true Snapchat users update over 20 times a day, giving you real insights into who they are and what their day looks like.

Snapchat: Modern Day Storytelling

Twitter is where you may share your thoughts. Instagram is where you share your photos that are considered "worthy." Facebook is where you share life events. Snapchat fills the gap with daily, spontaneous communication between users that doesn’t quite fit with other social media platforms.

It’s unfiltered, unedited, real, and shared in realtime. It makes up with the content where it lacks in actual photo/video quality. It allows you to illustrate a story through everyday life, giving you an authentic behind the scenes look at a user's daily life. According to a Forbes report, 43% of millenials favor authenticity over general content. With Snapchat, you can create a narrative of your personal brand, your story, your struggles, and your successes! 

A perfect example of this would be Photographer and Storyteller Branden Harvey, who has worked with brands like Yoplait, UNICEF, Paramount, ABC Family, etc. Harvey has developed a brand by simply sharing moments in his life and photography ventures.

Yes, the content does disappear, but content creators may save their snaps to reuse or remix into other content on the web as you can see. 

Snapchat: Guaranteed Engagement at User’s Convenience

Real engagement! Easy to track and analyze! What makes Snapchat so great is that there are no paid posts, no algorithms, no scheduled posts, or waiting for the right time of the day to post content. As I stated earlier, it’s in realtime and shows the authentic side of you and your brand. In turn, it allows your following to view your content at their convenience!

"Engagement rates on Snapchat are blowing my mind. If you're a personality - you need to get on this right now. Less than 48 hours in and racking in these engaged views is absolutely insane especially considering how far Facebook's reach is dropping." - Von Wong, Photographer

Snapchat: A Marketing Tool

How could Snapchat be beneficial to you and/or your business? Let’s backtrack to 15 months ago. Snapchat ran their first paid ad for the Universal Pictures horror movie, Ouija. Since then, what has followed is a tsunami of big brands clamoring for ads that cost as much as $750,000. To put it short, if big brands have Snapchat in their strategies, why shouldn’t you?

Marketing at your fingertips: give an exclusive sneak peek for a new photo series; maybe show the process that goes behind your works. Place special URLs back to your site so it’s easy to track your activity. Give out promo codes for products. Start a contest. Have your following help pick photos. The possibilities are ENDLESS!

Here is a glimpse of what WPPI 2016 looks like via Snapchat:

​For the Super Bowl, Audi partnered with The Onion and Huge to partake in the most successful Snapchat marketing campaign thus far in 2014. The campaign drove the most interaction among all automakers. By the end of the Super Bowl campaign, the campaign generated 37 million impressions.

"Alright, I Downloaded the App. Now, How Do I Work This Thing!?"

Snapchat is a social media application where users can share interactive photos, videos, and chat with their friends and audience instantly.  What differentiates Snapchat from any other app is that photos or videos being shared can only last a maximum of 10 seconds, and then, they disappear!

There are two methods of interaction: you can directly send photos and videos to individuals, or you can share photos and videos on your "story." A user’s story is a narrative of snaps strung together that lasts approximately 24 hours. Stories can be viewed by all of the user’s friends and fans at their convenience; it enables the true nuances of storytelling of everything from your daily life to your exciting adventures.

That is the core use of the application, which is explained more thoroughly in the video below:

"Who Uses This App? Just Teenagers, Right?" Wrong.

Since its initial release by three students from Stanford in 2011, there are now over 100 million users today, and that number continues to skyrocket with its growing popularity. Back to the question, though: isn’t this app only for teenagers chatting with one another?

The answer is not entirely. As of now, 6 in 10 people ages 12 to 35 in America use Snapchat. Similar to Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat is starting to see a substantial growth in users that aren’t millennials.

Since last year, Snapchat has had an increase of 103% for users 25-to-34 year-olds, and an 84% increase for users 35 and older. Snapchat's data claims those numbers to be about 50 million users in the U.S. that are 35-54 years old. Mysterious billboards have risen across the U.S., which lead us to believe this is a marketing tactic to the older demographic. This makes sense since the older demographic has more disposable income, which falls in line with the advertisers, which in turn means that Snapchat is positioning itself to be like the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc. 

Have You Tried Snapchat? 

Yes, everyone has been hesitant; it’s human nature, but I’ll assure you, if you don’t download the app now, you likely will down the road. Snapchat is here, and it’s here to stay. It fills a gap that allows you to create a meaningful bond between you, your friends, your brand, and your audience. It’s easy to use and used at your convenience. There’s no social media following scoreboard to worry about, but rather how you communicate with your friends and fans. It creates a narrative for storytelling and can be used as an effective marketing tool. There is so much good content out there in the world, so much content that it has become noise; because of that, engagement and building a relationship with your fans are more important than ever before. You may have caught on to Instagram later on and find yourself playing catchup, maybe Facebook as well, but if you're looking to build an audience and a brand, I'd advise you to give Snapchat a try before you're late to the party! 

If you're looking into find some photographers to see what Snapchat is all about, give the contributors to this article a follow and check it out (remember to snap a photo of the Snapcode once the app is opened)!

So, I will ask you: have you downloaded the app? Have you been hesitant about downloading Snapchat?  Are you going to give it a go? Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments!

Part 2: Snapchat and Social Media With Influencers in the Industry

In our next installment of Snapchat and social media, we will feature some very influential photographers in the industry and talk about how they strategically build a brand using social media like Snapchat. Stay tuned! 

We will also be creating a list of the best photographers to follow on Snapchat. So, leave us your Snapchat name below and we'll decide who's interesting, engaging, and fun! 

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64 Comments

Pat Black's picture

I feel like this is so late, I have had snapchat the last 3 years and I was late to that party too

Nick Pecori's picture

I agree, Snapchat is somewhere in the early/late majority where the masses are finally catching on.

Von Wong's picture

It's not just about being on the platform, it's about creating something of value on it.

Pat Black's picture

I mean thats the point of all social media, but it still isn't "new" even with the story feature thats been out for over a year

Mike Kelley's picture

Ah yes, more 'curated content' I mean advertisements, for me to subscribe to!

Von Wong's picture

No, an alternate way to communicate your unique world view to a captive audience.

John Paul Barratt's picture

Follow me on Snapchat lol

my username is my name

Richard Morwood's picture

How would a person who only does big photography jobs on every other weekend use this? Their story would be empty most of the time. When it has content would it show on users snapchat feeds?

Nick Pecori's picture

It is what you make of it.

Von Wong's picture

I only shoot once every couple months but I snapchat every day and I've managed to maintain my viewership regardless if a shoot is happening or if I'm just planning a presentation or going to meetings.

this is a tool I'd never use, like a Texas shaped panini sandwich maker.

Von Wong's picture

A lot of people that are on facebook said that about facebook too.

My mom is one of them.

I'm not on Facebook because I'm crazy like that. Now I did sign up for curiously sake and found it to be sad. It's an affirmation of existence.

Gustav Hoiland's picture

I can't make any sense of how Snapchat would help an architectural photographer. Be kind, shoot quality work, deliver above expectations, look good online, repeat repeat repeat..

...but also constantly shoot crude handheld video of what's happening with terrible graphics and hope my busy clients tune in to gawk 20 times a day?

Who is using Snapchat and consistently booking great shoots from it? Who in a hiring position is spending considerable time evaluating photographers on Snapchat?

So confused.

Von Wong's picture

That's because you're not thinking outside of the box - your clients aren't going to be the ones watching your snap stream - they shouldn't be. But if you have the ability to communicate to your client's client's through your snaps then you've generated something of value.

People are interested in all sorts of things, just look at reality shows. If you can help a realtor agency generate more sales by having a lot of followers interested in learning more about different properties on a daily basis because you're able to showcase different facets of a building in a creative and engaging way imagine how much value that could bring to your clients.

It's all about the ability to engage a segment of individuals.

Just like with every platform - you don't get on it and expect to book shoots out of it immediately - none of the major platforms began with that intention. They evolved into it, and early adoption is key to understanding how the markets are shifting and what your brand can gain from it.

Scott Free's picture

Is that engagement something you discuss with clients/potential clients Ben? Do you talk up the promotional value of that for them when discussing a job to try and land the job or are you using it after the fact to try and help make the campaigns you have shot for clients be successful so that you see return business, while exposing other potential clients to the results of those shoots?

Von Wong's picture

Yeah, definitely. They don't just hire me for the photos - they hire me for my blog, my following, my reputation and my brand.

Models are being hired for their instagram following - why wouldn't it be the same for Photographers?

Michael B. Stuart's picture

As hip as I've tried to stay... I cannot wrap my head around Snapchat as it would apply to me so articles like this are helpful in trying to understand it better. Gary V was suggesting photographers start using is a while back on Chase Jarvis - but I can't help but think it only fits certain personalities and styles.

Von Wong's picture

You need to break down your life into 10 second story snippets that string together to form a summary of your day. I think that you're not supposed to think like a photographer, but rather a guerilla filmmaker.

I'm hoping it dies and goes away frankly! It doesn't pique my interest even after your fine sales pitch and all the valuable info you provided (btw, thank you for the article and educating us on how it works and what it is). I just don't think it will gain traction like Instagram or Twitter or Facebook with photographers and other visual creatives. The whole concept seems a little silly to me. I would say enough of my time is already invested each day on social media as it is. I don't think I need another social media account to manage and keep track of eating into even more of my time in front of devices and computer screens. For photographers I think Instagram is ideal and works very well as a visual means to get photos out, get images in front of potential buyers, interact with followers, share across other social media, etc.

Von Wong's picture

Considering that Snapchat turned down a 3 billion dollar offer from facebook to be purchased, I think that your hope to see it fade away into nothingness (at least in the short-term) is an unfounded one based on personal preferences.

Anyone who is big on instagram will tell you that reach & growth has been slowly dropping over time. Anyone big on facebook would tell you the same.

Your preferences on how many social accounts you want to manage and what the market is doing are two very different things. Don't confuse the two.

I respect your photography and opinion and will keep an open mind! You make some great points and will at least check it out.

Von Wong's picture

Oh thanks!

To be fair, I was a massive skeptic too (hated the fact that things were temporary) but as engagement rates drop across different platforms, being able to stay connected with your audience becomes more and more important.

Seriously give it a chance, look at the top guys out there like Shonduras and see how they're telling stories. I don't think many people do it well, but I can see the massive potential in it.

I'm actually going to get my hands on an iPad mini purely so I have a larger screen to interact on!

Scott Free's picture

are you paying to promote your posts on instagram and facebook? is that increased focus on monetisation from those platforms why the engagement rates are dropping? or is it a signal to noise ratio thing?

Von Wong's picture

I personally believe its a noise thing. I don't pay to promote my content - i try to focus on creating content that is interesting and valuable.

Tyler Newcomb's picture

I think that for me at least, as a student, it's more beneficial for me to spend my free time building my portfolio and actually having experiences

Von Wong's picture

Ignoring social media to be a better photographer is like ignoring photoshop so that you can become a better photographer. You can't separate the two anymore.

Tyler Newcomb's picture

While I agree with your analogy, i think that this isn't necessarily ignoring social media, but rather realizing that being a better photographer is not all about likes and social following. That helps you be more successful, but it does almost nothing to actually improve your skill and artistic ability.

gene jurisic's picture

WTF!!! Im just starting to figure out Instagram!! lol

Von Wong's picture

Better learn fast