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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Previous comments

I'm a photographer, I do photography. I'm not a fucking community manager !
Sick of all these damn networks. If I listen to all this advice about the "places-to-be" and follow all the latest stupid trends (the more clumsy and inadequate the tool, the more hype it seems to get), I basically need to spend my whole time doing self marketing 2.0.

Aren't you all tired of this race ? Facebook, 500px, flickr, 1x, twitter, g+, snapfuckingchat, instanarcissism ...........

Von Wong's picture

The valuation of snapchat is significantly higher than that of 500px, flickr, 1x, tumblr, etc.

Markets adopted by the teens are usually a surefire way to spot trends. Look at facebook. Look at instagram.

I wonder what the guys who used to shoot film were saying to the guys who were experimenting with digital.

Chris McDuffie's picture

What's that ole stat on businesses that fail within a certain period of time? The adapt or die meme is quite appropriate here...

Nick Pecori's picture

That's right Chris. Adapt or let time pass you by. It's 2016.

The clue is to listen to advice, and act accordingly to your vision. And hey, it looks like you have acted accordingly for your vision. If it works for you, great. keep it up.

Tim Fitzwater's picture

You're a photographer - you do photography? Do you make money? I'm a photographer who just spent three hours of his Friday night billing, scheduling and emailing. Now I'm going to do a little editing before bed after chilling out by reading some F Stoppers. I'm a photographer - but being one means doing LOTS of other things. One of my biggest clients found me on my blog that was linked to facebook with its photos hosted on flickr. I haven't used Snapchat yet - but after this article I will give it a go.

Daniel Schenkelberg's picture

Only if Photos posted looked as good as Instagram... But it doesnt.

Nick Pecori's picture

That's the whole point of Snapchat, it's unfiltered and authentic. Opposed to Instagram.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I read an article on what tv series are doing well that the music industry is failing in. One point was that tv series tend to market to middle age adults - people who spend money rather than pirate content.

100% of my income comes through photography and all of my breaks came through Flickr. As a social media platform, it's a bit quiet, but it ranks highly on google image search, where most middle aged adults search. Consequently, I've had my work appear in front of ad execs and art buyers. As much as I would love 100000s of teenage followers, old school does it for me.

Von Wong's picture

Flickr is on the verge of dying.

I don't disagree with you, but as platforms shift so does the market place. Advertisements 10 years ago weren't made in the same way as they are today.

Don't think of the snapchatters as your clients. Think of them as the clients of your clients and market to them.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

If you are a big brand, or advertise your phototutorials or doing B2C wedding and kitsch stuff or if you are into fucking dumb model mayham bitches, or wanna sell stuf to photographers it might be the richt tool.

But if you are doing advertising, interior, high fashion, corporate or serve "a bit more" intellectual clients it is more embarrassing than helpful. For this instagram might be the tool of choice.I can't imagine a ceo of a bigger company using snapchat.
snapchat to instagram is like youtube to vimeo ;)

Very interesting! I knew just a little about Snapchat and have been thinking about it.
This post helped a lot, it totally relates to photography.]

Ciaran McGrenera's picture

The stuff that Von Wong and Elia have been doing on snapchat in Bhutan has opened my eyes to the possibilities that snapchat represents. For example we know that both video and BTS stuff increase engagement with Facebook pages, so as well as having behind the scenes stuff on Snapchat why not download your snapcaht story about a particular shoot and post it as a BTS on your Facebook page- most people engage with this stuff on a mobile device anyway, so the lower quality is less of a deal in this case. There are all sorts of possible permutations.

Von Wong's picture

Glad you enjoyed the snaps! I've been trying to branch out now that I'm back home to still keep things interesting.

Vasilis Argyropoulos's picture

I completely understand that it is the latest trend and it is an absolute must for any creative artists who already have or are seeking "internet fame" but I still feel this is a parasitic social media avenue. Given it's nature that you can't present your work and vision as a whole product unless you use other forums to do so. This "adapt or die" mentality means photographers have to reduce themselves to the equivalent of spamming bathroom selfies to their followers... I guess this is what is being referred to as "engaging your audience". I'm a bit skeptical just as I have been about IG & FB but I am willing to research it. I will concede that if you are an active artist it looks like one of the better formats to present your "behind the scenes" journal into your process.

Von Wong's picture

It doesn't have to just be educational. It can be inspirational, emotional, entertaining. It is a chance to show your personality.

I don't know about you but I was super excited to find arnold schwarzenegger just to see what random things he'd end up posting.

Jeremy Lei's picture

After reading all these comments...I wonder who Snapchat is paying... hmmm :-/

Von Wong's picture

I wish, but no. Just someone who believes in the platform and its ability to communicate with a strong user base.

Jeremy Lei's picture

That's good to hear. Thanks Von Wong!!

I am more an introvert so i can't see how this could help me engage with clients. I am opening up after long time and long exposure/conversation about nothing is something as hard as 200kg for me. Me on snapchat to strangers? = pure bordom, paralized and lot of stress - honest but not interesting for sure.

I work as a photo editor and photographer and I was very skeptical in the beginning. But I like it and I am pleasantly surprised. Not at least because of the Snaps of Von Wong and Elia Locardi (elialocardi).
My Snaps are mostly in German, if someone wants to follow me: katjakemnitz

Snapchat might be trendy now but its not for everyone that is for sure. It depends on who you are how you want to present yourself and who is your audiance. For one thing if you are trying to be less shallow and those are your values, than Snapchat is not for you with all do respect. I imagine most Snapchat users are either personally shallow people or those who live of personally shallow people. For that - its perfect. On the other hand if you are trying to go beyond that or dont' have the audiance in that realm than Snapchat feels like selling out even if you can get clients from it. Feels like prostitution of the mind. Its simply a clash of values. And what is popular is not always the best for everyone. That is all I'm saying.

Considering what kind of movies Arnold was making in recent years especially, off course Snapchat is for him, and so it for brands like Nike for obvious reasons. But lets say you are fine art photographer. I don't expect there are many buyers on Snapchat of the kind of audiance that have developed taste for fine art. Besides not everything is about money, sometimes its about feeding your mind with something that does not share the same values as users of Snapchat. And even if there is money in the platform, somebody dignity is not for sale. There is also such thing as maturity, and its not for sale.

For everyone else, by all means. Snapchat is great opportunity. :)

Just my 2 cents.

"But if you are doing advertising, interior, high fashion, corporate or serve "a bit more" intellectual clients it is more embarrassing than helpful."

RAISING MY HAND! As a commercial photographer who shoots advertising, cookbooks, interiors for some pretty smart clients, I fully embrace Snapchat. And I don't need Snapchat to embarrass me, I can do a mighty fine job of that all by myself!

Like various marketing efforts, social media is just another tool available to me and it's not always measurable. But I enjoy the engagement, sharing what I do, and offering glimpses into my world of food photography.

Apart from that, my clients are on Snapchat. Food Network, one of my major accounts, was one of the first in Snapchat's Discover section. And another client, Target, requests images formatted for social. And yep, they're on Snapchat, too! Why wouldn't I want to know what my clients are doing so that I may better serve them?

Martin Peterdamm's picture

mabe the audience in the us is different on snapchat, here in germany snapchat is more the medium of less educated, trashy teens or famous beauty blogging girls or famous soccer players.
But germany is special in social media use, also we're the only country were twitter is a pure geek network and facebook is dominated by the poor and less educated people.

Crazy. I was looking at Snapchat this morning trying to figure it out and determine its value....and now you post this really helpful article. Thanks!
My view is that it doesn't hurt to give it a go and then decide how you feel about it.

So... another way to spam the public with faux authenticity because "Everyone is doing it, even the big guys".

Bert McLendon's picture

Useless fun fact: The girl in the last video giving tips drew a Mercedes logo instead of the peace sign she was going for. =)

Definitely not a much loved app in my country: App Store reviews are terrible, getting 2,300 1-star rating over 1,100 5-star rating.

J.R. Clubb's picture


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