Snapchat had been on my ‘to-do’ list for some time now. Sure, I’ve dabbled – mainly using it to send random snaps to my drummer – but had never really given it a proper go, until August 2016.
August, I decided, was when I was going to give Snapchat for storytelling a real good try, so I set myself the goal of posting a different story every day, in a bid to see what I could learn. Here’s what I concluded…
First things first, I failed miserably at posting a story every single day. I was very diligent for the first ten days, but then really slipped – in fact, I didn’t post a story at all in the last week of the month. I’m sorry world, I have failed you.
Snapchat loves data
In my defence though, one of my main reasons for failing was that, for the first time ever, I almost ran out of data. This is despite only posting a fraction of my stories when not connected to wifi. If you want to get serious about Snapchat stories, make sure your data allowance can cope!
Stories take longer than you think – even simple ones
You’d be amazed how long even simple stories can take to put together – something I had completely overlooked but found very quickly. My very first story, which you can watch below, has very little to it but, when you take into account editing each snap and, on occasion, reshooting because I fluffed my lines, the time quickly mounted up. Most of my stories ended up taking around half an hour to put together.
The ones with my face in kept people engaged for longer
This surprised me, but I had far fewer viewers drop off my stories if they were me talking to the camera, than if I was sharing my view with them. I guess it underlines the human element of Snapchat. That said, when I posted the following story about my parents-in-law’s cute new puppy – an actual fluffy puppy – I expected it to be my best performer. Instead, it had you one of the biggest drop-offs of all my stories.
You cruel, heartless souls.
The same went for this epic eating match between my guinea pigs – my viewers didn’t care.
But, me talking to camera about my band’s EP? Nearly everyone who started stayed until the end. Weird. People prefer my ugly mug to cute fluffy things? Most strange.
Having a proper, structured story keeps people engaged better than random updates
This sounds obvious, but I kept far more of my viewers when my story had a proper thread, rather than just scattered updates. For example, the following video documenting my cycle commute home did far better than say, updates from my band’s gigs, which were far more random.
This underlines that good Snapchat content, no matter how natural and organic it might looks, needs some thought and planning – for this bike video I was mentally clocking shots and storyboarding for the first two weeks of August before I attempted shooting it.
Discovery is *really* tough
Throughout August, I was sharing links to my Snapchat and posting my Snapcode everywhere, and still didn’t pick up that many new connections. Quite simply, discovery on Snapchat is tough – but then you knew that already, didn’t you?
Production values are possible – kind of
Although they can be somewhat tricky to master – or even find out about – there are lots of neat tricks you can use on Snapchat to give your stories a bit of production value. Whether it’s changing the colours of individual letters in your captions, fixing stickers to moving objects, adding more than one filter, using shots from your camera roll or even adding a soundtrack, they’re worth playing with. I used a few of these tricks on this video of my Olympic memories – only I didn’t realise the commentary had muted for the first one until after I’d posted it!
Note – much as I’m pleased with how this one turned out, it caused me the most swearing – getting the audio to work was not easy!
Asking for feedback gives people a reason to keep watching
I tried to end all of my stories with a question/something my viewers could screenshot, annotate and send back to me. Doing so gave my viewers a reason to keep watching and allowed me to get some feedback, which was a reward for all of the effort!
Sharing feedback to the wider world is a great idea
As well as asking for feedback, I also tried to share it with my followers too, in the hope that it would encourage more feedback. As an example, see how me and Lizzy the guinea pig picked out some of our favourite pictures of her decorated as a champion.
Doing an AMA was fun, but I need way more followers to make it work
I tried to do an ask me anything and has had to resort to sending my requests for questions directly to some of my contacts, as well as posting them in my stories, which was something I didn’t want to do. I ended up getting some great questions and made a decent video, but it would have been far better if I hadn’t had to bully people into sending me something!
I’m going to jack it all in and become an internet chef
Not really, but I was shocked that my best performing story – in terms of views, retention and response – was when I made a story out of me cooking my evening meal. It worked really, really well. Saturday Kitchen here I come!
*Recipe available on request!
It was fun, but every day was tough
I really enjoyed my Snapchat experiment and definitely want to post more stories – just don’t expect me to make any promises about doing something every day in the future!
Snapchat is a brilliant tool for intimate storytelling
What I was most curious about was Snapchat’s potential as a storytelling device, and this experiment has definitely showed me the sort of things you can do – I feel like it could be a really cool tool for sharing your story. Hopefully anyone watching my stories was not only entertained, but also felt like they got to know me a little better – after all, most of the stories featured at least one shot of me in extreme close up!
Also, taking this time to get to know Snapchat as me means I would definitely be up for exploring how it could be used at work – this is why I always advise people to try new channels as themselves first. Quite what that would look like, I don’t know for sure…but I reckon lots of actual students talking to camera and showing what life is like on campus would be a good start.
A note about Instagram
I’ve made it all the way to the end before mentioning this, but I can’t sign off without talking about the elephant in the room that is this blog; Instagram Stories, which launched on the third day of my experiment. I’m not going to try and compare the two here – that’s for another blog post – but I do think the launch and subsequent buzz made it even more of a challenge for me to get people looking at my Snapchat page.
Still, with the two being so similar at least creating stories on Instagram won’t be too difficult!