How many times have you read a how-to and wondered, "How do I really use this for my business?"
We're rounding up real-life stories of how small business owners and self-employed professionals just like us are taking their businesses to the next level. So far we've covered how to tap into the power of Instagram to get new customers, tips for tracking cash flow and tried-and-true ideas for finding more time in your day.
With this new guide, we're tackling the social platform that just about everyone has declared the next big thing of 2016: Snapchat.
Read on to learn how other members here in the community are using Snapchat to grow their businesses + get our quick and dirty guide for getting started.
Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of how Snapchat actually works, let's talk about why you should even consider adding Snapchat to the rotating arsenal of social media platforms you're already using to promote your business and reach new customers.
Like Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat offers opportunities to broadcast your story both publicly and privately. You can decide if you want to send out curated "Stories" publicly to your followers or if you want to communicate privately with someone one-on-one. The real catch with Snapchat, however, is that each of these interactions are fleeting — the videos, images and text messages (or "Snaps") that you share only stick around for 24 hours until poof! They're gone forever.
For the folks here in the community who are using Snapchat, they shared with us that the #1 reason they use the app is to give their followers and customers an exclusive peek behind the curtain.
If Facebook is where you're careful to craft posts that are 100% on brand and Instagram is where you share only your best photos, Snapchat is akin to sharing real-time, unfiltered snapshots of your everyday work life — however messy or imperfect it might be.
What does that mean in practice? Here are a few reasons why community members are using Snapchat:
"People love to feel part of a brand's story. They want to feel a personal connection to what you and your products are about. Snapchat allows you to control your brand story, create engaging content and help you get access to customers in a new way." —Therese Jones, Social Media Strategist
"Telling authentic stories and giving your customers or potential customers a peak 'behind the scenes' if you will can yield extraordinary results and trust. People can get to know you pretty quickly through consistency." —Drew Griffin, App Developer
"I've gotten clients and made connections with it. It's definitely my go-to social media." —Glady Dalton, Photographer
"I love Snapchat! The behind-the-scenes production pics and videos I share keep my customers engaged. I have clients who send me messages through snaps, too!" —Dulce Ramon, Juice Bar Owner
Just like with every new thing you try in your business, start by revisiting your core mission and your main goal. What sets you apart from the other folks in your industry or profession? What unique benefits do you offer your customers or clients? Do you have a perspective that differentiates you from everyone else that you're competing with?
Then, identify who your ideal customer is. Who do you want to share your mission with? Who could benefit from seeing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it is that makes your business truly one-of-a-kind?
These first steps are key to understanding who you want to share content with on Snapchat and why they will benefit from seeing a fun, quirky and unfiltered behind-the-scenes view into your business every day on their phones.
Earlier this month, we asked folks here how they feel about using Snapchat and how easy it is to navigate. The results could not have been more varied, with over half of you telling us that Snapchat is a tough cookie to crack.
The hard truth is that with Snapchat, the best way to learn is by doing. The goodnews is that it's not that difficult to master.
If you're just downloading the app for the very first time, we recommend taking a few minutes to learn the lay of the land by watching Bryan Kramer's excellent video tutorial or reviewing Snapchat's official how-to guide.
In short, there are four main areas of the app that you should know about.
This is the first thing you see each time you open up the app. It's where you'll create "Snaps" — the photos or videos that you send out to your followers. After taking a photo or holding down the center button to take a video, use the tools in the upper right corner to add text and other enhancements to your Snap.
Tap on the ghost icon at the very top or swipe up to access your profile, your settings and the people you're following (and vice versa).
Protip: Once you get this area set up, you'll also have your very own Snapcode that you can share out across other social media sites or on your website. A Snapcode is an image that you can save and then share out so that anyone can take a picture of it and instantly add you as a friend on Snapchat. To add someone else via their Snapcode, just point your Snapchat camera at a Snapcode and press and hold on the screen.
Swipe right (or tap on the icon in the bottom left corner) to see the full list of all your friends and contacts on Snapchat. This is where you can see and send direct one-on-one Snaps to other people.
This is where the good stuff happens. When you swipe left from the camera or tap on the icon in the bottom right corner, you'll open up Stories. Stories are compilations of Snaps that create an ongoing narrative. Most folks here in the community recommend using Stories as the best way to share behind-the-scenes exclusives with your followers on Snapchat.
On this screen, you'll see promoted Stories created by big brands as well as recent Stories from all of the people you follow. The Snaps in a story always appear in chronological order and the people who last updated their Stories will show up at the top of your list.
To add a Snap to your own story, just tap the little square icon the plus symbol at the bottom the camera screen after you create a new Snap.
Once you're oriented within the app and the navigation is old hat, it's time to start Snapping.
"Remember you can always take a Snap, download it, then Tweet or Facebook the snapped picture."—Bryan Kramer, Marketing Consultant
"Now there are ways to customize your own geotag for your location so that's even better! Have fun with it and show people why they are making the right choice in supporting you." —Therese Jones, Social Media Strategist
"I think Snapchat provides a significant potential to grow your customer network. I found an article describing how a plastic surgeon is using Snapchat to broadcast operations in real time.... and guess what, people are interested more than ever! Snapchat is something that's gonna keep growing, and I definitely agree with that."—Emi Emmily, Digital Marketer
Block out no more than 20 minutes of the time you normally spend each day managing social media for your business and focus on learning the lay of the land in Snapchat.
Need ideas for where to start? How about sharing a quick snapshot of your workspace, or a video tour of your shop? Remember that for many of your followers and friends, they're using Snapchat purely as an entertainment break throughout their day. This is your opportunity to loosen up and show off the real you.
"We are a dog wash and spa, so we post lots of cute dog pictures on Snapchat... Today we snapped dogs getting bathed, but we've also done before and after grooming pictures.
We have fun doing it, and I think it is just another marketing arm of the business. Not our main focus, but a fun one." —Keith Miller, Owner of Bubbly Paws
The experts out there and our members agree: it's important to be consistent with posting on Snapchat, but you don't want to overdo it.
Bryan Kramer points out in his video tutorial that because Stories are organized in order by latest update, many folks will only tap to watch the stories they see at the top of their list. This means that if someone is following you along with 100 other active Snapchatters, your
Story will only pop to the top of their list when you add a new Snap.
You'll learn quickly how many people are viewing your snaps by keeping track of how many views each Snap get (you can find this number next to each Snap you shared in a Story). Be sure to check this number before the 24 hours are up, because otherwise it will disappear!
The bottom line: You never know who's going to tune in each time you add a Snap to your Story, so choose the moments you share carefully and focus first on sharing the photos and videos your ideal customer will enjoy seeing.
"Because watching a Story on Snapchat is such an engaging, opt-in experience, it’s crucial to make sure you’re putting out good content when you do post. Rather than super-Snapping everything all the time — ultimately creating a disjointed and hard-to-watch Story — take the time to think through your Snaps. Plan your Story ahead of time so that it, you know, tells a story. That extra little bit of planning (it doesn’t have to be a big event) can add a lot of cohesiveness to your finished Story." —Kendall Walters, Social Media Manager
"Remember to use the live video for things that are behind the scenes. Who doesn't want to have a VIP experience? I use Snapchat to give everyone a sense as to who I am and what I do along with some interesting things people can learn here and there." —Bryan Kramer, Marketing Consultant
Write down a list of all the different types of Snaps or Stories you want to try sharing out to your fans and customers.
If, like other folks here, you're spending 30 minutes a day on social media for your business, carve out some of that time for sharing 2-3 Snaps a day as a starting point.
Give yourself permission to share behind-the-scenes glimpses that are more obvious (like a tour of your workspace or a video unboxing of your product) and some that aren't (like a quick update after a successful client meeting or a celebratory cheers ahead of a long weekend).
A few ideas to get you started:
"The thing I enjoy about it (and what I've most often heard that others enjoy) is that the content is NOT curated and it's not picture perfect. You can't upload photos, so (besides using the hilarious filters that are included with the app) you cannot over edit photos. It just is what it is.
The 24-hour reset means there is zero point in scrutinizing over every single post. Elaborate, fine-tuned strategies like people use on Instagram are basically useless on Snapchat, and I kind of love that!
No matter how much effort you put into making some kind of cute post, it will be gone in 24 hours... which I really feel is what keeps the whole platform fun and effortless!" —Elsie Larson, Blogger and Small Business Owner
We already covered the basics of how a Snapcode works, but what are other ways you can build your audience on Snapchat and get the word out to both new and existing customers?
"I highly recommend using Ghostcodes to discover and like other people's accounts. They will in turn"like" and download your Snapcode, then follow you and consume your content." —Drew Griffin, App Developer
"Snapchat is growing on me. I need to utilize it more when I'm actually photographing clients. When there's downtime, I can share little snippets of my day." —Kristin Bednarz, Wedding Photographer
Now that you're Snapping at least a few times a day, use the "Add Friends" tool to find and follow the people you want to engage with on Snapchat.
Beyond those who are already in your address book (your friends and existing customers), consider adding other professionals in your field, bloggers or influencers with a unique perspective and local small business owners.
Just like on Instagram and other platforms, the best way to capture someone's attention on Snapchat is to genuinely reply and ask a followup question or let them know how much you liked what they shared. They'll be more likely to follow you back if you have a unique point of view!
Now it's time to start figuring out *your* own formula for success on Snapchat. Don't be afraid to experiment with Snapping at different times throughout the day to learn when the optimal time is for your followers to see your Snaps.
If you want to look for trends, set up a quick spreadsheet or calendar on your desk and use the first 30 days to write down what you shared and when, along with how many people tuned in. After the first month, you'll start to see some trends emerge.
Then, ask yourself a few questions:
Remember, your Snaps will only stick around in the app for 24 hours, so this is your chance to be creative and think outside the box. (However, keep in mind that your followers can still save or screenshot your Snaps, so Snap thoughtfully when you do.)
We're all in this together, and this guide is just the beginning. As you learn more about what works and what doesn't for your business on Snapchat, share your experiences below so that we can collectively get better and build on what we learn.
We can't wait to hear more about what you try. :-)
"Tell Stories! Have fun with it. Find your 'voice' and tell stories in and around what it is that you do. Be human and have fun... you'd be surprised the traction you might get." —Drew Griffin, App Developer
"Snapchat is great for showing all the behind the scenes stuff. It's like a peek under the curtain. Think about your day and think about the moments that people might want to see how it progresses. It's not just about selfies and fun." —Bryan Kramer, Marketing Consultant
Tell us what you're trying every day on Snapchat and what you've learned so far. Who knows, you might find a few more followers, too! ;-)