business storytelling

Snaphappen (or what everyone happened to miss about Snapchat)

By September 27, 2016 No Comments

Having attended the world’s first Snapchat conference in London last week, what can I tell you about Snapchat that I didn’t know before? To be blunt, a shedload. In fact, I’d say the social media marketing paradigm has shifted completely. I can see now how Snapchat represents the next level in the social web; I can honestly say I couldn’t see it before.

Reflecting how Snapchat fits into the current zeitgeist, the conference called Snaphappen was electric with dynamic delegates who were there to digest a series of thoroughly enlightening talks from key influencers. Following this was the Ghosties awards show, acknowledging the world’s top Snapchat talent. This all appropriately took place in the beating heart of London’s tech city – Silicon Roundabout. Which is like our version of Silicon Valley, it’s just very British.

First of all, I’d like to extend my thanks to Snaphappen’s founders and all-round Snapchat superdudes, Craig Fox and Nick Robertson, for inviting me.

“Snaphappen could not have gone any better,” Craig tells me. “Our initial message was to make sure people left having had a fun day and also that they left with new knowledge about Snapchat. I think we achieved both. The Ghosties awards show was also a massive success. Going by people’s reactions they can’t wait for our next event in NYC, next year.”

The social media marketing paradigm has shifted completely.

A storyteller’s platform

So, what did I learn? Well, Snapchat and business content marketing haven’t necessarily been aligned until quite recently, and while it’s easy to blame the lack of data analytics or high advertising fees, that’s just an excuse. It’s more a case of companies and marketers not being able to see where the real value lies.

It’s quite an ‘out-there’ model for the marketing mix. The prevailing message from Snaphappen, however, is that companies need to stop chasing a small sale and realise that this is where the big, long-term opportunity lies. To quote one speaker, the influencer Shaun McBride, aka Shonduras: “Snapchat isn’t about obtaining a direct ROI. It’s about facilitating awesome content.”

Awesome content. That’s a key point that the speakers unanimously feel brands have missed. Snapchat is designed first and foremost as a storyteller’s platform. It’s creating stories that are out-of-the-box, out-of-the-comfort-zone, and other such clichés. But you can’t be a cliché on Snapchat. Or, at least, you can if you’re doing it ironically. Then it’s not a cliché.

It’s about facilitating awesome content.

Technology and culture

What’s interesting is the way these influencers talked about Snapchat, not as some passing fad, but as a seminal meeting of technology and popular culture.

Snapchat was talked up in the same breath as Facebook and Google. That might not seem particularly astounding but think of it like this: in the same way the words ‘Facebook’ or ‘Google’ have entered our lexicon, Snapchat is acknowledged to hold that same kind of weight of entrenchment. I’ll Snap you. I’ll Facebook you. I’ll Google myself. Then regret it. This is the result of technology so embedded in our daily lives that it is our daily lives. In the eyes of the people that know, that’s where Snapchat is. You might not agree, but you’d be wrong.

This was a big point made by influencer and digital marketing expert Chris ‘Kubby’ Kubbernus, in his talk, ‘Why Snapchat doesn’t matter’, where he outlined exactly what this meeting of technology and culture means.

For a brand to say, “We’re not going to use Snapchat; it’s not for us,” is more or less akin to saying, “We’re not participating in Christmas; it’s not for us.” That’s the level of immersion we’re dealing with here. If you’re a brand that wants to be seen by 24-35-year-olds, for example, you have to be on Snapchat. It’s that simple.

I’ll Snap you. I’ll Facebook you. I’ll Google myself.

The problem, and hence reason for the clickbaity title to Chris’s presentation, is that there needs to be a major shift in brands’ way of thinking when it comes to social media marketing. We’re still talking about the things we need to sell, the ROI we need to derive, and the brand marketing channels we need to occupy. This needs to change. We’re not talking about getting a few sales next week, we’re talking about sales over the next 10 years. Your immediate sales are nuggets; brand loyalty is a goldmine.

How to work with Snapchat influencers

How do you create brand loyalty on Snapchat? You do something cool. And, while you’re at it, make the brand the hero – make them the enabler of the cool thing. That’s how you build loyalty.

It’s no good making videos where the subject or influencer just happens to be carrying your product. For one, the influencer just won’t go for that kind of product placement advertising, it’s not cool. And for two, the audience will just sit and ask themselves “Is this an advert? If it is, I’m not interested.” This audience doesn’t mind receiving branded messages, as long as that message is something they like. Rather, use the influencer; work together with them to find a unique, cool angle that does resonate with your audience – something that makes them think: “Hey, that’s a cool brand. I like those guys.”

Make the brand the hero – make them the enabler of the cool thing– that’s how you build loyalty

Fundamental to all this is that the smartphone changed everything. It changed our way of thinking. It changed our culture. And brands that want to be part of today’s culture – indeed, contribute to it – need to wake up to this, or a lot of good companies will fall at the wayside because they didn’t keep with the times.

People aren’t watching adverts; they’re certainly not watching TV celebrities on adverts. They’re watching the digital influencers. They’re watching the YouTube stars and the Snapchat personalities. And these personalities aren’t in the position they’re in because they played the digital world ‘safe’. They’re where they are because they did something extraordinary. And when a brand jumped on to help that person do the extraordinary thing, then they become extraordinary, too.

Reassuringly unsafe

A result of this way of thinking is the stigma that Snapchat is unhinged and out of control for a brand; it’s not a ‘safe’ medium. This is the reason so many brands ended up doing Instagram Stories instead of Snapchat, for example. It’s because Instagram is ‘safe’. It’s familiar; there’s a feeling of control on Instagram. But that just means you’re playing the same mid-table football as everyone else – it doesn’t get you to the top of the league. It doesn’t make you stand out in the eyes of the people that have the most influence now, and will be your customers, perhaps even your employees, in 10, even 20 years’ time.

When a brand jumped on to help that person do the extraordinary thing, then they become extraordinary, too.

Make a story awesome

I’d also like to point out that Snapchat isn’t necessarily easy to ‘do’ – there’s a good reason why some of these influencers are in the position they are in. It takes a considerable amount of skill to get it right. They’re not just good-looking personalities (though most are impossibly pretty), they know inherently how to create a story that engages. I learnt the hard way.

I can add all the filters. I can make myself look like a puppy that ejects glitter when it barks, but Snapchat is more than the sum of its frivolous parts. The more astute of you may have noticed that I tried to ‘live snap’ the conference. You can rightly presume that I failed, given that I started live tweeting it instead (which is, by the way, OK. Remember, Snapchat is a facilitator; it leverages the strengths of other channels).

Snapchat is more than the sum of its frivolous parts.

Anyway, I had everything ready and put my creative writer’s cap on; I’d established a good narrative which set out the points made in previous talks – my story was that this was to be a ‘top tips’ video, I’d decided – and I’d mapped out something representing a story arc. I’d even found a good background. So far so good.

When it came to actually making a video, however – and bear in mind you can only do this in 10-second bursts, which have to be thought of as, effectively, the frames of your film – something happened. Namely, self-consciousness; I realised that I was being hopelessly boring, un-awesome, and ordinary. I also noticed that re-taking my selfie scenes was not helping this situation. The point is I quickly worked out that there’s a certain intuition that goes with making these sorts of videos. It takes practice; by no means is it an intuition that can’t be taught, but it is certainly one that I haven’t yet learnt. That’s why you need the influencers. That’s what you’re leveraging – intuition. For my sins, at least, I’m going to make sure I get really good at this.

There is so much more I want to tell you about the potential of Snapchat, and it will be forthcoming, I assure you. But for now let me tell me leave you with this thought – Snapchat is a storyteller’s platform. It was built by storytellers, for storytellers. In that sense it is creative content in its purest form. You build your loyalty – your employees, your customers, your audience – by building your stories. Those stories need to be awesome, and when you build them, they will come.

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