I am having a little love affair with Snapchat at the moment. It’s fun to use and it’s a great way to share images and video with friends. Contrary to the common perception, Snapchat is not new, as it launched in 2011.

According to projections, Snapchat is on track to expand its active US user base by 27% by the end of 2016, to nearly 59 million. This means it will have more active users than Twitter and Pinterest. Snapchat has also overtaken every other other social media app except for Facebook in terms of how much time people are spending using the app. Whether this trend continues, particularly against Instagram, remains to be seen, especially now Instagram has added Instagram Stories, effectively copying Snapchat.

#Snapchat is second to Facebook in terms of how much time people spend using the app Click To Tweet

But enough of the numbers. I know you want to know how Snapchat actually works.

And I need to warn you, beginners – me included – find it really tricky to work out how to use it. It is not at all intuitive.

Snapchat for beginners

The lingo

Snaps: videos or photos you take and send to friends

Stories: a collection of Snaps that can be viewed for up to 24 hours – Snaps expire in time order

Snap score: this is a complex combination based on data that no one seems to understand other than the wonks at Snapchat. Apparently it is derived from the number of Snaps you have sent and received, stories you have posted and miscellaneous other stuff

Screenshot: Be warned – when you screenshot someone else’s Snap, they are notified.

Replay: Yes, you can replay a snap, but only once a day. And – stalkers beware – if you replay someone else’s snap, they are notified.

Discover: These are channels created by big publishers who are chasing a large audience. Included are CNN, news.com.au, MTV, Fox, Food Network

Emojis: the icons that appear next to your friends names – they all have specific meanings

Starting out

Snapchat only works on iOS and Android devices via an app, which you can download from the relevant app stores. Once installed you will need to open a free account.

As Snapchat only permits use by users aged 13 and over, you will need to verify who you are by sharing your birthday and mobile phone number with them.

SNAPTIP – if you are a business, pick a user name that identifies what your business is, and ideally try and own your business name.

#SNAPTIP - pick a user name that identifies your business, ideally own business name Click To Tweet

Click on the ghost icon (top middle) to find your friends and to add an image to your ghost.

Adding friends

Once you have signed in, you will want to find people to follow. There are a few ways you can add friends:

  • by their username – and you need to know this EXACTLY as you can’t search – you can share your user name using a unique URL of www.snapchat.com/add/melkettle – where melkettle is your user name
  • from your address book
  • by Snapcode (the unique yellow square with the ghost and black dots – it’s the dots that make it unique) – the easiest way to do this is to take a photo of the Snapcode of the person you want to follow
  • you can also add users who are near you, if the other user has this feature turned on

You can also see who has added you as a friend and choose whether to add them back.

#SNAPTIP: there are 4 ways you can follow people on #Snapchat Click To Tweet

SNAPTIP: If you can’t see the Snap Score of another user, it means they are not following you.
snapchat for beginners

Taking photos and videos

When you open the app you will see the screen below, ready for you to take a photo or video.

snapchat for beginners

Once you have taken the photo or video, there are a few tools you can use to edit it. The screen with the icons below will appear:

  1. delete the photo and start again
  2. add an emoticon, icon or bitemoji
  3. add text
  4. use the pencil tool to hand draw
  5. set how many seconds you want the user to see your image – you can choose from 1-10 seconds
  6. save the photo to memories and/or your camera
  7. add the photo/video to your story
  8. send the photo to individual friends and/or your story

snapchat for beginners

Filters, Geofilters and Lenses

Filters: Snapchat filters are added after you have taken your Snap – swipe the screen left or right to access filters. These include the time, the speed you are travelling (with a warning not to Snap while driving), speedup or slow down video, and more.

Geofilters: these are based on your current location and are city-based, community based on on demand (which means brands can pay lots of money to sponsor them and have their logo appear). To access filters and geofilters, you need to have your Location Services enabled (you’ll find this under Settings)

Lenses (or face effects): this is my all time favourite Snapchat feature. They are special effects using real time face detection. To activate a lens you need to turn the camera to selfie mode, make sure you can see your whole face, touch your face image until a geometric shape appears – this will trigger lens options at the bottom of the screen. Scroll through these slowly to choose the lens you want to use. New lenses are added all the time so check back daily.

Snapchat for beginners

A few final tips

  • If someone’s Snaps are boring, you can tap on the screen to move to their next Snap, or swipe left to move on to the next story (of a new Snapper).
  • Follow a whole heap of people to see what you like and to get ideas for how to make your Snaps more interesting. It’s pretty easy to unfollow someone (go to your friends, click on the name you want to unfollow, click on the wheel in the top right and click unfollow)
  • Videos last a maximum of ten seconds, or as long as you want to film. You can mute the sound on a video by clicking the speaker icon (bottom left corner) before you share your video
  • You can see who has watched your story by going into stories, clicking on the 3 vertical dots near My Story – the number next to the eye tells you how many have seen each part of your story.

My favourite Snappers

I don’t follow a massive number of Snappers but my favourites are:

  • abcnewsau (Australian ABC News)
  • thehilldotcom (American political site)
  • whitehouse
  • usinterior – showcasing American National Parks – possibly my favourite
  • dineanddish – my friend Kristen, who is a food blogger
  • michellejstern – my friend Michelle, also a food blogger
  • anniepappalardo – my fab friend whose snaps give me the giggles (not always intentionally!)

Are you on Snapchat? Who are your favourite Snappers??

If you want some help with Snapchat or any aspect of your social media, or if you’re not sure how to actually get started, please get in touch.

If you want more social media information why not join me at the 2016  Social Media Success Summit – it’s on in October and as it’s a virtual conference, you attend via your computer at home or at work – and registration is now open (and the further in advance you book, the less it will cost you).


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