Get snappy – a guide to Snapchat

Digital expert Cat Leaver explores the world of visual social media. Just how can you use video platforms to capture arts audiences?

Visual social media has escalated rapidly over the last few years and today stands as one of the most powerful tools for promotion, including the meteoric rise of newer, solely image-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Here’s the lowdown on how to make your mark on Snapchat.

In a recent survey by Piper Jaffray, 28 per cent of 14 to 19 year olds said Snapchat was the most ‘important’ social network in their lives (followed by Instagram at 27 per cent), not bad for a platform that has been on the market for just four years.

In the early 2000s, MTV Cribs was one of the most popular shows on television. It provided an unparalleled ‘behind-the-scenes’ dive into celebrity homes that felt authentic and uncensored, whilst feeding our appetite for snooping. Today, in the internet age, Snapchat has taken its place.

The instant messaging service has grown from a way of friends having fun to a powerful tool that brands are still trying to understand how to control (so important, it seems, that a surprising amount of organisations use their Snapchat logo on materials).

Snapchat is not an easy channel on which to build your network without first having a following elsewhere. Unlike other channels, you can’t access new accounts and followers through random following or engagement, and it’s impossible to know the interests of users from adding them. However, with a good enough fanbase, it can be a fantastically authentic way to include fans and make them feel part of a production or everyday scene, no matter where they are in the world.

An American in Paris Snapchat
An American in Paris Snapchat account

Christian Wheedon’s current production of An American in Paris on Broadway, is a brilliant example of this. The company recently built anticipation for the production in collaboration with popular website Broadway Baby by giving exclusive Snapchat access to behind-the-scenes areas fans were dying to see; from the red carpet wings, to what goes on in the dressing rooms, an exclusive look into the orchestra pit and even the excitement of the celebrity-crammed after party. It’s a method even the smallest companies can consider: US university group Springboard Theater Company, for example, use the tool to share rehearsal clips, previews and competitions, making their work more accessible to a much wider audience.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
LACMA uses humour to great effect on its Snapchat account

From Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which attempts to convey a light-hearted and approachable tone on the channel, to big name shows like Broadway’s Hamilton: An American Musical, Snapchat works best when used to make fans feel part of an experience. Backstage moments and out-of-character moments during rehearsals give an authenticity and personality to organisations and individuals few other channels would be able to replicate. What’s more, customisable geolocation filters are helping more organisations spread their reach and voice on the channel, making room for more exciting things to come.

Perhaps most interestingly, in a near round circle, MTV is now using Snapchat for its latest relaunch of Cribs. If video killed the radio star, social networking it seems killed the television show.

Visual has huge potential to make an impact. We’ve not even touched on tools like YouTube, Periscope and Facebook Live but, regardless of the tool you’re using, visual social media is your opportunity to convey your personality and allow viewers to feel part of your process. Success, regardless of whether you’re an individual or organisation, rests on finding your unique voice and character. Show what makes you unique with the world and your 1,000 words will resonate.

You can read Cat Leaver’s article on making the most of Instagram here.