Digital/multimediaSocial media best practices

We’re trying out Snapchat – are you?

For the past several months, a group of GateHouse Media journalists around the country have boldly gone where many journalists before them have not – Snapchat.

It’s a tricky tool, that Snapchat. Photos and videos last 24 hours, it doesn’t send traffic our way, it doesn’t really tell you how many followers you have and it seems, well, not very journalistic. (You want me to DRAW on the photo??)

But it’s where the youngsters are! Actually, it’s where 100 million active daily users are, according to this site. And 30% of millennials on the internet use Snapchat regularly, sharing photos and videos, 10 seconds at a pop. You can draw on images, add emoticons, add text and apply filters (my favorite!).

Penny Riordan, director of Digital Content Partnerships for GateHouse Media, asked about a dozen of us from varying sized newsrooms, including myself, to try it out.

“Our goal with best practices committees like this one is to get a group of editors together to learn and innovate quickly on a new tool,” Riordan explained. “Snapchat has had such an explosive growth, yet the storytelling is so different than what journalists produce every day. That’s why it’s critical to have editors working together in this space. We came up with ideas for content creation, reviewed the app functionality and metrics, and also shared questions we had about moving to a new platform.”

My initial reaction to the invitation?

New Yorker Snapchat cartoon

But we all gave it the ol’ college try. If we didn’t already have one, we created an account, either as a person or a publication. Speaking for myself (Digital_Nicole), I can say it took a while to figure out and then remember how to navigate around and make things happen. I still often click, swipe, try again. There’s lots of swiping – left, right and down.

Once we figured out the mechanics, it was time to figure out the content.

We post “snaps” under the “My Story” section, rather than target them to a specific user. This allows anyone who follows us to see our snaps under a “Recent Updates” area. It also allows the content to live for 24 hours, rather than a few seconds. We can see how many people viewed our snaps within the 24-hour window (I half-jokingly told the group I think I’m going to have to set alarm reminders to check stats before they expire!).

Click on the dots to the right of the “My Story” area to reveal each snap. An eyeball icon appears with each snap showing a number of views. Tap on that to reveal which of your users looked at each snap.

We agreed that behind-the-scenes videos and images work well. People like to know how a story came together, to get a glimpse of what happens before or after THE news, to see what happens behind the curtain.

We also dabbled in a bit of broadcast journalism. Print journalists aren’t used to being seen (hence the outfits) but we followed the lead of “snappers” such as Huffington Post (huffingtonpost) and put ourselves in the action by narrating a scene or turning the camera on ourselves. It took a bit of getting used to but is kind of fun once you get the hang of it.

Sports also played well.

The Gainesville Sun’s gatorsports account has found success snapping away at college games. We think that would translate to high school sports.

Matt Stamey, a photographer with the Gainesville Sun, was part of the group.

“Snapchat has been a fun, new way to show and tell stories,” Stamey said. “It gives the audience a raw, behind the scenes look at different events. I wouldn’t use Snapchat as the only social media to get information out, but it’s a nice addition to the social toolkit. And working in a college town, it’s helped us reach the college-aged folks in another way in addition to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

Part of the challenge is building an audience. Use your other social media platforms to get people interested in your Snapchat account. Tell people on Twitter, for instance, not only to follow you but when you know you’ll be snapping at an event.

We also found you can get some bang for your buck by saving your story down to your phone’s camera roll. Then you can upload it to Tout, because it basically renders as a video. It’s not the best video experience, and Snapchat is vertical, whereas Tout is horizontal, but it’s a good way to cross promote and to feel like you’re getting some return on your investment.

Our advice: try it.

Create an account for your publication. Know that only one person can log in at the same time, so work that out among yourselves.

Use the platform as intended (draw on those photos!).

Are you writing stories that even lend themselves to Snapchat? If every reporter every day is covering a government meeting, then you may have to rethink your coverage strategy before you think about Snapchat!

*JUST DISCOVERED!* Be sure to go into settings and under “View My Story,” change it from the default of “My friends” to instead be “Everyone.” Otherwise, you have to Add them when they add you in order for them to see your story.

Happy snapping!!

Nicole snap


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