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To Snapchat on its fifth birthday

September 2016 has been a big month for social media anniversaries.

Facebook’s News Feed turned 10, and we charted some of its major impacts on modern trends in news distribution, consumption and seeing what your wild former high school friends are getting up to with themselves. While Facebook is arguably the grand dame of all social media platforms, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the fifth birthday of what now claims the crown of fastest growing social media and favorite of younger users, Snapchat.

Snapchat is still decidedly in the earlier phases of its life as a storytelling tool for news organizations both big and small. Its immense popularity has even recently sparked imitation from Instagram.

We reached out to snappers from GateHouse Media publications to see what their thoughts are on Snapchat at age five.

GateHouse Newsroom: Snapchat is one of the most rapidly expanding of all the newer social networks, especially with younger demographics — what do you see as the main reason(s) for its great success?

Amy Knapp, The Independent: In an age where people want things quickly — especially the millennials and those younger — Snapchat offers that quick hit. And it offers the built in ability to make it disappear.

Hrisanthi Kroi, Fayetteville Observer: Snapchat allows people to consume news in quick segments. Young people are already on there looking at their friend’s stories and it’s easy for them to scroll from one story to the next. Before they know it they are going through our story.

Dustin Watson, Linn County Leader: Snapchat is instant gratification combined with the more hands-off experience of Twitter. You can reach an individual with live video of the moment, or a funny Snap using a filter.

GHN: Which of Snapchat’s features do you consider to be the most useful storytelling tool for journalists and newsrooms?

AK: The ability to show video. Photos can only say so much but a video can put you into the situation. The filters are cool too — especially when covering an event.

HK: You can re-purpose your Snaps!​ Snapchat basically makes a mini video for you. After I make a story I usually download it from the app and embed it in the story. Just that little touch give the story a little something extra, plus its a great way to spread the word that we are on Snapchat.

DW: The most useful feature of Snapchat for journalists is its immediacy with both photos and video. It is also a direct line to the younger audience that we are all desperately working to bring into the habit of coming to us for news.

The Fayetteville Observer (FayObserverSnap) takes its Snapchat account parachute jumping.

GHN: What is the most important thing for journalists and newsrooms to keep in mind when they start using Snapchat, especially when it comes to gaining followers?

AK: You have to make sure everyone knows how to get to your Snapchat page and when to follow you for Snapchat events. Our experience has been that people are not going to go right to Snapchat for news but if they are directed to go for a specific reason they will. For instance, when I covered the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Fashion Show we spent days before the event letting people know I would be using Snapchat to share the event with those who didn’t get to go. We advertised on our Facebook page, Twitter and in print. I picked up a number of followers.

HK: Your audience! What are they interested in? If it’s a news conference we use Facebook Live because Facebook reaches a more mature audience that will stick through a news conference. If it’s showing off the new fair rides, turn to Snapchat! Snapchat is meant to be a fun tool that can dissect a simple story.  

DW: The thing to remember is this: get to know the program, and find out how it fits your existing work. I use it a lot for sports and for short videos of events that I am at. It is a tool to show people that you are indeed there, in the field, and a part of their community.

GHN: What type of snaps get you the most engagement from your followers?

AK: I think Snapchat is more useful when covering events — especially feel good events — like the fashion show, a festival or parade where the pictures/video and tidbits of information have more of an impact than a traditional story would. It could also be a useful tool at a fire. Earlier this year our local Wendy’s burned down, we were not using Snapchat at the time but it would have been great to use it then. The fire generated a lot of web traffic and all of the local TV stations picked up my tweets and coverage. Everyone wanted to know what was going on with that fire.

HK: Snaps with a fun tagline. Snaps that build up. We had a special fair announcement that we built up throughout the day until we made the announcement that afternoon and everyone stuck with us because we made it fun. Giving out small hints, using the Snapchat stickers, then ultimately sharing our special announcement Snap across our social media platforms.

DW: The shots of the student section at sporting events tend to get downloaded or screenshotted the most.

Linn County Leader's Dustin Watson (LinnCoDustin) snaps tell a high school sports story.
Linn County Leader’s Dustin Watson’s (LinnCoDustin) snaps tell a high school sports story.

GHN: What’s a feature you are still waiting for Snapchat to add?

HK: Making it easier to share Snaps across social media platforms. Better interaction with story viewers (Some will send us Snaps back but we can’t share those with other followers.) Downloading other people’s videos.  Snapchat analytics. I want to know how people are consuming our Snaps.

DW: I would love to see 30 second videos. Those would be a little more useful than 11 second shots.

GHN: How can we find you on Snapchat?

AK: Aknappinde

HK: FayObserverSnap

DW: LinnCoDustin

Find GateHouse Newsroom on Snapchat at @ghnewsroom.

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