5 Things I Learned As a New(ish) Snapchat User

Trying to master Snapchat? You’re not alone. How-to guides and top tip posts for the millennial magnet have been springing up all over the place over the past few months as the world wakes up to the fact it’s not a fad, Snapchat is here to stay.

I must be honest and say Snapchat passed me a by a little the first time around. Of course, when it first exploded I signed up and I messed around with it a little but since then I’ve used it sparingly. It was just a few weeks ago, after watching Feedly fill up with blog after blog about it, I decided to make a concerted effort to get to grips with the platform. I was done flirting, I wanted a proper relationship.

In the bin went my old account, where people I know, love and respect might be able to see all manner of inane garbage that I was going to post on my quest to Snapchat enlightenment. Instead I set up a brand new account, away from prying eyes, so I could dick around as much as required.

While not a new user, throwing myself head first into the platform again and committing to snapping as much as I could without becoming a bore has helped me learn a lot about the channel. Here are five observations from my first couple of weeks as a new old Snapchat user:

Not hard to understand, just different

We’ve been conditioned into expecting a certain set of features from our social applications. A newsfeed, a profile page and a few other familiar bells and whistles to make us feel comfortable when we first log in. Snapchat does away with all of that and, as a result, it’s been labelled as being difficult to understand.

Complicated? It’s actually wonderfully simple. The most arresting change for many new users will be the lack of a dedicated ‘home’ screen. When you open the app you’re ready to snap. You’re immediately taken to your camera. There’s no newsfeed, no real call to action, it’s just you and your viewfinder. Swipe right and your messages appear, swipe left and you’re taken to Snapchat’s Stories feature, tap the ghost for your vital statistics. You don’t need anything else.

It’s all about Stories

The genius of Snapchat lies not in the disappearing messages that got everyone so wound up when it first emerged as a big player in the social space, but Stories. Stories are collections of images and videos that people have decided to make public (as much as you can make something public on Snapchat) and they last for 24 hours before disappearing into the ether. The ability to string content together to create these visual diaries of events, no matter how mundane, reminds me a lot of what really excited me about Twitter during the platform’s early days when it was still the liveblogging Mecca.

Not everyone is a natural storyteller

Storytelling is an art. When I reregistered on Snapchat I decided to follow a wide variety of people - some that I know personally, some that I know from other platforms like Twitter and Vine that kill it, some that were just picked out of thin air. I wanted to see a variety of different approaches to the platform. The results were mixed.

Being a Snapchat star is tougher than it appears. It was genuinely surprising to see some of the more engaging content come from the strangers I had decided to follow on a whim, rather than those who have cultivated armies of followers on other video platforms. Authenticity really is key on Snapchat.

And the less said about my output the better.

Limited time gets maximum attention

Despite the fact that the content posted to the platform was mixed in quality, I found myself watching a lot of it. Why? Having just 24 hours, often substantially less by the time you open the app, to watch a clip or see a picture adds genuine urgency when making your way through Stories. Considering brands are in a constant battle for attentions on existing platforms that are at best noisy and at worst actively attempting to limit the reach of their messages it’s got to only be a matter of time before they flock to Snapchat to take advantage of this.

It’s the newest home of augmented reality

About 5 years ago I was really quite excited about augmented reality. Okay, so the last half decade hasn’t quite went the way I naively expected it to, but thankfully AR is alive and well on Snapchat of all places.

The channel’s now famous facial filters, as well as the ability to ‘tag’ emojis to objects may seem like novelties but they add another really interesting element to the entire Snapchat experience and ensure that even if you’re sat on your lonesome in a doctor’s waiting room, there’s plenty of reason to fire up the app and have a fiddle. Not only that but they work surprisingly well and are so frequently updated that they keep it feeling genuinely fresh. Quite an achievement.