Learning to program a Snapchat channel from the best brands and influencers in the business
Forget 90% of what you’ve learned in social media marketing. It doesn’t apply to Snapchat. There are no likes, comments or hashtags. Virality is a foreign concept. So are links and URLs. The app known for ephemeral messaging and a massive Millennial audience has evolved beyond the web and beyond social media to become the first mobile media network — with a huge emphasis on media. In this sense, Snapchat has as much in common with Time Warner and DirecTV as it does with Facebook and YouTube. Which is to say it’s in a class of its own.
This means we’re collectively figuring out Snapchat as we go along. No one has the answer, and that creates opportunities. Brands and agencies with rigid ideas about how it’s supposed to work are destined to fail. Just as we need to embrace the simplicity of the UI, we also need to be humble in approaching Snapchat as a marketing channel. The best thing we can do at this stage is to watch, test, and learn.
This has its own set of challenges because Snapchat doesn’t make watching, testing, and learning easy. Not only is it difficult to find people and brands to follow, the content (a Snapchat Story) disappears on a rolling 24-hour schedule. Having combed the internet for the best influencers and brands. Having spent countless hours watching Snapchat Stories, the following are 11 different approaches (in no particular order) to building and programming a Snapchat channel:
Shonduras: Shaun McBride aka Shonduras has a long history of online marketing and community building. He’s a skateboarder, snowboarder, entrepreneur, artist, and cereal lover. McBride got started early on Snapchat and did pioneering work with brands like Disney and Taco Bell. He’s highly engaged with his Snapchat followers and enables them to participate in his Snapchat show. But he also has regular segments such as Theme Songs with Strangers, Free Stuff Fridays, and Seconds with Shonduras. My personal favorite is Will it Shred?, where he tries to skateboard or snowboard with random objects such as an open sign or ironing board.
Key to Success: Interaction with followers and making them part of the story
Harris Markowitz: Markowitz discovered Snapchat while working at Twitter, so he had the right context to realize how powerful this new medium could be. As one of two people on this list nominated for “Snapchatter of the Year” by the Shorty Awards, he’s best known for creating stop-motion video animations with Post-it notes and stuffed animals. Though he also mixes it up with comedic sketches and Q&A sessions. Markowitz’s personal success on Snapchat lead to the launch of a Snapchat-focused production company known as A Cereal Production. Markowitz recently revealed (via Snapchat, of course) that Zillow is one his charter clients.
Key to Success: Expanding the creative range of the medium through stop-motion storytelling
Amanda Cerny: The self-proclaimed “Queen of Snapchat” is also huge on Instagram, where she has nearly 4 million followers. It’s difficult to know how many followers one has on Snapchat, but Cerny’s audience is estimated at well north of two million. Her style is a mix of comedy sketches with fellow Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine stars including King Bach (see below) balanced with a lens into the young Hollywood lifestyle. Her general vibe is relatable-yet-charismatic-LA-actress-model, which is a rare breed. Cerny is known to partner with brands as an Instagram and Snapchat influencer. This is an essential component to any Snapchat strategy, as brands need to rely on those who have an audience in order to quickly build their own.
Key to Success: Seamlessly exporting her Instagram following and content flavor to this new medium
Building long-term partnerships with big brands seldom start with the CMO
“If only I could get to the CMO,” thinks just about every purveyor of marketing technology and services. “They’d see how unique and valuable my [insert buzzword] solution is, and all barriers to a deal would be removed.”
It doesn’t matter what side of the table you’re on. There are more than enough false assumptions in this statement to fill the room. I’ve heard this countless times from entrepreneurs and sales reps. They believe CMOs of big brands are all powerful. That they command marketing to happen from ivory towers and direct legions of directors, managers, and agencies to execute accordingly. The reality is much more nuanced and, dare I say, political.
The CMO is essentially the CEO of the marketing organization. Like a CEO, the job boils down to three things: set the strategy and vision, put the resources in place to execute it, and get out of the way. Resources are budget and people, whether internal or external. The challenge for those who want to sell into this marketing organization is that they don’t understand the people or the part about the CMO getting out of the way.
Let’s start with the optimal way to sell marketing solutions into large brands (from my experience). I refer to this as the “champion-to-hero” approach. The first step is to meet with a person within the marketing organization who can become a champion of your solution. This person could be at any level. The ket qualities of a capable champion are twofold: they are driven to advance within the company, and they have direct access to decision makers who can authorize a deal i.e. sign a check.
As Snapchat goes mainstream, we simultaneously enter a new era in the smartphone revolution
That sound you’ve been hearing in the background but couldn’t quite place it? It’s the sound of Snapchat crossing the chasm. It’s the siren song of the next big thing in media, entertainment, and communications. The early majority is showing up. Snapchat is going mainstream. Here’s what you need to know if you’re a brand, entrepreneur, or just over the age of 30.
What is Snapchat? Many know it as “that sexting app.” In other words, Snapchat offers ephemeral messaging, where risqué or embarrassing photos disappear. It’s true that this is how Snapchat started. It struck a chord at the right time with the right audience, enabling the app to quickly establish critical mass among innovators and early adopters. Disappearing messages was the killer feature. But Snapchat has evolved past this and now finds itself in a position to disrupt the entire media world.
Looking back, I see similarities with the “social-local-mobile” revolution of the past six or seven years, which was inconveniently labeled SoLoMo for short. Indeed, the mainstreaming of Snapchat really marks an end to this era and the start of a new one.
In 2011, just after closing the seed round for MomentFeed, I wrote The SoLoMo Manifesto, a tongue-in-cheek eBook about the unification of these trends and technologies. At the time, few agreed about how profound the change would be…that smartphones would go from the third to the first screen, that we’d rely on these devices for so much of our daily lives, that mobile was not a channel but a lifestyle, that consumer “moments” would be at the core of the smartphone experience, and that brands needed to take a holistic approach to mobile or risk irrelevance. By and large, this has all happened.
Facebook successfully pivoted to become a mobile company. Google’s transition to mobile was cemented by Android, the Maps and YouTube apps, and its dominance of local search. And Instagram became the most important media brand to emerge from this era. Today, these are the only companies that really matter on mobile. They account for eight out of 10 of the top mobile apps in the world. But Snapchat is on the rise.
A year before I wrote the manifesto, I penned a blog post about what it will mean to be “smartphone native.” In 2010, modern smartphones had only been around for a few years. We were all immigrants to this technology. We used familiar frames like “social, local, and mobile” to understand and adapt to it. We learned to swipe. We marveled at location awareness, checking-in to places, and sharing contextual moments with friends. It was so new, and we were so young. But what about people who were born into the smartphone revolution, who didn’t know a world without them? How would taking this for granted change the experience? Snapchat is a platform — perhaps the first — built for smartphone natives. Just as smartphones ushered in the post-PC era, Snapchat could be the start of a post-SoLoMo era.
In the SoLoMo era (2007 – 2016), we needed the technical designations. We needed to categorize what was social, local, and/or mobile. In the Snapchat era, though, it’s all implied. It just is.
Snapchat can only be accessed on mobile. It’s a social app on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis. You can add Geo Filters to photos and videos based on your location and consume media from your local area in real time. And yet it’s so much more. The whole is truly greater than the sum its parts, and it’s most obvious in the user interface (UI).
If you want a beginner’s guide to Snapchat, venture capitalist and prolific blogger Mark Suster wrote an excellent post for old folks (like me and probably you). He speculates about why the UI is the way it is: “The starting screen every time is the camera. This is the dog whistle. It’s the frequency designed to keep old people out and keep the product cool and hip for young people.” This is an old folks excuse. Snapchat’s UI was not deliberately designed to keep old people out. It’s a progression in mobile UI that non-smartphone natives just don’t get. The best way to illustrate this is through the evolution of music.
Rock ‘n’ roll, punk rock, rap, new wave, EDM. These were not created to keep old people out. These ground-breaking musical genres represented artistic progress. Each drew inspiration from what came before, but they were entirely new and fresh, often fueled by new technology. Naturally, they appealed to people with open minds, who were predisposed to new things (what it means to be young). The oldies, naturally, have an allergic reaction to anything that alters or breaks their frame (what it means to be old). And this is what’s happened with Snapchat. The oldies don’t get it, but that’s because they’re too attached to the SoLoMo era of UI design.
The Snapchat UI is designed for smartphone natives. It opens to the camera. The navigation is entirely swipe based…swipe up, swipe down, swipe left or right. And there is a complete absence of menus and explanation. Smartphones are nothing if not intuitive, thanks to Steve Jobs, and Snapchat takes this to the extreme. Use it enough and you’ll figure it out. In fact, the UI is having such an impact that it’s being replicated in other apps.
TasteMade is one of the media companies with a channel in Snapchat’s Discover area. It’s a daily dose of snap-sized content for foodies, entirely programmed by TasteMade as if it was programming a TV network. So the company is uniquely familiar with the UI and how people use Snapchat. When TasteMade expanded into the travel vertical with an app called Facet, it borrowed liberally from the Snapchat experience. This is validation and a sign of how mainstream vertical video and the UI is becoming.
If you’re a brand, you should establish your Snapchat presence ASAP. The username land grab is already happening, so you may have to be flexible. Consider the medium and the audience, and start posting relevant Stories. If you’re an entrepreneur, start thinking about the forthcoming Snapchat ecosystem. Many believe it’s the next Facebook, so use that for historical reference.
Or, how Shareability cracked the code on viral brand videos
Shareability is a new type of media company. So new and innovative that The Chernin Group, lead by media titan Peter Chernin, recently invested in the Los Angeles-based startup. As you might expect, the financing story was covered in the entertainment press, including Variety and The Wrap. Shareability was described as a “viral-video studio” and “branded video maker.” Both are accurate. However, these characterizations miss the true magic of what Shareability has built. In order to fully appreciate it, you have to know the genesis story.
Shareability was founded by Hollywood agent Nicholas Reed and Tim Staples, who spent a career in the agency world. A few years ago, Reed decided to produce a documentary passion project. The subject was the oldest living Holocaust survivor, Alice Sommer. The story is both inspiring and humbling, the type of story you want to share. But when Reed attempted to sell the film to the typical Hollywood buyers, he “couldn’t give it away.” No one wanted to distribute it.
In search of an audience for the film, Reed and Staples found their way to a group of twenty-somethings in Provo, Utah, who were masters of YouTube — masters of both the content and how to get it distributed. Reed worked with them to cut a preview and generate some online buzz for the film. That clip generated more than million organic views. Which lead to an Oscar nomination.
As motorists become more and more distracted while driving, cyclists have to become more and more visible at all times of day.
Annoyingly visible. That’s my goal with bike lights. Because if people are asking, “WTF?” when they drive past me, I know I’m being seen. And that’s at least half the battle in not getting run over. Below are the latest and greatest bike lights aka “Weapons of Sight” for 2016.
Specialized Flux Expert ($275): The Flux is the double-barrel shotgun of bike lights. It provides maximum coverage with a bright, 180-degree beam that is visible from 1/3 of a mile away. With an output range of 400 to 1,200 lumens, it can be blindingly effective. What I like most, though, is the mounting mechanism. It provides huge vertical range, such that you can position the light below a computer mount or just below the bar for a superior aesthetic. And it detaches with a single button for recharging. Designers of bike lights should be thinking about seamless integrations like this. It feels like it’s part of the bike. This is my light of choice for bike commuting.
NiteRider Lumina OLED 800 ($170): This is the assault rifle of bike lights. It provides a powerful 800 lumen beam in a very tight package. New for this year is an interface that lets you know which of the various modes you’re in — steady, flash, pulse, SOS — with corresponding battery life. The way I use this light is to mount it under a Garmin computer with an aftermarket adapter. It’s not ideal, as I have to feel around for the controls to change modes, but it’s something you get used to. So this is the light I use for everyday road riding.
Light & Motion Urban 800 FC Barfly SLI Combo ($180): This is the sidearm of bike lights. It’s powerful yet light and maneuverable. The killer features are found more in the mounts. This combo includes a Garmin computer mount with a GoPro-style attachment. It just makes it so simple and easy to attach. I use this as a helmet-mounted mountain bike light, since I already have the GoPro mounts installed on my helmets. It’s like a universal adapter.