Before I begin rhapsodizing about Snapchat, let me say upfront: it’s not about the sexting. Though I can see why that would be the most popular – or most obvious? – use of the app, I’m fascinated by how much more it could do. As a communications professional, I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities offered by Snapchat and been wondering how the power of the fast-growing network could be harnessed better for causes.
But most of all, I’ve been struck by how well Snapchat works the three As framework I’ve mentioned before:
Authenticity: With no ‘liking’, sharing or commenting, Snapchat users are no slaves to statistics. No metrics judge the merits of each post or each profile, which means users can be who they are, say what they think, and share what they like without constantly measuring their popularity by their notifications. The fact that the images don’t last forever gives users further freedom: to share how they feel ‘in the moment’ without worrying about where the image will show up. Yes, that relative anonymity may encourage over-sharing, but at least there are fewer consequences, whether they be awkward dinner-table conversations with parents, or job applications being rejected because of that time they were tagged in a questionable photo/mentioned in a scurrilous tweet.
Audiences: At its core, the app allows users to share image updates with ‘their friends’ – either individually, or in groups they select. Naturally, this means each Snap is expressly designed to appeal to the audience. Subsequent add-ons, like the Discover feature, allow users to access curated content which means they are pulling content according to their own choices; much like your Twitter/FB newsfeeds start to reflect editorial preferences, putting the audience in charge of what makes the front page.
Audacity: Ok, so this is self-explanatory! Nothing encourages #NoFilter audacity like a combination of consequence-free communications to controlled audiences and the (relative) privacy of the app. No edits, no censure, no backlash – at least, that’s what we hope – surely that would encourage ever-greater freedom of expression?
Add to all that the huge numbers that Snapchat can already boast of (in the time it has taken you to read this sentence, no less than 240 thousand ‘Snaps’ were shared!) and it’s no surprise Snapchat CEO Spiegel is being feted at Cannes by advertising professionals. Which only makes me wonder which advocacy groups are already using the service, and why more aren’t! (If you know of campaigns that use Snapchat to good effect, please can you share the info in comments?)
Meanwhile, I’m gong to download the app today, because (what I think is) a prime opportunity just arose: Qataris are preparing to grab “the chance to tell the rest of the world what life is like in the Gulf” via Snapchat’s Live Story feature, thanks to #DohaLive. And with so much attention on Doha right now (for a variety of reasons) this could be the moment Snapchat users step up to the spotlight and share a multitude of voices from Doha, the voices of the young – and yes please, particularly the young women!! – to whom the city truly belongs.
Promisingly enough, the debate has already begun.