Eleanor Pierce

SnapChat and Building Community Where Your Audience is

By: Eleanor Pierce | April 8, 2014 | 

Snapchat_logoBy Eleanor Pierce

Look, I’m not going to lie.

I believed until fairly recently that the only purpose of SnapChat was serving as a venue for unwise teenagers to send each other photos of their bits and pieces.

And I’m sure that many of them (as well as more than a few unwise non-teens) are still using it for that very purpose.

We know what people use their phones and computers for—sometimes it’s for good, but very often it’s for icky.

But I started spending time around people who are about a decade younger than I am. And I kept hearing “You’re not on SnapChat??”

No. I was not. And I didn’t want to be.

Then I discovered that it wasn’t just Millennials who use SnapChat. Some of my nerdier friends (I use that as a term of endearment) were into it, too—I met a group of people here in Myrtle Beach who co-work together, some web and game developers, entrepreneurs, and all social media fans.

The way they talked about SnapChat made it seem like I was missing out on something fun, so I decided to stick a tentative toe in the water.

SnapChat: Not as Dangerous as it Seems

I created an account, and before I knew it I was exchanging funny-face selfies with my teenaged nieces.

I moved on to the occasional dog pic which I sent to some of my pals, and then I started getting really funny SnapChats from my friends.

One of them is stunningly skilled at turning her own face into McDonald’s characters—the Hamburglar, Ronald, and Grimace were some of my favorites.

Barb Royal of KidsCanGiveToo.com

Another friend turned himself into Shrek and captioned it “check yourself before you Shrek yourself.”

Nerdy, yes, but also hilarious, in my book.

Before I knew it, I had turned a corner.

I was following a brand on SnapChat – the HBO show Girls. If you’ve watched it, you know, the characters are awkward (and often awful), and while it’s not to everyone’s taste, I love it.

Throughout the season, I would get SnapChats from GirlsHBO, usually simple drawings with inside jokes from the last episode—and if I hadn’t watched it yet, it was a great reminder to log in to HBO GO and get to it, because I wanted to be in on the joke.

Don’t Force a Community – Join One

Now, am I telling you about my adventures with SnapChat because I want to convince you to use it?

No, not necessarily.

Because there’s one big reason SnapChat worked for me: I had a community of people who were already there. I didn’t try to force a community into using a trendy new tool just because I wanted them to be there.

I joined the party – much like the team at HBO did.

As Sabrina Calouri, VP of social media and marketing at HBO told Mashable:

When we look at all the different social platforms that are out there, we look at what the fans are doing naturally.

And HBO and Girls are using outlets such as SnapChat to drive people back to the show itself—as reminders to people like me who forget that a new episode is out.

If you ask me, figuring out where your audience is and joining in on the fun is a lot easier than trying to force your audience into a social network they’re not already familiar with.

SnapChat, as fun as it may be, is not much of a destination in and of itself—and who knows where it’ll be next week. If it’s going to have value for brands, that value will be in showing personality, staying top-of-mind for your consumer, and reminding them to head back to see you again on your own turf.

Of course, there will always be the early adopters. And if that’s who you are, more power to you. But if you ask me, the party’s more fun once a few people you know are already there.

About Eleanor Pierce

Eleanor Pierce is a recovering journalist who can't decide which part of the country to call home. She's happiest when she's reading, though she also really likes writing, baking, dogs, and sarcasm. No, seriously.

  • Oh Snapchat. Can I join and yell at teens to get off my lawn?

    I like the example of HBO, but the real challenge, I fear, is going to be keeping up. So many platforms, a bit of overlap, and quite a lot of movement out there. 

    Glad we hired ya!

  • From where I sit, I think apps/platforms like SnapChat are emerging to give an ephemeral social media experience with minimal intrusion from brands. SnapChat won’t ever become as ubiquitous as Facebook, but that’s not really the point, is it?

  • Yes, the HBO idea is brilliant – perfect demographic, etc., for a campaign such as that. I find myself overwhelmed by the number ‘shiny new things’ appearing each day. I don’t know a soul who uses Snapchat – but I’m glad you’ve found your *koff* community, Ellie!! #GEEK

  • ClayMorgan agree on the manyplatforms and overlap. I already know when I see some people’s pan of brownies on Instagram with the caption “warm goodness out of the over #yum” that I’ll see it within minutes on Twitter and FB also. It doesn’t really matter but … it can get irritating! 🙂

  • biggreenpen I find that sooo annoying. I rarely share from Instagram to Facebook and Twitter for exactly that reason.
    Also: The good thing (from a teenager’s perspective) is that even if you join SnapChat, she still decides whether you see anything she does there.

  • Eleanor Pierce biggreenpen good point! Now I’m on. Hopefully I’ll see more interesting substance and less bits and pieces LOL. Plus the icon is so darn cute!

  • jasonkonopinski  Agreed.


  • Eleanor Pierce biggreenpen  See, I’m a Instagram–> Facebook cross-poster. *shrug*

  • jasonkonopinski Eleanor Pierce biggreenpen  Um, yeah. I’ve noticed. I wasn’t going to say anything ….. whoops.

  • biggreenpen  Eleanor Pierce SHUSH.

  • Eleanor Pierce HAHAHA!! Riiiiight. 😉

  • Eleanor Pierce Actually, this brings up a spinoff question: are there any social networks/apps that, by design, are impervious to brands?

  • jasonkonopinski Good question … and good suggestions. I think there can certainly be social networks and apps that can, by design, exclude brands and commercial messaging. The reason most of them don’t is because they want to make money – and unless you’re going to charge users, you really need the brands. For instance, there’s The City, which is a social network designed for churches – it’s kind of brand free. But it’s also kind of inherently branded – the churches pay for it, and the entire experience is “branded” and designed by your church. So, it’s not commercial, but someone is paying for it.

  • Eleanor Pierce While the ship has sailed for Facebook to offer an ad-free version, I think there’s a place for freemium and premium social networks.

  • Eleanor Pierce jasonkonopinski  Over/under on how many big ambiguous buzz words can Jason put in one comment and still have it make sense????

    I say 8, but I don’t know the Jski word of the day skills are a powerhouse!

  • LauraPetrolino Eleanor Pierce jasonkonopinski  OH SNAP

  • Isn’t it funny how we judge people by their social network of choice. Like if someone ask you to join them on MySpace, you would totally judge them differently then say connect with you on LinkedIn. I dated a guy once who had an AOL email address still and I had a really hard time coming to terms with it. These are some of the interesting ways we now stereotype people or communities. However, now I know that I could be made into  Sherk on snapchat, I’m rethinking my assumptions (oh and check yourself before you Shrek yourself, hello, I need to be friends with this dude).

    Thanks for opening my mind!

  • Eleanor Pierce LauraPetrolino jasonkonopinski Jski knows I say that with love 🙂

  • LauraPetrolino  Related: It’s also funny how in the past, you could date someone for a long time and not realize that they’re terrible at spelling, or that they don’t know the difference between their, they’re, and there, but in today’s world, you know RIGHT AWAY because of texting, Facebook, etc., etc., etc.
    And yeah, the guy who did the Shrek snapchat is incredibly talented, I tell you. And also not a millennial!

  • LauraPetrolino Eleanor Pierce jasonkonopinski  <3

  • Great post Eleanor Pierce I need to check it out. There have been some really amazing comedy shows like Ask a Ninja, Joe Cartoon, Happy Tree Friends who had their own websites and distributed content actually via podcast on itunes in video format (i am pretty sure but this was 2006-7) and they wound up ditching for YouTube.

    The one caveat is just because your customers use a platform it doesn’t mean they want you to use it too as a brand. Much easier as a person.

  • Howie Goldfarb Good point. Goes back to the conversation on David Jones’ post a few days ago – people may not want a relationship with your brand, but the people who work for you? Maybe.

  • LauraPetrolino  Ha! I still have an AOL address, which I use any time I don’t trust whoever I’m giving it to not to spam me. Which means pretty much any business. AOL is my giant junk folder.

  • Having never tried snapchat I feel qualified anyway to comment on it. I actually like having a paper trail. (In fact, I have written records of my daily life going back to the early 90s in the form of old calendars I keep in a box.)
    But I can see its attraction for those who live in the “now.” Thanks for the info, Eleanor Pierce!

  • RobBiesenbach LauraPetrolino  That’s actually a really good plan!

  • Pingback: Are the Days of Free Social Media for Brands Numbered? by @EleanorPie Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: Generation Z: Marketing at the Speed of Light by @makeaner Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: Two Big Questions to Foster Social Business Success by @jessostroff Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: Social Media New Year’s Resolutions for 2015 by @EleanorPie Spin Sucks()

  • Pingback: Instagram to Offer Social Advertising to All This Year Spin Sucks()