Snapping Up Snapchat … Why It's Worth It

Has your library tried Snapchat yet? Over on the TechSoup blog, we scoured the Snapchat world for innovative examples from business, bloggers, and even a few nonprofits. But we couldn't find any library examples. Tell us in the comments if you're using Snapchat or have considered it for your library. 

Two years ago, we asked the question: "Can Nonprofits Benefit from Snapchat?" After using the app and investigating its privacy and security, I couldn't really find much use for nonprofits. It isn't secure enough to send sensitive information to clients or staff, and I could only find examples of businesses using the app.

Recently, after getting more into the app myself and discovering that more than just sneaky teenagers were using it, I decided to revisit Snapchat as a viable platform for nonprofits. I found some creative ways that nonprofits and other organizations were taking advantage of Snapchat's unique features.

If you're not familiar with Snapchat, this is how it works: You can send vanishing photo and video messages (also known as Snaps) to contacts you either add manually or via your phone's contacts. Tapping a camera button takes you into picture-taking mode.

After you take a picture, you can choose how long the recipient can view a Snap before it is deleted (1-10 seconds), add a drawing or text, and then send. Snapchat also has a feature called Stories that lets you share a compilation of your Snaps for 24 hours.

Get Inspired Businesses, Brands, and Bloggers … And a Few Nonprofits!

Something I always recommend for getting started with a new social media platform is to study how other organizations are using it. Because Snapchat doesn't have the large user base of Facebook or Twitter yet, I encourage nonprofits to follow a variety of Snapchat users — even the ones that you might not be personally or organizationally interested in. This might include corporations, publications, TV networks, brands, or well-known individuals.

If you're not sure where to start, you can find Snapchat accounts to follow under Snapchat's "Discovery" tab. Right now, this section is pretty small and limited to publications and media outlets. I'd love to eventually be able to browse through promoted Snapchat accounts by category, such as sports, fitness, and social good.

logos of corporate brands on Snapchat

When I wrote my article two years ago, I had a hard time finding nonprofits and charities that were successfully using Snapchat. Two years later, there seems to be a very small bump in nonprofit users. For a list of nonprofits to follow, check out JustGiving's round-up 7 Charities Who Totally Get Snapchat. Beyond the ones listed in that article, I couldn't find any others (nor could Beth Kanter).

Take Advantage of Snapchat's Impermanence

Because of Snapchat's ephemeral nature, I've noticed that a few brands or individuals are bit more casual and loose with what they share. It is really fun way for your audience to get a behind-the-scenes look at what you do.

For example, British cooking site SORTEDfood had a hilarious series of Snapchat Stories in which its staffers took an international road trip to find delicious food. Followers could watch them navigate new cities as they got hungrier and hungrier. Fitness and lifestyle blogger Lauryn Evarts gives her fans a peek at her hectic life — and often pokes fun at her fiancé. As we've discussed with Facebook, humor is a great way to engage your fans.

You can also use Snapchat's disappearing posts for more serious matters, such as the #LastSelfie campaignfrom the Danish branch of the World Wildlife Fund. The #LastSelfie snaps featured five different endangered animals with the message "Don't let this be my #lastselfie." The images are powerful, yet fleeting — perfectly capturing the WWF's mission to save animals from going extinct.

WWF panda with #LastSelfie on Snapchat

Share Exclusive Content, Challenges, and Contests

A few publications and media outlets use Snapchat to share exclusive content or videos. The NFL shares photos and videos shot from the sidelines, for example. National Geographic shares exclusive content such as its wildlife "crime blotter" as well as videos and exclusive articles. Your nonprofit could do something similar by sharing exclusive videos or photos from an event or make a story of Snaps from your volunteers.

National Geographic's Wildlife Watch on deer poaching on Snapchat

If you do a search for "nonprofits on Snapchat," DoSomething.org comes up over and over. DoSomething.org encourages young people to take action on various campaigns with the tagline "Want to make the world suck less?" Because its target group is millennials and younger, it makes sense that this nonprofit has a "snapmaster" who is in charge of sending visual messages to DoSomething's members.

One of the many interesting campaigns it's done was The Hunt, a daily challenge that was presented on Snapchat. It was a clever way to engage its members to do fun and meaningful tasks. This daily challenge could most definitely be replicated by other organizations. You could post about the contest or challenge on Facebook and then ask your fans to follow you on Snapchat for more details.

It Might Not Be for Your Nonprofit … and That's Okay

The big advantage of using Snapchat is being able to reach young people where they already are. According to a Business Insider Intelligence report, 45 percent of Snapchat's adult users are between 18 and 24. If your nonprofit's primary audience is older, then you should focus your energy on a more appropriate online platform. But Snapchat is a big deal and isn't going away anytime soon (at CES 2016, the company projected its ghost company logo on the Luxor pyramid).

Even if you're not using it for outreach purposes, being aware of how it works and how people are using it is important for your overall social media and digital outreach strategy. As a social network morphs and develops, its user base does too. Remember when Facebook was just for college students? Now, literally, everybody and their grandmother is on Facebook. Will Snapchat experience the same growth? If you're not paying attention, you might miss an important opportunity to share your mission and impact with a new group of people.

Image 1: Snapchat

Image 2: World Wildlife Fund

Image 3: National Geographic