It’s Day 13 of the Learning Rebels 30 Day Brainstorm Challenge. The Challenge is about looking for inspiration and ideas every day and sharing it with others in any way you choose. My Challenge post today is about my early experiences trying out Snapchat, a photo and video messaging app, as a professional development tool.
Sources of inspiration
I started using Snapchat this week. I was inspired to do this by Helen Blunden who has been exploring it in her usual curious and enthusiastic manner. I’d seen Helen tweeting about how she was using it to Work Out Loud and connect with others. My second source of inspiration was my 11 year old daughter, who I turned to for help. (She has since been a source of both ongoing assistance, encouragement and ridicule as I grapple with this app.)
After downloading the app to my iPhone I set up my account and created my profile. Profiles are very basic as shown below. The dots are a Snapchat branded QR code (aka ‘Snapcode‘) which other users of Snapchat can scan to automatically follow a person (called ‘adding a friend’ on Snapchat). Every account also has a url that others can use to follow e.g. https://www.snapchat.com/add/michelleockers6. The number ’74’ after my Snapchat user name is the number of points I have earned, although I remain fairly clueless as to how this works even after reading an explanation of how points are calculated. (I don’t think it’s important to me anyway.)
Functionality – getting my head around the basics
Reader beware – I’m about to tell you what I have been doing on Snapchat. I am at the ‘consciously incompetent’ stage in this learning curve so I apologise in advance if any of what I post here is misleading. I’ll update this post if I discover any errors at a later date.
This post from Pocket-Lint introduces Snapchat functionality and endeavours to answer the question ‘what’s the point of Snapchat?’
The basic idea is you create stories using a mix of photos and short (maximum 10 second) videos which you shoot in the Snapchat app – these are called ‘snaps’. You can overlay a small amount of text, emojis and graphics from a library, draw or add Snapchat filters. You can broadcast your content either to ‘the world’ (i.e. everyone on Snapchat) or just Snapchatters who follow you. It’s visible to you and others for 24 hours then ‘poof’ no-one can see it anymore. You can also send ‘snaps’ directly to friends who will see them for just 10 seconds after opening.
People can comment on an image or video but their comments are just sent to you as a direct ‘chat’, not visible to others. There is no like or favourite functionality. You can see who has viewed your snaps. You can’t add hyperlinks (you can type in a url, but it will be text, not a hyperlink). There’s no ‘feed’ where you can scroll through all of the ‘posts’ of everyone you follow. It doesn’t support multiple people having a collective conversation about your content.
It’s deliberately intended to be ephemeral, to be about ‘now’, to share stores from your life with people who are interested. It demands more constant attention than other social media platforms if you want to stay abreast of what people in your network are doing and sharing.
You have a single story, which will continuously update as you add snaps. You cannot have multiple stories running at one time unless you have multiple accounts – in which case I think you would need to sign out and in of accounts to switch between them. You can delete individual images or videos from your story. You can see who has viewed or taken a screen shot of every snap in your story.
From your own content you can download either an individual image or video to your camera roll, or your whole story (i.e. all content from last 24 hours). Downloads save as video on your camera roll. Although I haven’t tried this yet I expect that I could import this to iMovie to edit. Display is portrait only.
You can also save your own individual images, videos or a story on Snapchat using the ‘Memories’ functionality. I haven’t played around with this yet, but it sounds promising. The in-app help says that you can reuse the content saved in Memories – including adding content to your current story or sending directly to friends, editing stories, and creating new stories. It also allows you to upload images and screenshots from your camera roll and use them in your stories. Again, display is portrait only so anything shot in landscape will appear on it’s side.
Uncomfortable and Strange
I’m used to a lot of open interaction on social media and blogs as I work out loud and learn from people in my network. I’m used to being able to view content long after it was originally published, to bookmark content for re-use. This Snapchat space feels a bit strange. It’s deliberately designed to be impermanent – that’s the element which feels the most unusual to me. Yet that appears to be the key to it’s popularity. Further, as an aid to working out loud, the impermanence could reduce the inhibition to share.
Even once I master the functionality of the app (which is fairly simple but takes a little to get used to navigation – something my daughter is finding particularly hilarious) I think it will continue to feel a bit uncomfortable for a while as I figure out what I could use it for. That’s okay – this feeling is part of the process of trying something new.
What I’ve tried & what I’m learning
Below are a couple of examples using Snapchat stories that I uploaded from my camera roll to YouTube.
A daily journal – keeping a record of what I do in a day:
Working out loud about a project (before I knew I could edit out individual images – so there is some irrelevant content in this one):
I’ve tried mixing content from my work and personal life into my stories. I’m being quite selective with what I share from my personal life. There is a lot that I cannot share in images and videos from my working life because it contains organisation specific content that it may not be appropriate to share publicly. There have also been some important things that happened this week that I could not include in the journal style video (first example above) due to individual confidentiality. So, using Snapchat as a daily journal would result in an incomplete record due to the constraint of all content is public. This is an issue common to many other social media tools.
The short duration of the videos is forcing me to be succinct. I have 10 seconds to get a point or key message across Given I am experimenting with vlogging as part of the 30 Day Brainstorm Challenge this is helping me to become more concise in my vlogs.
I have only viewed stories of three other people. From my daughter I am learning about making things look a bit funkier and modern. She is not very upbeat about my potential, telling me my stories are ‘boring’. Helen Blunden and DrCameronJones both work out loud on Snapchat and tell their stories in an interesting way. I am using them as role models e.g. stringing together a series of short videos to explain an idea more fully, and drawing or jotting thoughts on paper and using them as an aid to explain key posts in a video.
Given how quick it is to capture my working process in Snapchat (as per the second example above) I found it an easy way to work out loud as I worked. Being able to download content for re-use in new stories and inclusion in more permanent working out loud video posts is an essential feature for me. It means that I can separate out content about different projects or activities after downloading and remix in more coherent ways. The short video format feels very fresh to me.
I have not yet tried to use Snapchat as a networking tool – to find new people and connect with them. Helen has told me she is finding it very useful for connecting with others, particularly those outside of her own field. I’m curious about this.
Part of my challenge may be that I’m trying to use Snapchat for things I already do using other platforms, that I’m treating it like other platforms. The impermanence is the distinguishing characteristic of this platform – I feel like I can be more casual here, and share without too much effort or polishing.
What I’ll do next
I’m going to:
- Keep narrating my Community of Practice toolkit development on Snapchat with the intent of remixing and reusing the content. It will be an experiment in Working Out Loud using Snapchat.
- Figure out how to use the ‘Memories’ functionality to reuse and edit content.
- Follow more people and watch how they use Snapchat. Observe closely and learn (i.e. I’ll be ‘lurking). Look for the use cases.
- Try using it to connect with people – to leave comments on their content and chat with them (one on one of course).
To help with 3 and 4 on this list I’ve followed everyone that Helen has identified as people who show their work on Snapchat.
It still feels strange, and remain willing to walk away from Snapchat – but I’m not done exploring yet.