Unless you have been lost at sea (or are over the age of 30), chances are you have heard of Snapchat. It is one of the fastest growing social media apps today with the majority of its base being Millennials and younger. Chances are, if you have kids, nieces or nephews under the age of 30, you’ve seen them snapchatting. According to comScore, more than 60% of U.S. 13 to 34-year-old smartphone users are snapchatters.
But why? What makes Snapchat so compelling? And what do you need to know to understand what the snapchatters in your life are up to?
What is Snapchat and what makes it special?
Snapchat is a social media app available for iOS and Android phones. It allows users to send and receive messages – called “snaps” – that can be a text, picture, video or doodle to their friends or to the world.
What’s unique about Snapchat’s messages is, they have an expiration date. So, instead of your snap living out there on the Internet for a potential future employer to look up, it deletes itself. The expiration time for a snap is set by you and can by anything from a few seconds to 24 hours.
It turns out, the elimination of digital breadcrumbs living on the Internet is insanely popular. Particularly with young people.
Your snaps are organized into stories. Stories are the aggregation of your snap to a news feed that your friends can view. When they take a look at your story – called “My Story” from your perspective – they can view the snaps as many times as they want until they expire. Your story gives your friends a look into what interesting things you’ve been up to in the past 24 hours.
Along with individual stories, there are also story aggregators called “Live Story.” Adding your snaps to a Live Story allows you to submit snaps to a publicly viewable event and if you’re in the area, it will become available for everyone at the event to see. For example, New York City has a snapchat Live Story that anyone in the area can post to. Live stories are often moderated, and only selected snaps are added.
The feature that people are probably most familiar with, even if they’ve never heard of snapchat, is the Lenses. If you’ve ever had a kid point their phone at you, snap a picture, and you suddenly had dog ears and a big floppy tongue, then you’ve experienced lenses first hand.
A Snapchat Lens is a filter that overlays a graphic or animation on your video in real-time. When you open your camera, Snapchat scans your face and gives you several different lenses from which to choose. These range from a the puppy dog to Abraham Lincoln in a top hat.
Many areas also have geofilters, which are lenses based on your location. Geofilters can be created by the community in an area, or they can be purchased for advertising purposes. For example, if you take a snap in Charleston there is a geofilter with the Capitol dome!
Snapchat is an extremely popular app that uses snaps as a means of real-time communication, more than just sending a text or a video. Snapchat users are dedicated, some might say addicted, using the app constantly. The dynamic multimedia element makes it feel different than simply texting and the expiration time makes users see it as a game with no true reward. It’s just a fun and interactive way to hold conversations and convey messages to others.