Justinkan, Grantcardone, and the voices of Snapchat

Posted on April 28, 2016. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

I spent the day yesterday digging into Snapchat in a pretty deep way. I’ve wanted to do this for a while. One of the most interesting things about Snapchat, is that the user experience completely breaks from all of the conventions that precede it…so really getting into it, and getting the full impact of the experience, requires effort, exploration, and poking around. I’ve been on Snapchat for a very long time, and used it in a pretty superficial way forever…but I’ve always had this feeling like “i’m doing it wrong”…I see a friend use faceswap, or a filter to make lasers come out of their eyes, and I’m too stubborn to admit that I don’t know how to find that in the app. It must be some 3rd party publishing tool they are using? no…you have to long press and hold your thumb down over your face to evoke this hidden feature…somebody has to tell you how to find it…it’s almost a secret…

Even the most fundamental of actions, like finding people to friend or follow on Snapchat is incredibly difficult. I spent a few hours, asking my friends on twitter to send me good accounts, reading lists of “good snappers” to follow, and playing w a 3rd party discovery app called Ghostcodes, trying to build up a good group of people to follow…Why would they make it so hard to find good people…well…for starters this isn’t Twitter…and no matter how much I might want it to be video twitter…it’s not. I think we have a bias when exploring new platforms to bring our habits and expectations with us from the last place we felt at home. I love twitter as a publishing platform (a place where a person can have/express a voice), and there is no question that Snapchat Stories is a new and potentially richer publishing platform…but because I learned to have a voice on Twitter, I keep trying to fit Snapchat into that place where I learned. Here’s where I’m at a disadvantage to the generation who first found their publishing voice on Snapchat. They didn’t bring any bias with them…they learned within the UX and context of Snapchat, how to publish on Snapchat, so their natural instinct is to create and speak in a way that’s native to the platform. One of the first things I considered, was how hard it must be to amass a “following” on Snapchat. Someone like Justin Kan, who has been recognized for creating great content and emerging as in influencer on Snapchat…he must have a fraction of the audience that he does on Twitter…not because he’s better at Twitter than Snapchat, but because it’s so fucking hard to find and follow him on Snapchat. Yes, their are Snapcodes (the weird image/QR code upper right on this page)…but even those are a mystery you have to commit to figure out. I’m pretty tech forward, and only yesterday learned how to properly use them. I was screenshotting Snapcodes for the longest time, and then searching my camera roll in the Snapchat app, to select screenshotted codes to add to my friends list. Turns how, if you just photograph the Snapcode through the Apps camera function, it will auto-friend these people without selecting from camera roll. Where would I have learned that things worked this way? There’s no tutorial, or explanation…and that’s the point. Maybe snapchat doesn’t want to turn into Twitter…maybe they’d prefer your graph of friends/followers to be small, and intimate, and true friends vs followers…maybe Stories aren’t for influencers or publishers…maybe they are for friends and loved ones…or maybe they ARE for influencers and publishers…but only if influencers are willing to play by the rules…which are that the content here is intimate, and raw, and you need to behave like you are speaking to friends, even if you are trying to speak to 1 million of them.

Something interesting I’ve noticed is that the production value of content in my Snapchat feed has risen in the last 6 months or s (if you’ll call it a feed…Stories were very unfeedlike for a while…but with the recent autoplay feature that rolls through all stories without needing to tap, i’d argue that this is now a non-vertical scrolling feed of content). “Production value” is the amount of energy/time/thought/polish/expense that is put into creating content. Blair Witch Project was low production value film. Avatar was a high production value film. Whereas my friends’ stories used to be quick/observational/quirky frames (likely a result of creators who first found their voices on instagram, bringing these habits with them to Snapchat), now my friends are starting to speak into the camera, plan sequenced shots ( a “snapstorm”), and even create art and interstitials between shots in their Stories. This isn’t the poop emoji on a friend’s face anymore…people are trying to say something in this channel now…they are trying to see it while taking advantage of the richer format…they are trying to publish. Interestingly, the ratio of production value to audience is pretty shitty on Snapchat compared to platforms like instagram, twitter, and facebook. It might take me 5 minutes to create something good on Snapchat that only 40 people will see, whereas it might take me 15 seconds to create something good on twitter that 7000 people will see…and still..after a few days getting into it, i’m happy to do it. Why? because it’s fun, and video is richer, and importantly…the environment shapes the content and sets an expectation of levity and fun and rawness that inspires me to make a new style of content that I like and that i’m proud of. All of this is to say that Snapchat stories, while rebuking the legacy of twitter/facebook/instagram at every design turn…is undoubtedly on a course to enable hundreds of millions of voices as it’s users become publishers. I think discovery will get a little easier (as signified by their recent roll out of a url to “addme on Snapchat”, but we’ll probably see some more ground up features designed to make finding voices easier on the platform…one thing you can bet on…is they won’t be the mechanics we’ve seen from other’s in the past…like everything else in the experience, they’ll be original, non-intuitive for migrators from existing platforms, but natural for natives and careful non to disrupt the tone that makes Snapchat content unique.

There’s still a lot that in Snapchat where I still feel an outsider. I know native users are having rich 1-1 chats, acting less as publishers and more as messagers…my limited 1-1 messaging has felt disjointed…a function again, of bringing my expectations from SMS, Facebook, and email. I guess as more of my graph is willing to “relearn” how to message in this channel, volume will pick up, and I’ll get the full experience…but for now I can only look enviously at Olivia’s 10 year old brother who didn’t have to unlearn SMS to enjoy 1-1 messaging in Snapchat.

As an aside, for those who are still feeling a little “outsider,” here is a bit of a cross section of usernames to get you started. not all people who’s Stories i like, but a bunch of the different flavors of publishing that people are doing on the platform:

arnoldschnitzel (feels like you are a perpetual student in his kindergarden cop class)
justinkan (creative content creation/style)
grantcardone (this guy is the worst…but worth seeing just how terrible he is)
man_repeller (professional publisher migrating to snapchat)
micdotcom (professional publisher migrating to snapchat)
rbfishman (lifestyles of the young and handsome socialite/entrepreneur)
yesjulz (party/nightlife)
therealdrmiami (platic surgeon in MIA)
msuster (vc blogger…using it as educational platform)
kimkardashian (celebrity)
djkhaled305 (celebrity)

i don’t have the energy to upload all their snapcodes for you…touche snapchat…

and i’m jordancooper1…but instead of name lookup…maybe be advanced about it, open snapchat, and use the snapchat camera to photograph that weird picture in the upper right on this screen (or screengrab it from mobile and figure out how to add by Snapcode in the settings…)

Have fun.

 

p.s. i think it would be cool if Snapchat adopted the ghost emoji as a replacement for the @ sign before their user handles. so instead of i’m @jordancooper on twitter…i could be “Ghost on Apple iOS 9.3jordancooper” on Snapchat


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    About

    I’m a NYC based entrepreneur. I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected? (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it) You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com

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