Feared by many. Loved by even more. Criticized by those who only spent about 20 seconds on it before saying to themselves “How do I sell my newest book on here?”
Since everyone had learned the ins and outs of using Snapchat (here), this post is about helping you step up your Story game on the fast-growing platform that I love so much.
Poster vs. Storyteller
There are 2 types of people who post stories on Snapchat. Ok, maybe more than 2, but for the purposes of this article, there are 2. We have the Poster and the Storyteller.
The Poster uploads random and sometimes confusing snaps to their Story. Typically, this will include 10+ clips with flashing lights, loud noises (read: music) and a lot of shouting. They are at a concert and have decided that you should see the whole thing, 10 nauseating seconds at a time. It’s obvious they are drunk and excited. They are convinced that you are going to love 3.5 minutes of blurry motion only broken up with still shots of their over-priced liquor in a glowing cup.
If it’s not the concert or night club, then it will most definitely be an endless stream of random videos of their dog sleeping on a blanket or their cat walking around. There is no rhyme or reason to what they post. They fire up the Snapchat camera whenever they feel like taking pictures. I would wager that their Story looks eerily similar to their camera roll – random and extremely confusing.
I have no problem with Posters. I follow a lot of Posters. I love them. They are wonderful people and I really enjoy seeing life through their eyes. The only problem with Posters is that they are not Storytellers.
For those of you who think of yourselves as Storytellers or aspire to become one, I’m going to focus on 4 main points to make sure your Story is both entertaining and effective: Relevance, clip length, story length and frequency.
As I alluded to a few moments ago, Stories that actually tell a story need to be organized and relevant. There needs to be context from one clip to the next. An effective Storyteller will make sure you understand the reason for each clip within their Story.
It’s true that each photo or video posted to your Story is only up to 10 seconds in length, but that doesn’t mean you need to fit everything you want to post into that 10 second window. Remember, you can post an unlimited number of clips to your Story. More about that later.
10 seconds. That’s how long you have for each picture or video clip. Doesn’t seem like much, does it?
Think about this. You’re watching a story that is mainly video. It’s fast paced and excited. You’re being taken on an adventure through Disneyland from one ride to the next. Then, as you are approaching Space Mountain, the Storyteller adds a still image – a picture. They show you a picture of the entrance to the ride. It’s 10 seconds long. 10 seconds!
I know, I know. You are probably thinking “Give me a break with your 1st world problems.” Yeah, I know it’s not a huge deal in the long run. But we are trying tell a story here and with energy and a fast pace, throwing in a 10 second still frame (where you only need about 2-3 seconds to figure out what is going on) is like grabbing the e-brake in the middle of a drag race.
Just because you can use all 10 seconds of a picture or a video doesn’t mean you should. Once you convey the message or point of a clip, move on.
If you want to use text on a clip, think about how long it will take the viewer to read and notice anything else you want them to see in the frame. If it’s a lot of text, consider a blank screen (cover the camera) and use just text. If the action in the background is important and you want the viewer to pay attention to the action, don’t pull their attention away with text.
Don’t ruin the flow or cadence of the rest of your Story with a bad-timed clip.
One of the most common offenses to storytelling is often the overall length of a Story.
Be respectful of your viewers time and remember that “less is more.” If your Story is going to be 5 minutes long, it better be pretty amazing. It’s not exactly easy to keep a viewer engaged and interested beyond about 1-2 minutes. 5 minutes is almost unheard of.
Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. Some people can really keep you interested, but that is a rare occurrence. I promise, you are not the exception to the rule.
The psychology behind Snapchat is real-time, ephemeral (fancy word for temporary) and quick. If you want to tell a Story in 5 minutes, consider a short film on Vimeo or YouTube first. It’s far more likely people will make it to the end of your Story. If they do, it’s very possible they jut “tapped-through” to make it disappear from their feed.
Lastly, think about frequency. This rides closely behind Story Length.
Each clip uploaded to your Story lasts 24 hours. Then it’s gone. You can do multiple Stories within 24 hours, but you risk fatiguing your audience. There are some advantages to posting throughout the day, like staying at the top of your viewers New Stories feed, but that’s at the expense of a smooth viewing experience for your audience.
On the flip side, posting too infrequently can compromise your following. The best advice I can give is to commit to some sort of schedule. I try to post a Story 4-5 times a week. You don’t need to post daily.
There is no general rule when it comes to frequency, just a number of ideas and suggestions. Each audience is different and has different expectations. The best advice here is to be aware of fatigue or losing attention from inconsistency.
Ultimately, this is just an opinion.
Take it for what it’s worth. This is just what I have observed and found effective. This is by no means Snapchat Scripture, but it’s proven useful for many.
The best Storytellers are those that can put their audience in their own shoes. Ironically, that requires them to put themselves in the shoes of their audience.
This is what I love about Snapchat. It forces us to constantly evolve and relate to others while we try to communicate emotion, ideas and messages with those around us.
If you want an example of telling a story on Snapchat, check out this one I did a while ago. Click the image and let me know what you think on Twitter at @benfigo or Snap me. You can scan my code at the beginning of this article, or add my username figoamericano.