SnapChat has been around for a few years, but I have not focused on it because as a babyboomer I’m not the target demographic.   Snapchat is a mobile app that lets users exchange text messages, photos and videos that disappear in 24 hours.   This is called disposable media.  Snapchat users share “snaps” or micro moments of their lives privately with a their friends, or as “stories” with their followers.

The app gained traction as a sexting app, a communications platform for teens to exchange naughty photos without getting caught by their parents because the content would be automatically deleted shortly after it was sent.    Snapchat is appealing, perhaps, because it appeals to our inner voyeur to live vicariously through someone else’s experience or in this case social stream.   And, if VR is the next big wave of tech, Snapchat might be ride that wave too.

I started to pay attention when my kids became teenagers — and wanting to practice good digital parenting as  Alexandra Samuel advises – I added the SnapChat app to my phone.  My first experience was “What?” and could not figure it out. The puzzling feeling reminded me of my first experience on Twitter ten years ago and that made me feel old.Plus, it takes more patience than doing Sudoku to figure out and use regularly, although it is a snap for 14 year olds.

The experts say that if you are over 24, you will not get it — and so I was relieved that it was SnapChat, not me and that my technical skills had suddenly disappeared like a snap.    Thank god there are teenage YouTube celebrities who share excellent SnapChat tutorials like Aaron’s Break the Internet.   If I were his mother, and I’m probably old enough to be his mother, I’d be proud!

So, why another social network, especially one where the focus is to create content, not consume and the culture of it is rather secretive?   As this Snap Chat 101 for business people in the Wall Street Journal points out, “Facebook is for major life updates. (Your friend from third grade just had her 10th baby!) Twitter is for keeping up with news and live events. ( Taylor Swift released a new video…again.) Instagram is for jealousy-inducing photos. (Bora Bora is beautiful; your cubicle is not.) Snapchat is for bearing witness—telling stories in raw, often humorous, behind-the-scenes clips or messages.”

Nonprofits and SnapChat

Several years ago,  I noticed that DoSomething.Org was actively experimenting on SnapChat.  I waited to see if other nonprofits would embrace this emerging social media platform.  TechSoup wrote up this post based on some very early innovators in 2013, but still only a handful of nonprofits had established a presence.   In the last six months, as SnapChat hype has escalated, the list of early adopter nonprofits has started grow, it isn’t huge yet.    But as John Haydon points out, the nonprofits that are using it are very creative.


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I started to notice a few nonprofits adding their Snapcodes  to their social media streams, inviting their audiences to follow them.  For example, I noticed this in One Campaign’s Instagram Feed and started following them.  The stories they were snapping were from a youth summit — a behind scenes look, selfies, and loaded with emoji.


Another example is the Atlanta Symphony which is trying to entice younger people into the concert hall with behind the scenes snaps.  Made me wonder if I attended a concert by the Symphony if I would see less of a sea of gray hair or not.


The Annenberg Foundation has been sharing snaps from behind the scenes at its leadership conference.

So, this gets to the question of whether your nonprofit needs to be on SnapChat or not?  Does your nonprofit need to be on an emerging social media channel beyond Facebook and Twitter?   But before you do anything, take this advice from Laura Girardin about brave experiments with emerging social media.


If you are targeting Gen Z and Millennials and you have someone on staff who speaks emoji as a first language,  set up a small pilot and test on SnapChat using Laura’s steps.   There’s lots of tutorials, but here is a good starter guide with some great  suggestions.   Think about how you can give a behind the scenes view of your organization, perhaps at an event.   Be sure to promote your SnapChat on other social channels.

Is your nonprofit experimenting with SnapChat or other emerging social media channel?  What have you learned?


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