Snapchat is no longer just a private messaging tool for kids. Snapchat is a news platform, and it’s a platform for more than just the 20 media companies with precious spots in Discover, Snapchat’s dedicated professional media channel. Media companies big and small are using the Snapchat Stories feature, which allows you to create longer videos by piecing together photos and individual videos, each up to 10 seconds long.
Once you have a grasp of the basics, here are four tips to help you avoid common errors and have a happier Snapchat audience:
1. Get A Microphone
I’ve seen Snapchat stories from major news outlets with audio too quiet to hear and so much background noise it’s painful. They make microphones for phones. Get one. Today. Don’t cover another loud political rally without one.
The Rode Videomic Me does a great job knocking down the kind of background noise I’ve seen ruin stories from horse races, car races, festivals and parties.
Watch the first part of this video for a demo and see what a difference it makes:
2. Give People Time To Read
If you put text on a still image, give people time to read it.
Once your create your image, you can change how long it stays on the screen. It defaults to 2 seconds, which is not long enough to read most text.
Tap that “2” in the bottom left corner and you get the option to make the image last longer in your story. It goes up to 10 seconds.
Five seconds is usually long enough for the text I put on the screen, but don’t worry about leaving it up too long. It’s easy for readers to advance to the next image — just one tap anywhere on the screen.
3. Use A Shutter Remote
Without a remote, you have to hold down the shutter button on the phone screen the whole time you’re shooting a video, which can feel awkward, limit the angles you can use and make it hard to hold the phone steady. Using a Bluetooth shutter remote can make Snapping easier when you’re making stories alone, especially when you’re also using a mic that adds weight to the phone.
A few companies make these Bluetooth camera shutter remotes. The CamKix Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote is cheap and it works well.
4. Creatively Solicit Feedback
Snapchat started as a way for friends to send private messages, but it doesn’t work well yet for soliciting feedback from thousands of followers. As the venture capitalist Mark Suster recently said (on Twitter), “Snapchat sucks for large audience 2-way engagement.”
Friending People on Snapchat
Users are likely to be more familiar with the first method because it’s how friends message each other, and there’s a visible “chat” prompt on the screen while they are watching your story.
If you say “Snap us and let us know what you think,” in your story, and you are friends with everyone who has friended you, it should be clear to them how to contact you.
The disadvantages of friending people
However, adding back everyone who adds you as a friend is likely to make your own list of stories unusable if you are a media organization—you’ll see every story from every person you follow. It’s like being on a group email with every person who subscribes to your email newsletter.
Letting anyone message you on Snapchat
The second way to receive messages in Snapchat is to let everyone send you messages. This saves you from having to manually add everyone who adds you, doesn’t add everyone’s stories to the list of stories you want to watch and has the added benefit that you can globally activate and deactivate it.
If you don’t want to leave your account open all the time, you can still ask for feedback, open your account to messages from everyone and then close it again when you’re finished.
Open your account by going into your settings and selecting “Everyone” instead of “My Friends” under “Contact.”
Soliciting Feedback Using Your Other Accounts
Another way to solicit feedback is to use your other social media accounts, which can be useful because unlike Snaps, messages on other accounts don’t disappear after you watch them. Put your Twitter handle or Facebook address on the screen and ask people to respond there.
An unabridged version of this post originally appeared on MediaShift and is republished here with permission. Mignon Fogarty is the Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Media Entrepreneurship in the School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Barn Images.