Why and how to use Snapchat for internal communications

Most of your employees have smartphones, and the spontaneous, visual nature of the platform makes it a natural for storytelling and staff engagement.

I’ve been spending more and more time on Snapchat.

I didn’t see the value in it initially, but as Snapchat keeps rolling out features, it’s become a key part of my daily social media activities.

Snapchat’s user interface is unlike that of any other social network. Story content is sorted by user and then chronologically. You can respond to individual snaps or view people’s stories. This is dramatically different from the algorithms and viewing experiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.

Snapchat recently launched Chat 2.0 and is now a multi-function communication platform, including video chats, “phone calls” and audio notes-and the sound and video quality are quite good. It’s not perfect, but still impressive for an app. (Buffer has published a helpful post reviewing the Chat 2.0 features.)

Perhaps you don’t think your employees are on Snapchat. Have you asked them? Just look at the demographics and compare them against your own workforce.

  • In 2015, Snapchat increased its 18-24 base by 56 percent, its 25- to 34-year-old users increased 103 percent, and, most notably, its over-35 user base grew 84 percent, according to comScore.
  • According to Snapchat, 12 percent of its almost 50 million daily users in the U.S. are ages 35 to 54.

Last summer I read an article about a company’s “Snapchat Day.” To compel employees to learn more about the app, the company said staffers could communicate to other employees only through Snapchat. No emails, no phone calls, no messaging; just Snapchat. Company leaders learned a lot about the app and employee dynamics during the day, but it got me wondering whether Snapchat could be an effective internal communications channel.

I think it can; here’s why:

It’s visual.

Communicators know that visual elements enhance communication. Hence the rise of video.

Snapchat is all visual, with minimal text. It can be a picture, or it can be video—and there are limits to how long the video can be or how long the image can stay on the screen. There are more than 8 billion videos viewed every day on Snapchat. Amazing.

We know employees respond to visual elements, so you should embrace this core nature of Snapchat. Perhaps most important for employees, it demands communications that get to the point.

It’s mobile.

Yes, not everyone has a smartphone—but almost. Don’t look at those who don’t/can’t take advantage of mobile; look at those who do, the vanguard.

It’s cliché to talk about how we are slaves to our phones-perhaps it’s true—so why not take advantage? The only way (minus a workaround) to view Snapchat content is through the app. Given that employees are already on their phones (for both work and personal reasons), why not integrate your internal communication into a social media channel?

Your workers can’t be forced to subscribe, but if your content is great, my hunch is that they will.

It’s employee advocacy.

This where the smart companies will take Snapchat. Whether you know it or not, you have employees sending “snaps”—just as they do tweets and emails—while at work. With Snapchat, companies could include custom geo-located filters on these missives. These filters add a graphic element to pictures and videos.

Think about the possibility of your employees’ choosing to brand their snaps with a corporate feel. If the filter is designed well, people will want to add them. That way, the company gets its branded message sent to a larger audience when employees add them to their own stories.

Just recently, Snapchat announced on-demand custom geo-filters (for a fee) that users can submit and which are good for a limited time. Imagine a custom filter for a big employee event or a recruitment campaign-and only people on site at your company locations can use them.

It’s storytelling.

A few companies on Snapchat are getting very creative with storytelling. Both GE and Taco Bell come to mind. Their content is certainly geared toward customers, but I’m sure it’s also helpful for employees. A lot of thought goes into some of these stories, which are told one picture or video at a time. This level of planning aside, Snapchat is usually very spontaneous.

Imagine using Snapchat to tell a great employee recognition story or as a “behind the scenes” tool to show leaders visiting a new location to a far-flung audience. Again, there are so many great opportunities to tell stories in a unique way to inform and engage employees.

The images and video don’t have to be perfect, either. There’s no way to upload content into Snapchat. It’s captured and conveyed right then, so there’s an organic, immediate feel to it. Content is gone in 24 hours; it’s all about right now-not the past.

So, what now?

I’m not suggesting that every single organization create a Snapchat account and begin publishing internal content. All I’m saying is: Think about it. Think about how your internal communications team could engage employees in an exciting new way. Learn about the channel before you rush to judgment.

Look at the Discover section on the app. I know many hardcore users don’t like it, but it can be helpful to see how high-profile organizations are telling stories in a simple and interactive way. CNN, ESPN, The Wall Street Journal and others are part of Discover.

Naysayers will insist not everyone will use Snapchat, and they’re right, but when you look at the array of internal communication channels, none is used 100 percent by anyone (except maybe communicators). For that matter, some never visit the intranet; some shun the ESN.

That’s why communicators have to go where employees are. Right now, that growing channel is Snapchat. The demographics don’t lie.

If you’re willing to invest the time and learn more about Snapchat, you can add me at https://www.snapchat.com/add/chuckgose.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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