Why Snapchat Matters and How to Use it Like a Pro (er, Teen)

This is the first in a series of interviews with authors and commentators in the social video space. We talked to Scott Perry, longtime editor of LA Tech Digest and author of Snapchat 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started on Snapchat (or, How to Use Snapchat like a Teen), about his new how-to book on the platform for non-millennial adults.

Note that the interview has been condensed and edited.

What made you decide to write the book?

Ultimately, I wanted to create a handbook that would have helped me as a new user.  I’ve had a lot of friends ask me how to use Snapchat. It doesn’t exactly come with a manual.

I’ve been into Snapchat since the early days. A couple of kids introduced me to it years ago, when it was still a single-use ephemeral messaging app. As an adult I didn’t have a lot of use for that, but over time they’ve added new features to make it more compelling: Stories, Discover, Memories.  In addition, representatives of the business world have joined: Gary Vaynerchuk and Mark Suster, who has really good case studies for how adults can and should use Snapchat to propel their agenda.

Why is there a need for a Snapchat manual?

We had the same issue with Twitter and Tumblr in the early days. Each platform has its own lexicon, with its own activities that are unique to that platform, and they don’t always come with an instruction manual.

Who’s the ideal reader for Snapchat 101?
  1. Any parent who wants to understand what their kids are doing, but who doesn’t have immediate access to the tools.  As a kid, are you going to teach your parent how to use Snapchat so they can look over your shoulder?
  2. Adults who want to stay up-to-date on business trends. The book is a great way to learn all the basics within an hour so you’re not wasting a lot of time, but you have a cursory understanding of what’s going on.
How is Snapchat changing social networks and communication?

There’s something fundamental about Snapchat as a communication tool, and how that’s creating a shift in how we communicate.  So much so that other platforms are starting to adopt those very things.  A few years ago it would have seemed silly to type text on top of your picture and then add emoji stickers.

Speaking of feature adoption by other platforms, what do you think of Instagram Stories as a competitor to Snapchat?

I was disappointed in that move by Instagram. It must have boosted their traffic, without a doubt. Potentially, it may hamper a larger transition of adults going over to Snapchat because they might not feel the immediate need when Instagram now has that offering. But Snapchat shouldn’t be overlooked: the sheer number of Snapchat users dictate that as a brand, an influencer, or even an individual, you should at least have a presence to understand how it works and take advantage of the tools.

As editor of LA Tech Digest, how do you evaluate a social media/social video platform and its future?

You have to wait for traction. Being a video-based town, a creative town, there are always new platforms and services cropping up.  If you chase every brand new, new thing, you can waste time if it doesn’t last beyond the early stages.

It helps to fit into the ecosystem in a significant way. I liken the YouTube space in Playa Vista to a [social video] GM plant, because by establishing itself in the heart of Hollywood it’s created this entire ecosystem of parts manufacturers along the highway that feed into it.  Whether it’s agents, managers, or customer relationship management tools, anything you need to fit into the YouTube platform has been built around that.  LA is a logical place for that to happen. Musical.ly and YouNow are here, and are creating a whole new set of influencers and audiences.

Where does Snapchat fit in with Silicon Beach and the social video world?

We need to understand short-form video tools like Snapchat as we move forward, because it’s just the first step toward simpler DIY video tools.  It’s also the means through which the younger generations communicate with each other.  It’s important to understand how to reach that audience over time.

Snapchat has the audience.  They’ve got the viewership. They had healthy revenue last year because they were the latest technology, and this year it’s incumbent on them to create performance revenue and grow that.

What are the pitfalls for Snapchat?

I think it’s the potential to be caught by the larger, incumbent platforms taking their best stuff, like Stories.  And even though I’ve written a book about how adults can use Snapchat, one of the biggest challenges is: how do you keep adults off Snapchat and keep it cool for the kids?

Right now it’s a closed platform with limited metrics, depending on a sponsor’s approach. It’s pretty easy to see how many views you get for a sponsored lens. So if you want to do Cyclops glasses the week before the new X-Men movie comes out, you know exactly how many people viewed that.  A lot of brands are bypassing the platform itself and going directly to the influencers for them to hold up a product. Then it’s up to the Snapchat influencer to take a screen shot of how many people viewed their snap as a form of metrics.

How can people find the book, and find you?

You can find the book on Amazon, in paperback or Kindle.


You can find me:

At LA Tech Digest, after a summer hiatus.
On Twitter, Instagram, and of course Snapchat: @scottperry

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