What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a disappearing, mobile message app that teenagers (71% of users are under the age of 25) use to goof around with their friends.

Snapchat has rapidly grown its user base since its launch in September of 2011. Engagement is considerably high among its 100 million users, in fact 400 million snaps are sent each day—more photos are shared on Snapchat than Facebook! For these reasons, and many others, this why Snapchat is worth $19 billion (that’s with a “B”).

People Stay With Their Networks

Yes, teenagers are the primary demographic using Snapchat. However, in the not-so-distant future these teens will eventually grow up, graduate from high school, go off to college, get jobs, get married, raise kids, buy homes, run for public office etc. You get my point—they will grow up, but they will stay with the social networks they grew up on because that’s where their friends are.

Why do so many of my millennial friends who are in their early to mid-thirties still use Facebook? Because they started using Facebook in college—it’s what they grew up on. We still use Facebook because all of our high school and college friends are still using it too. It has become part of our behavior.

Why do my parents and grandparents still want to talk on the phone? Because it was the standard form of communication for their social networks. Right now, the standard form of communication for many 13 to 21 year olds is being established on the behavior of Snapchat.

Snapchat Will Mature

Social media is new to everyone. What we are learning is that all social networks grow up and people generally stay with the networks that allow them to communicate with their friends.

I believe that paying attention to the social networks where young people are spending their time is critical for Extension. Why? The future is always on my mind and I have come to understand that if you want to reach the next generation, you must communicate natively on the platforms that already have their attention.

Snapchat is maturing right in front of our very eyes. Yesterday was the best time to jump in and start using it. The second best time is today.

Why Snapchat Matters to Extension?

Extension, like every other organization, is in the business of attention.

We want people to show up to our exciting face-to-face gardening, financial literacy, or food preservation workshops, read our fact sheets, watch our videos, gain knowledge and apply it to improve their lives.

But how do we get their attention? Just because we build it doesn’t mean they will come.

It starts with telling a story. But before you can tell that story, you need to have somebody’s attention. We live in a noisy digital world. It’s easy to get distracted in the ocean that is Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. By making its user-generated content transitory, Snapchat has created a platform that demands attention. Would you pay attention if you knew the message was going to disappear forever?

What if eXtension started using Snapchat’s Discover feature to share a story every week about people applying the research-based information of their Land-Grant University? What if 4-H made a deal to use Snapchat’s Stories to share what goes on at National 4-H Congress or National Youth Science Day? These are innovative approaches I would recommend for attracting attention and telling stories to a younger generation in the 21st century. This kind of marketing will lead to impacts.

Extension Must Focus on Relevancy

If we want Extension to be relevant in the future, we need to start jumping into Snapchat (as well as other young mobile-based social networks, like Yik Yak, Periscope and Meerkat). Download Snapchat already. Start using it to communicate with family, friends, and customers. Get comfortable with all that swiping.

At the moment, Snapchat is a 1-to-1 platform—meaning you have to first connect with people (you know) before you can ‘snap’ them. It’s not an open network like Twitter. However, as Snapchat matures and evolves it will eventually adopt a 1-to-Many platform, which will then allow users to share their stories with a massive (and attentive) audience.

When this happens, many predict Snapchat will start receiving substantial mainstream attention—everyone will start paying close attention e.g. retail and restaurant chains, traditional news outlets. If Extension starts using Snapchat to engage with customers now, then down the road when it goes mainstream we will be better situated to attract even more mainstream attention and make greater impacts.

Heck Yes, I use Snapchat

I’ve been using Snapchat for a over a year now. I use it to communicate with my siblings, parents and friends. It’s really fun. I even use it to message my 4-H staff and members through the “My Story” feature. When I need to get the word out about a 4-H activity, Snapchat is literally the best way to do it. Why? Because I can see which members have viewed the photo or video I created and they can quickly reply whether or not they can make it. I literally get instant responses.

If you’d like to learn how to use Snapchat together, add me: fourhpro – I’d be happy to help my fellow #EdTechLN members learn this new platform.