Student guest post: How digital news editors can use Snapchat to attract millennials

Students in MEJO 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the fourth of those posts. Bridget Dye is a senior from Charlotte, North Carolina, majoring in reporting and political science.

Snapchat is no longer just a place for selfies. Many major news media outlets have already embraced the app that reaches 41 percent of  18- to 34-year-olds in the United States.

There are two kinds of news publications on Snapchat: those who partner with the app and appear on the Featured section, and those who must ask their followers to add them as a friend.

Publications on the Featured section like ESPN, CNN and The Wall Street Journal have access to extra tools that make it easier to post graphics and embed text stories than it is for the average user.

However, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and The Daily Tar Heel are a few of the publications not in the Featured section that are still taking advantage of the app to connect on a more personal level with their young followers.

The aim of both types of news publications on Snapchat should be to attract millennials to their brand and get them to read more.

The uniqueness of the social media app sets up publications and their digital editors to use alternative story forms to draw in viewers to more substantial content. To do this, posts must be carefully shaped to attract the most amount of attention, and then the transition from Snapchat to more information must be made as easy as possible.

The platform comes with its own set of challenges, which can be turned into an opportunity with the right attention and selection.

Big, bold, and bright: drawing in Snapchat users

To get repeat Snapchat viewers, a publication should take advantage of the reasons why users are on the app in the first place: current, close-up, photo and video. Simple, bold graphics can draw in a user who wasn’t looking to spend a lot of time reading through long pages of text.

Vertical graphics and videos take advantage of the mobile space much better than horizontal visuals. This makes it harder to reuse horizontal content made with computers in mind. Also, stories featured on Snapchat should be topics that most appeal to the 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

Switching over: turning Snapchat viewers into readers

One of the biggest challenges for publications on Snapchat is that it is not possible to include links to pages outside the app. Viewers must exit the app and do their own search if they want to find out more about the story.

Snapchat stories also disappear after 24 hours. Part of the appeal for users is that content is less than a day old. For publishers, this means that the story should be current to that day and that their other online platforms should have more information on the same story the same day a story is on Snapchat.

Users come to Snapchat for photos and videos, which should be embraced by publications. Instead of trying to republish lengthy text articles, the types of news stories featured on Snapchat should be the most visually compelling story of the day. The Wall Street Journal does a good job of selecting a visually compelling story about migrants and oranges. The motion text and graphics really stand out and are much more captivating than another story with more generic photos of a trading floor.

wsj-snapThe Wall Street Journal fails to connect Snapchat viewers to more of their content. The migrants and oranges story was not featured on the homepage of their website the day it appeared on Snapchat. It should be easy for a viewer to search for the story they see on Snapchat on a publication’s homepage the same day.

Snapchat’s features should be seen as opportunity rather than a challenge. Content should be specifically edited for the platform rather than reused. Using the right techniques to capture users can hopefully increase a publication’s readership.

Success on Snapchat requires specific attention, but for those who want to draw in the attention of millennials, embracing Snapchat as a major platform is a must.

No matter the type of publication, digital editors should select visually compelling alternative story forms to feature on Snapchat and then make it as easy as possible for the viewer to crossover to the publication’s full content.