Using Snapchat as an academic

This thing of being a researcher interested in how technology impacts on interactions between an organisation and its customers has its advantages: I get to experiment with the latest technology crazes, without feeling a weirdo. No, I am not playing with Pokemon Go. I am just doing research 😉 After all, I need to understand the technologies that customers are using, right?!


Because of this, I have been playing around with Snapchat – you know, that social media platform that is very popular with teens. I confess that, initially, I felt very much like this:


Image source

But, now, I am actually enjoying the immediate, minimum editing nature of Snapchat communication, specially the stories. Here are some thoughts about what I am liking, what puts me off, and how this platform might be good for researchers.


What I am liking

I find Snapchat stories great for experimentation and for making sense of one’s thoughts – much better than than, say, YouTube. And I get a sense of connection with the story teller much stronger than on a blog, for instance. Also, the time-limited nature of the postings does create (in me, at least) a certain compulsion to keep checking if there is something new (unlike, say, Instagram).

As viewer / consumer, I like when the stories are entertaining and/or make me think. I also like to see some sort of pattern or consistency in the type of content shared.

Two users that I find particularly entertaining are:

  • Chocolate Johnny – He is a chocolatier based in Australia who shares a mix of behind the scenes images, testimonials, and amusing stories.
  • Tristantales – He produces fiction stories on Snapchat, sometimes inviting followers to decide the next step on the story (e.g., leave through the door or the window).



On the ‘making me think’ front, I find these users really interesting and worth my time (in alphabetical order):

  • Chris Marr – Founder of The Content Marketing Academy, based in Scotland. He snaps a lot (! maybe bit too much?!), offering a mixture of behind the scenes content (e.g., choosing a venue for one of his workshops), reflections (e.g., deciding on pricing strategy for an event), and helpful content (e.g., top tips on coming up with good content for your company).
  • Ian Anderson Gray – Ian is quite irregular both in terms of frequency and type of content shared. I think it is because he is still finding his voice on Snapchat, and experimenting… which I enjoy. I also like how he verbalises what is going through his mind, social media wise, and offers a very human side to the business man. Ian is based in England.
  • Jill Walker Rettberg – Jill is the only academic on this list. She is a professor of digital culture at the University of Bergen (Norway), and I like her reflections about the nature of Snapchat, about how we communicate on this platform, and so on… as well as about research in general (for instance, grant applications). As with Ian (above), I feel that she is experiment and finding her way on the platform, and I like that vulnerability.
  • String Story – Suzanne (not sure if this is the right spelling), is a digital marketing consultant, based in Australia. She clearly puts a lot of thought into how she uses Snapchat, and what stories she tells. For instance, she has a schedule: Mondays are about Snapchat; Tuesdays about Technology; and Thursdays are for swaps with other Snapchat users. She also plans the topic and content of each session carefully (love her handwritten plans. Nice touch.) I am learning a lot (!) with her.
  • Thomas Moen – Thomas is marketer based in Norway. I became aware of him via Jill (above). He shares short stories with varied marketing advice – mostly relative to digital communications, but not exclusively. I like that this stories are short and straight to the point. They are  told in a matter of fact way, with minimum use of filters and other distractions. His stories are all about the message, not gimmicks.


What puts me off

I really do not have much patience for endless pictures of coffee mugs, or sunsets, or ‘look where I am today’.

I also don’t like too much use of filters – it’s difficult to take someone seriously, when they are wearing a virtual flower garland, or have a dog’s nose and ears super-imposed on their face.

And, finally, please no posts from your bed, in your PJs or, even worse, in bare chest (yes, really!).

Again, this is in a professional capacity. Any of the above might be fine if you were sending a snap to your friend… maybe. But definitely not when you are sharing content in a professional capacity.


Using Snapchat as an academic

I have experimented with exploring / talking through something marketing related that caught my attention (for instance, this one), or about an interesting research article or fact that I came across (like this one). I really enjoy this type of interaction, and plan to produce a lot more of these stories, particularly to share cool papers or reports that I come across. I figure that, by doing so, I can help my followers find new stuff, and it will motivate me to read even when I am super busy with teaching or marking. Win-win. Also, it is not very time consuming – certainly less than writing a blog post.


I also experimented with just talking through some daily occurrence (e.g., last day of the term), but I don’t like doing this type of content that much – maybe because I do not have much patience to watch this type of stories, myself.


Finally, I also shared my students’ presentations. This type of content got a lot of positive reaction, but I don’t feel very comfortable doing it, because of concerns with ‘informed consent’. I need to find a better way of doing this!


I would love to see some stories from my fellow academics about research in progress – I could learn about things as they are developing, rather than wait many months for the results to be published. And maybe stories about books and papers being thought of, written, and so on. It would be very informative and inspirational. Though, I do appreciate that such stories might present problems in terms of making anonymous peer reviewing more difficult, or even present a threat to ‘intellectual property’.


Your turn: What stories would you like to see from an academic? And what one snapchat account should I start following?

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