Effective Snapchat Storytelling Strategies for Businesses (Digital Summit Recap)

One of the most compelling sessions at 2017’s Digital Summit in Phoenix was Shaun Ayala’s presentation about Effective Snapchat Storytelling Strategies. Shaun has worked at Best Buy for 15 years, but by night over the last 2-3 years has become an expert. So much so that the New Yorker named him one of the top 100 Snapchatters to follow, and he has represented some of the best brands on Snapchat (Lionsgate, Paramount, Fox, the NFL) including launching Lexus’ Snapchat account.

Shaun shared 13 effective Snapchat storytelling strategies, but first highlighted the limitations and obstacles that Snapchat entails:

1. There is a 10 second limit per photo/ video
2. Snaps last only 24 hours
3. Viewers have short attention spans
4. Viewers tap through stories (ie. You need to compel users to click on your name to see what you created)
5. User action required
6. You are as good as your last Snap story

However, Shaun’s response to these obstacles is to overcome them with what he calls WOW storytelling (Fun, creative, education, inspirational, entertaining, and interactive stories). Since, as he says, the majority of Snaps are selfies, food snaps, and mundane snaps, if brands are able to create something completely different they have an excellent chance of standing out and being rewarded with a massive amount of attention.

The overall key, he says, is to give your audience something to experience on Snapchat.

Here were the 13 strategies he shared for effective brand storytelling on Snapchat:

1. Storytelling basics – maintain the traditional story arc of beginning (introduction), middle (climax), and end (conclusion)

2. Micro stories – Shaun recommends breaking up the day with interesting segments that keep people engaged. Better yet, if you theme them together you can have an even bigger impact.

3. Be concise – to keep your audience entertained, keep your stories short, sweet, and impactful. He also encouraged brands to periodically review their Snaps and delete the ones that no longer make sense. In this matter, quantity of content doesn’t trump quality.

4. Add Art – emojis, bitmojis, stickers, and doodles are all effective ways to engage and get more attention, so long as the additions relate to the content

5. StoryBoard your ideas – Shaun talked about how he storyboards each and every idea he eventually uses on Snapchat. He also offered a free download of the template he uses for Storyboarding at shaunAyala.com/gift

6. Humanize your account – according to Shaun, one thing that sets Snapchat apart is that it’s about people narrating, not pretty shots. He talked about how often he sees brands and people fall into the trap of random recordings of what’s happening, rather than thoughtfully guiding people through a story.

7. Collaborate – as with every social media network, collaborating with influeners can go a long way with Snapchat. He encouraged brands to find opportunities to partner and create stories with others. Not only does this help to grow a brand’s audience within the app, but it also adds variety, builds awareness and increases friends. For this, he recommended the Ghost Codes app, which has discoverability functionality for SnapChat, and can help brands find people in different genres for partnering

8. Encourage your audience to participate – Shaun shared several examples of developing ideas that involves involving his audience to take action and contribute to the story. Done effectively, it can greatly extend a brand’s reach.

9. Call to actions – Shaun encouraged brands to not be afraid to ask their audience to do something at the end of you story. He advised that brands create a black snap and add in a request to:
a. Contribute to.. 
b. snap us yours…
c. snap to get featured
d. swipe up and message me for…[….and I’ll send you the link i mentioned in my story]
e. screenshot and share
f. tell a friend

10. Feature your audience – adding snaps created by your audience at the end of your story is a great way to make them feel appreciated. This will also encourage your audience to tell their friends or post this to their story, building word of mouth. Shaun encourages brands to repurpose these audience submissions on other social media platforms as well.

11. Spectacles – as more and more people are purchasing and using Snapchat Spectacles, there is a lot of potential for brands to create custom experiences with Spectactles. At the same time, Shaun encouraged brands to not rely only on Spectacles, and to remember to use them creatively – not just recording and post it to Snap. Use it to complement what they’re doing and still get in front of camera to explain and tell story

12. Working with influencers – each influencer caters to a specific audience and has their own unique spin to storytelling. Brands can engage with these influencers for:
a. Influence
b. Content creation
c. Consultant
d. Study their storytelling (if you don’t have the budget to hire them, just study what they do and copy that style)

13. Snapchat features – lastly, Shaun highlighted the different features possible in Snapchat; how they are commonly used, but how brands can take advantage of them in different ways to drive more engagement by thinking outside box.

*** Tap feature – this allows users to fast forward through a Snap Story. However, brands can encourage audience to tap screen through a sequence (he gave a great example of a stop-motion-type implementation.

*** Screenshot – this feature was originally created to capture snaps that will never get seen again. However, brands can use this to create exclusive content to get customers to screen capture and save content. For example: mobile wallpaper, multiple choice answers, games and more (make sure hashtag on image so it’s carried forward)

*** Memories – brands can upload audience snaps, use videos snaps for interviews, use Snapcodes and more. Shaun’s biggest recommendation here was to “keep it native”, and ensure it looks like other content on Snapchat.

*** Sticker – brands can create their own stickers for their audience to use in their snaps to promote your product, brand or service. These can be made from doodles or pictures. Shaun will sometimes encourage his audience to cut out stickers to use in their stories

*** Press and share – brands can use this feature to encourage their audience to share your story. If the image has some branding or hashtag, everyone who gets it in their audience through a share will see your name and where the art originally came from

*** Swipe down – although this is traditionally used to escape out of a story, Shaun shared examples of people effectively using this to measure how well content performs (for example, providing a “Tap if you want to know more” or “Swipe down if you don’t care”)

*** Chat – Shaun will use this to ask questions and encourage the conversation with his audience

*** Music – if your snap story is dramatic, inspirational, fun or scary, Shaun encourages brands to enhance the user’s experience with a soundtrack/ Snapchat allows you to use iTunes, Spotify, Pandora or Soundcloud to play music as part of your Snaps

Lastly, Shaun implored brands above all else to encourage their Snapchat audience to participate and be a part of your story. They key is to use stories rather than random Snaps.