This isn’t a post about about how Snapchat works down to the finest detail, this is more about how to be on Snapchat, how to find your voice and how to build an audience.

What is Snapchat?

If you don’t know what Snapchat is, where on earth have you been? Snapchat is the hottest new social network and when I say new I mean its about 5 years old but has just started gaining serious traction.

How does it work?

Well firstly, it’s very confusing in terms of UI and UX when you first open it up for an old person like me, yes 35 is old these days! But once you get used to the fact you swipe left and right and up and down to get to things, it makes a whole lot more sense.

The premise is that you can send 10 second videos or images to your friends or add them to your story. Each snap disappears once viewed twice if sending to friends and after 24 hours if you are adding it to your story.

You’ve tried it and don’t like it

Forget what you thought you knew, try it again with a fresh pair of eyes and childish enthusiasm, ignore UI and UX patterns from other apps, sit back and relax. Here are the basics:

  • You swipe right to see your friends
  • You swipe left to see stories
  • Swipe down for your profile info and settings
  • Swipe up – does nothing apart from the usual scrolling
  • Want to add filters? Swipe right after you’ve recorded your video
  • Want to add funny face swaps? Hold your finger down on your face before you record so it maps it and it will then show you the options

You don’t record your interactions or save your memories in a database – once you’ve experienced moments in real life, you don’t get to see them again.

If the fact the stories only last for 24 hours seems lame and snaps to friends disappear almost straight away – think about real life. You don’t record your interactions or save your memories in a database – once you’ve experienced moments in real life, you don’t get to see them again. I like that.

What makes Snapchat so special

In October 2013 they added Stories, this allows you to join all of your 10 second snaps together to tell your story. Aside from being able to see what the celebrities are up to, you can get some really great content from other people too. I follow a mixture of celebs, designers, fitness coaches and friends. It’s a great way to see how the other half live, keep up with what your friends are up to and get a daily dose of inspiration.

Now down to the details – how do you build something people are interested in?

Woah woah woah… before you start telling everyone you have a Snapchat account I’d advise doing the following first:

Find out what you’re like on camera

My first week on Snapchat was terrible, I hated seeing myself, I hated listening to myself, I didn’t know what to say, I was over analysing things. Do I look at the camera, do I look like a moron, do I sound boring – literally every single insecurity comes out. I’m not an insecure person, I’ll happily chat to most people and I’m fine with the way I look and sound. Seeing it played back on camera is another thing though. I looked awkward, I panicked as you only have 10 seconds to speak at a time so I constantly looked down at the record button, I ummed and I erred and generally… I was a real mess.

Calm down and be authentic

I slowly realised over my first week that trying to be someone wasn’t going to work. I’m not famous so I don’t have a life full of glitz and glamour. I decided that I had to be me, just me. So instead of worrying about how I looked and what I sounded like I started thinking about what people may find interesting about me. I’m a designer – so I can share my design process, I’m a father and husband – so I can talk about family life, I like to work out at the gym, home or generally outside – I can share my progress. I can share my morning routine. I’m even funny sometimes too!

Most importantly just be authentic, if I’ve had a crappy night due to 2 young children, I’ll talk about it – people will emphasise. If I’ve smashed a workout and I’m super positive, I can inspire someone. If I’m happy with something I’m working on I can talk about it and explain how I approach design problems.

Find your voice, find your style

I’m still finding mine, at the moment my stories are a mixture of home life, work life and exercise. Is that interesting? I don’t know, you tell me!

If you are good at what you do and you share how you approach your business then people will buy into you and your brand

I’m working off the idea that if I enjoy doing it, why not just keep doing it and if people want to come along for the ride, then they are more than welcome. I don’t think you have to be selling something necessarily, but if you are good at what you do and you share how you approach your business then people will buy into you and your brand.

Sense check your environment

Check you don’t have anything on you that shouldn’t be there. Just got up in the morning, check for dribble and things that dwell in the nose (sorry!). Just fed the baby, check you don’t have food or vomit in your hair. At the office or studio, make sure you don’t show a dartboard with one of your top clients faces pinned to it or work that is under NDA or confidential.

Be consistent

If you’re going to gain traction on Snapchat you’re going to need to keep posting snaps to your story, quick updates, images with text or drawing over them and different environments are a good way of doing this. Try and make the content useful, inspiring, funny or interesting though!

Be positive

If you’re not positive and optimistic, people will soon get fed up of you moaning on about how rubbish things are. If you’ve had a bad night with the kids or a client has canned a project, look on the bright side and convey confidence and optimism in your snaps – that will inspire people and keep you positive too, obviously that isn’t going to work for all situations.

Build your audience

Now the basics are done, you’re ready to promote yourself. This is where things get a little tricky. If you’re a celebrity or already popular on social networks – this part is easier. If you’re a relative nobody like me, building up an audience is going to be more time consuming than you perhaps want it to be. There is no easy way to find people other than directly via their handle or by scanning their Snapchat photo (Snapcode) which will automagically find them on Snapchat like a QR code. There is no in-app discovery like Instagram or Twitter, there is no hash tagging, categorisation or anything. So you’re going to have to go old school.

You can try the following:

  • Try and keep your Snapchat username consistent with other social networks, mine is the same username as Twitter, Instagram and Dribbble and so on.
  • Update your avatars across all of your social media to use the Snapchat avatar
  • Add your Snapchat username to your social biographies and email footers
  • You could even email everyone you know to let them know you’re on Snapchat
  • Let people know you’re on Snapchat via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
  • Add your Snapchat username and Snapcode to your websites, blogs and about pages
  • Engage with other Snapchatters, promote them in your stories too so its not just all about you
  • Do something unique or interesting or funny or something that people will want to see
  • You could even write a blog post about Snapchat ;)

Let me know if you’re on Snapchat

I’d love to hear from my subscribers and people who read this article if you’re on Snapchat. Send me your username in the comments below or just Add me on Snapchat: cdwharton.

I’d also love to hear what you think of Snapchat, how you use it and how you grow an audience.

Here is my Snapcode too


Here are some of my favourite Snapchatters right now

  • arnoldschnitzel – Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • thebodycoach – Joe Wicks of #Leanin15 fame
  • tinlunstudio – Terence, a hand letterer & calligrapher
  • bliss.berry – Sarah Nee, hand letterer & visual identity
  • garyvee – Gary Vaynerchuk, serial entrepreneur
  • aaroncwa – The Podcast Dude

and here are some useful articles about Snapchat

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