1. LEARN THE BASICS: Set up a profile using your mobile device or tablet, and then verify it using your email and phone number. You’ll get a brief tutorial from the app that teaches you how to tap your screen for a photo and hold it for a video. You can then edit your creations by adding captions, drawings or quirky lenses. Snapchat also reminds you that anyone can save a Snap by taking a screenshot – so, be aware of the consequences if you’re planning to share pictures of your naughty bits.
2. DISCOVER THE TWO WAYS TO USE IT: There are two main ways that people use Snapchat, says Jenna Jacobson, social media researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. “The first way is updating your Snapchat Story, which is available to everyone on your friends list. And that’s available for 24 hours. The other way is sending individual Snaps to specific people or groups of people. That means you can actually identify who sees what Snaps you send, in a much more personal way.”
3. FIND OUT HOW TO ADD FRIENDS: When I first joined Snapchat, my only friend was ‘Snapchat Team.’ It was a lonely existence. So, I ended up heading to other social networks to inform people of my Snapchat username. “I think that’s a huge barrier for some people – they can’t find each other, and then they give up,” says Toronto-based social media expert Michelle Pinchev. “So, you should familiarize yourself with all the different ways that you can add friends.” Aside from scanning the contacts list in your phone, you can also use the ‘add nearby’ feature if you’re in the same vicinity as other users you want to add.
4. FORGET HOW OTHER SOCIAL CHANNELS WORK: For the first few days, you’re probably going to feel lost, especially if you’re used to Facebook or Twitter. There are no hashtags, and you can’t ‘like’ or ‘favourite’ someone’s Snap. “For those of us in our thirties and older who are programmed to work with those traditional channels, Snapchat is going to take some getting used to,” says Pinchev. “It breaks the rules and it’s an inconsistent experience with other social channels.”
5. START SOME SNAPSTREAKS: Snapchat encourages one-to-one interaction, and you can accumulate a Snapstreak with someone if you exchange Snaps every day. “I have 170 straight days with one of my friends,” says Auguste Kociuba, my 13-year-old goddaughter, who says she uses Snapchat more than Instagram or texting. “You have to go in there every day to keep up the streak. One of my friends went on vacation to Greece two weeks ago, and so she gave my other friend her password so she can go into her account and keep up those streaks.”
6. PLAY UP YOUR STRENGTHS: Instead of getting lost in all of the app’s cool features, use it to maximize your natural abilities – whether you’re into visual arts, music, comedy, cooking, journalism or something else. “Don’t try to let Snapchat dictate to you what you should do,” says Jacksonville, Fla.-based radio host Mark Kaye, who has been hosting Snapchat talk show Talkin’ Snap for two years. “You have to look at it as another medium to showcase yourself.”