Does a phone app—whose chief claim to fame appears to be vaporization—offer anything to authors striving to build a solid online presence? And are there safety concerns?
When Tom Blubaugh invited me to write an article about Snapchat, I decided to approach it from the point of view of authors wishing to increase our online sales. Could Snapchat help us with that?
“Delete is our default.”
Publishing and digital media strategy expert Jane Friedman says documenting their lives through selfies and short videos is a major pastime of Snapchat users, making it useful to celebrities for connecting with their fans. But not only are the posts extremely temporal, it’s also hard to find people you’re not already connected to somehow. This stands in sharp contrast to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which facilitate interaction between interested parties. I find it hard to see this difficulty as affording any possible advantage to an author wanting to reach out.
In fact, the service stresses user privacy, not publicity. Snaps can be viewed for up to 10 seconds; they disappear “once they are viewed – unless your friend decides to keep it, such as with a screenshot or separate camera.” My Story Snaps last a whopping 24 hours and can be viewed more than once. Expiry of unopened Snaps occurs after 30 days.
Live Stories, including Campus Stories, are different. These posts, which can be archived by the service for later viewing, offer a high tech “walk a mile in my moccasins” experience: people at the same event or location can contribute Snaps to the same Story and view each other’s Snaps. I can see this feature as useful to writers who want to explore different perspectives, but still can’t connect it to book sales.
$3 billion? No, thanks.
On the other hand, a November 2013 Wall Street Journal article reports that Snapchat owners Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy spurned Mark Zuckerburg’s offer of $3 billion for the platform. Did they know something we didn’t know?
It would appear so. CNN Money reported in August of 2014 that the app was valued at $10 billion.
Got the Munchies?
Social Media Examiner’s Ana Gotter reports that only 2% of marketers are using Snapchat to reach out to the 100 million daily active users. Over 60% of American Snapchatters are between the ages of 13 and 34, and 77% of college students use the platform daily. The success stories Gotter shares are for fast food outlets that have made strategic use of timing, urgency and highly interesting images. The question is whether their tactics—profitable indeed for Taco Bell and the like—will work for authors swimming alongside piranhas down the mighty Amazon.
If we did want to explore the platform for selling books, where would we start?
Snapchat celebrity Shaun McBride, aka Shonduras, has 60,000+ followers. He suggests that “users new to the platform begin by watching their favorite personalities. Pick out similar brands or follow Shonduras on Snapchat. Then see how they engage with their audience. Put it into perspective for your own demographic and goals. Then just go for it!”
Might Shaun’s antics at Disney World and Jurassic Park hold promise for the e-books-for-99-cents author?
Let’s ask the experts.
Time to Shine
“The lack of competition on Snapchat means that your business has a great opportunity to stand out and shine on the platform,” says social media expert Eva Gantz. In Snapchat for Authors: A Guide to Success, she offers some creative suggestions for using the storyteller’s gift and the transitoriness of Snaps to advantage. For example, we can tell stories, perhaps about our writing process, or share the source of our inspiration.
We can give an exclusive discount code on our book in response to a screenshot of a snap. Or—my favorite of Gantz’s suggestions—we can give viewers a really good reason to visit our site by starting a story on a Snap and continuing it on the site. And we can share our snapcode on other social networks.
Like other social media experts, Gantz sees guaranteed vaporization as a plus: “Because snaps vanish after one viewing, you have users’ undivided attention. In this way, disappearing content is actually a boon for marketers.”
Business expert Bryan Kramer agrees. “Snapchat is fast becoming the app of choice for millennials,” he says. “Marketers can make the most of the app’s ‘self-destructing’ feature by offering exclusive content and deals for loyal customers.”
“Show your face,” says Joe Warnimont in Snapchat For Writers: Your Work In Every Reader’s Pocket. “Create a funny photo to develop an emotional connection with readers. . . . send out photos of where you write, who you meet while on the job and what interesting research you’re doing.”
Warnimont also suggests getting your contacts on other social media to friend you on Snapchat for a sneak peek at your new book cover, or a photo of the location of your book signing.
Another of his ideas that I find particularly intriguing is to send out a picture of the first page of your next novel, and encourage people to share it on other social media. Francine Rivers did something like this in the backs of books one and two of her immensely popular Mark of the Lion trilogy. I can see Snapchatters having a jolly time with Rivers’ powerful prose, especially as her main characters fall into the app’s core demographic.
I can also see it serving as a vehicle for fans to vote on their favorite cover for the next book. People love to give their opinions. (Shameless self-promotion here: I was happy with the interested and thoughtful responses I got in person when I asked people to choose between two working covers for Scissortown. My son had designed a unique and attractive scissors border for one cover, but we abandoned it because too many people thought it was an invitation for children to cut the book!)
I hope it is not inappropriate for me to end this little Snapchat exploration with a warning—at least I’d like to go on record as having done so. Adam McLane, partner at The Youth Cartel and father of three, has some heavy duty concerns.
In fact, Decipher Forensics claims that forensics expert Richard Hickman is “well known for his research on Snapchat and how it operates on Android devices, showing how the app that claimed to delete pictures and videos doesn’t actually delete them.”
The above may be of no concern to the reputable book marketer, but I thought it wise to include it just in case; sometimes words of caution, though unwelcome at the time, turn out to be words of wisdom.
So—if you decide to try Snapchat for marketing your books, please let us know in the comments below. Tom and I would love to hear what you try and how it works for you.
Margaret Welwood has written over 100 traditionally published magazine and newspaper articles. She also edited To Teach, To Learn, To Live: The Complete Diabetes Education Guide for Health Care Professionals, by Diane O’Grady, RN, BSN, CDE (Second Edition). This book won first place in the reference category of the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards (2010).
Margaret now writes picture books for children, and edits *squeaky clean* fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. She blogs about writing and
marketing children’s books, and reviews books for children and adults on her
Change something today to make your tomorrow better.
Literary Strategist, LLC