shutterstock_278693798Adorned with a cute ghost as a logo, Snapchat is the latest social media platform to become a viable marketing tool for solopreneurs and freelancers. However, for those that know anything about the app, this seems counterintuitive. After all, the pictures or videos that are shared last only a few brief moments before they disappear altogether. Though users can save the media, such short-lived snaps seem to defeat the entire purpose of using Snapchat as a way to build an online portfolio for your audience to sift through.

This, inherently, is what makes it so powerful.

What is Snapchat?

Before you can take advantage of the marketing prowess Snapchat can offer, you first have to understand what the app even is. Much like Twitter, the icon does little to actually explain what the program does. If we want to give it a shot, though, we can argue that the ephemeral nature of the ghost indicates just how long-lived your snaps will be.

In the shortest sense, it’s a social app where users can post images and videos with or without text. You can send these to friends and have them visible to these contacts for a few seconds or post stories that remain public for 24 hours before disappearing forever.

How does this relate to branding?

The biggest concern for any freelancer with Snapchat is how to even use such a platform to engage an audience or build a personal brand. The answer is lies in the age old conundrum of determining how this platform can bring extra value to your audience. Figure this out and you make the snaps desirable.

DO have a strategy

The number one killer for any solopreneur edging into the Snapchat realm of popularity is to dive in without a strategy. If you want an audience and you want an audience that grows, you need to provide content they can’t get on any other social media site. Because the data disappears as soon as it’s put up, this means you should use it for building inside jokes. Many celebrities use it to share behind-the-scenes moments with their fans to build comradery through exclusive media.

DON’T go overly artistic.

Snapchat has a laundry list of limitations – the most common being image and video quality. Unlike Instagram where great resolution and perfect filters are all but necessary, Snapchat doesn’t care how new you are to taking photos with a cell phone. Since the media is only active for 24 hours at maximum, their editing features are rudimentary and most things are pretty low resolution. In short, Snapchat is not the optimum app for pursuing a career as a photographer.

DO plan.

With the stories lasting for 24 hours and the basic snaps lasting up to 10 seconds for a total number of 200 people, your two platforms absolutely have to have purpose. No audience is going to grow if you send out snaps that have nothing to do with your brand or assume random pictures linked together make for an enticing story. Because of this, it works best to plan out what you’re going to send and when you’re going to send it. Some even go out of their way to put together narratives weeks in advance so that they have the time to make sure the snaps work for the brand.

DON’T get too personal.

The quick nature of snapchat generally means little preparation for the final snap. Because of this shortened lifespan, Snapchat can feel like the perfect place for an audience to really get to know your brand on a personal level. While this is true, this personal level means the personal side of professionalism, not the personal side of you as an individual. When you share things with your audience, share personal matters related to your brand. This all goes back to and needs to relate to your strategy for being on Snapchat.  A practice I recommend is to put your phone in “airplane mode” and your creating your snaps. Then you can review them before they go live and delete any that you feel don’t fit your strategy or don’t move the strategy along. Any mistakes can be easily deleted. When you’re ready, take your phone off of airplane mode and the “retry” posting all those snaps you’ve created.

DO have fun.

Even with all of this talk about planning and coordination, Snapchat is a place for you to show your audience a more human side to your professional demeanor. As much of an expert as you may be, it’s always enjoyable to see the human side of planning a speech or filming a video. Clue your audience into the struggles and successes that go on beyond what they see to form a strong, human connection as you build your personal brand.