How Snapchat is shaping the future of storytelling

Few mediums encapsulate the fast-paced world of modern day storytelling quite like Snapchat, with a whole generation of smartphone users now relying on the platform to consume news and stay in touch with those close to them. To get a better understanding of how it's shaping the future of storytelling, we spoke to expert Snapchatter Matt Fogarty...

Matt is an artist who works across a range of social media channels, but it’s his work on Snapchat for which he has received the most recognition as of late, having recently been nominated for Snapchatter of The Year at the ShortyAwards and featured on Snapchat Live.

Hey Matt, let’s start with an easy one. How do you think social media changed the face of storytelling?

Social has changed the pace and depth of storytelling. If you were to take the first verse of Mary Had A Little Lamb and publish it on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, you would likely find that while the overarching story doesn’t change, the lamb fallows Mary everywhere she goes, the depth of detail and pace of the story do. For example, on Snapchat the story would be unfolding in near real-time with the possibility of side stories developing along the way supporting the main story line, while an uploaded video post on Instagram or Facebook telling the exact same story, would be much more direct making the uploaded video version of the story much shorter than the Snapchat version.

What are the qualities a brand needs to remember when telling a story on social media?

Remember that viewers are intelligent and busy people, who instinctively enjoy recognising patterns and solving puzzles. It’s this very natural mix of curiosity and problem solving that engages people to keep watching and to wonder and make assumptions on what might happen next.

Another way to think about it is that when people watch a story they are not just passively watching, they are putting forth an unconscious cognitive effort to connect the dots and create hypothesis about where the story is heading. What I mean by this is that brands should avoid spoon feeding their audience every detail and allow ample room for the viewer’s mind to connect the dots and wonder how the story might conclude. While it sounds counterintuitive, good stories are often the ones that require the viewer to do some work, with every assumption a viewer makes is a bet they’ve placed and the more bets they place the more likely they will wait around for the 'payout' or the end of the story. 

Read: How to tell a story on a shoestring

What tips would you give to someone trying to create an effective story on Snapchat?

Snapchat offers the widest range of tools and features to help people tell their story, so if you want to Snap like a pro, be cognizant and familiar with the tools offered, as they can enhance your story quite a bit. Another tip people often forget about is the value of "B-roll" content. B-roll is what film and television producers call supplemental or alternative footage that’s woven in between the main shot. For example, if your story is set in the woods, you should mix in clips of scenic woodsy shots to add context and depth to your adventure. Another way to think about it is that the B-roll technique offers a visual layer of information that many cases can’t be explained or experienced merely through dialogue.

Ultimately, with everyone now having the power to become storyteller, do you believe it’s harder or easier for brands to tell stories that have the desired impact?

Brands have been very fortunate to have had 'the stage' as long as they have, with older forms of storytelling like TV, but ever since social media has levelled the playing field between brands, politicians, thought leaders and the rest of the world, brands aren’t just fighting for the spotlight, they are finding themselves looking inward in an attempt to find something authentic to share. And while brands have for a long time been judged on authenticity, they have never found their stories so 'shoulder-to-shoulder' with the likes of everyday hard-working people, who for the most part, don’t have the time to be anything but authentic. It’s because of this and other factors that many brands are finding it much more difficult to be taken seriously at all. Brands should not waste so much time and effort in manufacturing a so-called "authentic" brand story, but instead look internally within the walls of their organisation and invest authentically in their employees and empower them to share their stories.


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