Can Snapchat be an effective internal communications channel?

The one social channel I've been spending more and more time with in 2016 has been Snapchat. I will admit that I was one of those people who initially didn't see the value in it. But as Snapchat continues to roll out new features, it's becoming part of my daily social activities.

From a UI standpoint, Snapchat is really unlike any other social network/media out there. This is why it's important for you to understand how it works before rushing to judgment (like I did). How it's different is that the content in stories is sorted by user and then chronological. You can respond to individual snaps or view people's stories. This is dramatically different than the algorithms and viewing experiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.

Just this week, Snapchat launched Chat 2.0 on the platform. It's now a multi-function communication platform, including video chats, "phone calls" and audio notes. And the sound and video quality are quite good. It opens itself up as a pretty impressive communication platform. Not perfect, but impressive with what you can do in an app. You probably have employees using it right now. 

Perhaps you don't think your employees are on Snapchat. Have you asked them? Just look at the demographics and compare them to your own workforce.

  • In 2015, Snapchat grew its 18-24 base by 56%, while its 25-34 year old users increased 103% and, most notably, its over-35 user base grew 84% according to comScore.
  • According to Snapchat, 12% of its almost 50 million daily users in the U.S. are between 35 and 54.

It was last summer that I read an article about a company who declared "Snapchat Day." As a way to force employees to learn more about the app, they could only communicate to other employees through Snapchat. No emails. No phone calls. No messaging. Just Snapchat. The company learned a lot about the app and employee dynamics during the day, but it seeded a thought in my head about whether or not Snapchat could be an effective internal communications channel. 

And I think it can. Here's four reasons why. . .

It's visual

Communicators know that visual elements only enhance communication. This is one of the many reasons that video has become more prevalent. But Snapchat is all visual, with minimal text. It can be a picture. It can be video. And there are limits to how long the video can be or how long the image can stay on the screen. There are more than 8 billion videos viewed every day on Snapchat. Amazing. We know employees respond to visual elements so embrace this core nature of Snapchat. And perhaps most important for employees, it requires communications to get to the point.

It's mobile

Yes, not everyone has a smartphone. . . but it's getting pretty close. But again, don't look at those who don't/can't take advantage of mobile. Look at those who do.Those are the leaders. And sure it's cliche to talk about how we are slaves to our phones. And perhaps it's true. So why not take advantage?! The only way (minus a workaround) to view Snapchat content is through the app. And while employees are on their phones (for both work and personal reasons), why not integrate your IC into a social channel. They can't be forced to subscribe. But if your content is great, my hunch says they will.

It's employee advocacy

And this where I think the smart companies will take Snapchat. Whether you know it or not, you have employees sending "snaps" while they are at work. This is no different than them sending Tweets or emails. But they are sending them. And in Snapchat, companies could include custom geolocated filters.

These filters add a graphic element to pictures and videos. Think about the possibility of your employees choosing to brand their snaps with a corporate feel. If the filter is designed well, people will want to add them. And the company gets their branded message sent to a larger audience when employees add them to their own stories. Just recently, Snapchat announced on-demand custom geofilters (for pay) that users can submit that are only good for a certain time. Imagine a custom filter for a big employee event? Or a recruitment campaign? And the only people who can use are those physically located at your company locations. 

It's storytelling

People love stories. And there are a few companies on Snapchat that are getting very creative with storytelling. Both GE and Taco Bell come to mind. Their content is certainly geared toward customers, but I'm sure it's also quite helpful for employees. And there is a lot of thought that goes into some of these stories told, one picture and video at a time. But with this planning, Snapchat can be very spur of the moment. Imagine helping to tell a great employee recognition story through Snapchat. It could be a great "behind the scenes" tool to show leaders at a new location where perhaps others can't visit. Again, so many great opportunities to tell stories in a unique way to inform and engage employees. 

And the images and video don't have to be perfect. There's no way to upload content into Snapchat. It's taken and used right then so there's definitely a very organic feel to it. And the content is gone in 24 hours. See with Snapchat, it's all about right now. Now what happened a day ago. Or a week ago. Or more. 

So what now?

I'm not suggesting that every single company and brand go create a Snapchat account and being publishing internal content. All I'm saying is "think about it." Think about how your IC team could engage employees in a brand new way. Take the time to learn about the channel before you rush to judgment. 

Look at the Discover section on the app. I know many hardcore users don't like it but it can be helpful to see how big brands are telling stories in a simple and interactive way. There are organizations like CNN, ESPN, Wall Street Journal and others are a part of Discover. I'm not debating if Discover is successful or not for Snapchat, but I am arguing that the way stories are being told is worth taking a look at. 

There will be some naysayers out there that claim not everyone will use Snapchat. And they are right. But when you look at the full spread of internal communication channels, they aren't all used 100% by anyone (except for maybe communicators). There will be some who never visit the intranet. There will be some who never log on to the ESN. And that's okay. That's why communicators have to go where employees are. 

And right now, that growing channel is Snapchat. The demographics don't lie. 

If you're willing to invest the time and learn more about Snapchat, you can add me at

(Originally published March 31, 2016)