A beginner's guide to Snapchat

It seems as soon as you’ve figured out one social network, everyone’s turning their attention to a new one – like they are with Snapchat.

Nearly 50% of Canadian teens use Snapchat. In the U.S., 6 out of 10 people ages 13 to 35 are Snapchatters. Twelve per cent of nearly 50 million daily U.S. users are between the age of 35 to and 54. Worldwide, Snapchat boasts more than 100 million daily active users and 200 million monthly active users, making it the fastest-growing social network.

A big reason: Snapchat is fun. Users like the way the platform lets them accent and animate their images in creative and often ridiculous ways – even if (or maybe because) those posts are viewable for just seconds before disappearing. Organizations and brands like Snapchat, too, because that fleeting nature of posts makes for an unusually engaged audience.

Follow NAIT on Snapchat: NAITofficial

Follow the author on Snapchat: lindorkyeg


Snapchat is an app designed for mobile devices so swipe, swipe, swipe. Swipe down from the main screen to access your friends list or add new friends. Go left to review all snaps sent to you and right to check out Stories (see more on Stories below). Swipe on a friend or follower’s name to send them a text chat (see more on that below, too).

Send a snap

Unlike Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can’t upload photos or video from your phone’s gallery to Snapchat. Content for a post can only be captured through the app. Take a photo by hitting the white circle on the bottom of your screen. To snap a video, hold down on the circle for as long as you want to record (up to 10 seconds). Then, like a text, pick a recipient.

Tell your story

You can also add a snap to your Story, Snapchat’s version of a newsfeed or timeline. It will live there for 24 hours, where friends and followers can access it as often as they like during that time. Include a mix of photo and video, of varying lengths, to keep things interesting.  

Snap like the teens do

Snapchat is fun because it lets users get creative with photos and videos. Add text by hitting the T button (hit it 2 more times for text-enlarging options), big emojis by hitting the folded sticker button, or tap the pencil to add colourful scribbles or draw over your snap. Swipe left or right to add colour filters.

Use selfie lenses

In selfie mode, press and hold down on your face for a dozen Snapchat lenses. You can shrink your eyes or stretch your forehead, breathe flames, or look like a dog (long tongue and droopy ears and all). There are new lenses available all the time.

Be in the moment

Snapchat is not about careful scripting. Snaps can be shaky, a bit blurry, and totally goofy.

Include context

Most users send and view snaps throughout their day – in the classroom, the office, on the bus, etc. – which can make it hard to view video snaps with audio. Use the text caption feature to add context to your videos.


Similar to photos or videos, texts you send via Snapchat’s chat function will also disappear (tip: you can hold down on a snap text to keep it saved in the app’s chat history). You can also reply to Stories using the chat function by swiping up while viewing the Story.

Screenshot or replay

Although snaps disappear, there are ways users can see them again. The first is the good old-fashioned screenshot, but you have to be quick. Once a day, users can also choose to replay their most recently received snap. Snapchat lets users buy additional replays.

Share your Snapcode or profile URL

Raise awareness of your Snapchat account by sharing your Snapcode (like a Snapchat QR code unique to your profile) or your personal Snapchat profile URL (http://www.snapchat.com/add/YOURUSERNAME) on your other social networks.

Snap stats

Snapchat isn’t focused on analytics. The only metric it offers is Score, the total number of snaps you’ve sent and received, which shows how active you are. You can’t see how many followers other users have or even how many you have. You can only estimate based on number of views you’re getting per snap, but you wouldn’t know for sure unless you manually record followers as you get them.


Swipe left from your main screen to access your friend’s Stories and to Discover. There, you’ll find live curated Stories of major events (like the Grammys, Comic Con, etc.) and channels from media outlets and publishers including Buzzfeed, Comedy and IGN, which offer photos, videos, interactive games and articles developed especially for Snapchat followers, updated daily.

Post a lot

On some platforms, it can be frowned upon to inundate people with too many posts. Not on Snapchat. Snap away, snap a lot, snap all day long! The way CEO Evan Spiegel sees it, the platform is all about relating to and commenting on, well, everything, so the volume of posts on the app is normal, particularly for young people.

"They are using photographs to talk," says Spiegel.

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