What the Heck is Snapchat?

By Roxanne Sutton | Posted on March 25, 2015

snapchat_socialiconSnapchat. You’ve probably heard your teenagers whisper about it. Maybe heard about a political scandal where it was referenced a long side “inappropriate pictures.” But why should you care? It’s some silly new messaging app where messages disappear. What’s the point?

Well, with over 100 million users who are primarily ages 16-24, it could be a good platform to engage with this elusive audience. 

So what exactly is Snapchat?

In its simplest form, Snapchat is a messaging app where contacts can send each other messages that disappear within a certain time. There are two main types of messages:

    • Pictures and videos (with text or doodles) sent from one person to many that disappear within 10 seconds or less. These are called snaps and can only be taken in the moment (no pulling pictures from saved photos).snapchat_screenshot


    • Text messages sent from one person directly to another that disappear after you leave that screen and come back

Snapchat also features a security feature where if someone screenshots your snap, the app gives you a notification letting you know who did it. This helps keep snaps as pieces of content that simply disappear. 

Who uses Snapchat and why?

Still not seeing a use for Snapchat besides secret messages? I promise there is something compelling about sending and receiving messages that disappear. As stated earlier, Snapchat’s main demographic is teenagers and young adults and they are using it in droves. While I’m outside the main demographic range, I still find the app useful for the following:


snapchat_cat    • Sharing pictures with friends that you don’t want to share on other social sites. Nothing salacious here. I just know that not everyone who follows me on Instagram wants to see another picture of my cat or what I’m making for dinner. However, for the few friends who are interested, they’ll get a fun snap of what I’m doing right now. 

    • Sending a more personalized message. A picture’s worth a thousand words and sends a personalized message on its own. Getting a snap (even if it went to 20 or 100 other people) is like getting a personal message that says, “Hey, I thought you’d like this.” This is where brands have taken advantage of the platform. They can send Snapchat users special discounts, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at events and more. Fast Company Co.Create has a great article on how 12 brands have used Snapchat for marketing

How could Parks and Recreation use Snapchat?

Park and recreation agencies have a lot of reasons why they would want to target the 16-24 demographic. They are snapchat_contestprime candidates for many of your programs and even make up much of your seasonal staff and interns. A key part of marketing is to reach people where they already are. For park and recreation agencies, I can see using Snapchat in a few ways:

    • Share behind the scenes information. Other platforms like Instagram are good for this as well, but Snapchat is a little more personalized. You could share a video of a spin class, pictures from a favorite park, etc. 

    • Host a contest. There a few contests you could host on Snapchat — special discounts that have to be opened at the front desk to be taken advantage of or a Snapchat park scavenger hunt where you send clues via Snapchat and participants send you the answer back (first person gets a prize).

Responsys’ Marketing Cloud Blog has some other great ideas for how to use Snapchat for marketing

Should I use it? 

This is the tricky question. If you have the time and believe that you can reach enough of your target audience on Snapchat, go for it! Otherwise, I’d suggest doing some more research into the platform. I don’t envision NRPA using Snapchat anytime soon, but our target demographic isn’t there! If you want more information and a step-by-step guide on how to use Snapchat (like how to start your account and add contacts), I recommend reading Marketing Land’s guide to Snapchat — lots of great information!

Has your agency talked about using Snapchat? Are you using Snapchat? Share your stories with us in the comments, on Twitter @NRPA_news or email us directly!


Want more social media information geared towards parks and recreation? Check out:

• 10 Great Uses of Twitter for Parks and Recreation

• How Facebook Changes Affect Parks and Rec (and 4 Ways to Adapt)

• What the Heck are Hashtags!?


Roxanne Sutton is NRPA’s Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist and fan of sending “Cat Snaps.”