How authors should use Snapchat to stay relevant with a younger audience


In a world of social media and technology, efforts need to be made to reach a generation who live their life through a small screen. Snapchat, originally introduced to the world as Picaboo, was created in 2011 and since then has become the fastest growing form of social media. The app, only available on smartphones, is designed to allow users to send photos and videos which can be viewed for a maximum of 10 seconds before they disappear forever. The vanishing content varies between a direct message to a certain person or being added to the Story – where they can be viewed as many times as needed in the space of 24 hours.

What started as a simple messaging app has grown into a strong platform for interacting with an audience, especially millennials, on a more personal level. With the Telegraph reporting up to 100 million users a day, Snapchat is a new and viable platform that authors are beginning to manipulating more and more.

Media and publishers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, especially with the introduction of Snapchat Discover. Whereas people can only reach the content on offer if they add the username to their friends list, Discover offers limited number of spaces which allows paying media outlets and publishers to reach all users with their own original content.

With the limitation of spaces, the competition for a spot is rife and earlier this year Yahoo! was dropped for Buzzfeed. The independent digital media company, who aims to deliver news and entertainment, report 21% of their total content views come from the discover section of Snapchat – just 6% behind their views from Facebook videos. Tastemade – the 4-year-old media start-up that specialises in food and travel videos – joined Discover in August and reoriented themselves around Snapchat due to the success they gained from it. These success stories suggest the fight for a spot is worth it, however, when faced with the statistics, 54% of daily users never view the discover stories making it an expensive risk to take.


Sign up and Snap

This is where creating an organic account comes in. Yes, it lessens the reach to an audience as people can only view content if they know where to find it, but it still creates a unique bond between author and reader, one that was previously lacking. In the past, these relationships have been strictly business but in such a digital age, readers crave more of a social connection.

A lot of authors have cottoned on to using Twitter to build on this, using question and answer sessions to engage with their audience, keeping them up to date and offering exclusive content. They create a place for themselves in the social media stratosphere. J.K Rowling is someone who has mastered the art of using Twitter to build up and interact with her audience.

With Snapchat being a newer, more alien concept, especially to those of an older age, it’s understandable why authors are sticking to what they know in this scary new digital world. Having just got to grips with using social media in the first place, authors are cautious about delving even further into the unknown world of social media. But with the app being so popular with the younger generation, are authors – especially those concerning Young Adult fiction – missing out by not joining in on the craze?

‘Only Ever Snapchat’

Business Insider disclosed that the majority of users of the photo sharing app are females between the ages of 13 and 25, and this demographic also happens to be of those most likely to pick up a YA novel. This makes Snapchat a great platform to target and interact with the intended audience. Louise O’Neill, author of ‘Only Ever Yours’ and ‘Asking for It’, started using Snapchat in February earlier this year and is a great example of an author capitalising on the success of the app. Taking to twitter to share the news, she tweeted:

“I’ve been messing around on Snapchat for about five minutes now and I hate it already”

She followed this tweet up with “It’s what all the kidz are doing! *clings to youth*”.  As a YA author, O’Neill evidently followed along with the hype to keep herself in touch with her younger audience, recognising the golden opportunity to better sell herself and her work. Three days later, she tweeted her praise and love for Snapchat and has become somewhat of an addict.

O’Neill offers readers a behind-the-scenes insight into her life, allowing them to connect with her on a more personal level. Through the use of her Snapchat Story, she targets the readers as if they were friends of hers, keeping them up to date with not only news surrounding her books, but also normal activities throughout her day. This gives them a chance to get a better sense of her as a person and negates that previous divide of seller and consumer – the reader feels more valued and connected to her as a person as opposed to just another costumer.

She uses her Story to announces events, for example, a live podcast she’s partaking in, inviting those in the Dublin area to come down and join the fun. As well as adding videos of her mum or her dog, creating a wholesome image of her as more than just a woman behind the words of a book. She recently took to the app to announce that she’d been longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award for her latest book, giving her audience the chance to celebrate her success as she promotes herself simultaneously.

A ‘Story’ away from success

Any young person with a smartphone is more than likely to have Snapchat downloaded onto their device, giving an author the chance to have their work deposited directly into a reader’s pocket. Granted, the content will only be viewed if the reader seeks it out so the use of other forms of social media come into play here as a means of directing readers to the exclusive, vanishing content. But once the initial connection is made, an author will have a first-hand line of communication. Many big companies are already using Snapchat to stay relevant in a digital age, but how is this applicable to authors?

Joe Warnimott suggests the way big name brands use the social media app can easily be applicable to coincide with the writing and publishing of a book. As the content only lasts for 24 hours when added to a Snapchat Story, sending out a picture of the first page of a novel, encouraging people to share it on other social media platforms, is a great way to create a buzz around an author’s up and coming works. Getting people excited before the book is released is a great way to increase the sales as people will already know they want more.

Another effective method is using Snapchat to reveal the cover of a new book. This will make readers feeling like they’re getting an inside scoop of exclusive content, encouraging them to follow along on Snapchat. When the book is finally released, exclusive discount codes can be sent out via the app will make readers feel valued and rewarded. By making the reader feel like they’re getting a lot out of following the Snapchat Story, both personally and as a customer, they’re more likely to invest in an author’s work.

Snapchat popularity continues to grow

Though many people argue it isn’t as polished as other forms of social media, Snapchat is quickly growing in popularity and in doing so, platforms like Instagram are conforming to the individual selling point on Snapchat by introducing ‘Instagram Stories’ and reports reveal Facebook is in talks to follow along in the trend. This emphasises just how popular Snapchat has become in these past few years. Even though the key demographic is mainly younger people, Marketing Dive reported that in 2015, the number of 25-34 year olds using Snapchat grew by 103% and the number of over 35’s grew by 84%. With the amount of users growing every day, Snapchat appears to be the perfect platform to build up a personal reputation on, allowing an author to appear more realistic in the eyes of an audience and furthering book sales at the same time.





What Happens when you try to make an author out of a social media socialite?

Can celebrities famous for their lives online successfully transition over to the print industry?

Over the past fifteen years there has been a huge shift in what it means to be a celebrity; rather than being known for their craft, career or talent, a select few have been celebrated for their lavish lifestyles. Even more recently, many of them have chosen to write a book. But how does one successfully transition over to the print industry when you’re only known for your extremely active social media accounts?

In the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of discussion on what will happen to the book industry as digital starts to take over. But surely, it’s also important to see how those who have their career online make the transition over to print. Two examples of this are Zoella and Kim Kardashian, both extremely successful within in the bounds of their respective target audiences, released books within six months of each other, Girl Online (November 2014) and SELFISH (May 2015). Despite having the same job, in regards to their brand and product, they both took extremely different routes. Zoella rebranded herself as an author and wrote a fiction novel and Kim Kardashian put her brand into a photobook. These decisions undeniably affected the response they received from their target market and critics.

A Girl who started Online

Known almost exclusively by her online name, Zoella, Zoe Sugg has spent the last seven years cultivating an online brand empire. She has successful maintained long term partnerships with some of the biggest businesses on the British high street, such as Superdrug and WHSmith. In 2014 her brand grew expediently with the release of her debut fiction novel, Girl Online.


In the first week of its publication, The Bookseller announced Sugg had successfully “sold 78,109 copies….– more than JK Rowling, Dan Brown or EL James achieved with their first books”. One of the most prominent reasons behind these incredible figures is Suggs dedicated fan base of around 35.1 million across all her online platforms. But how did she manage to transfer the majority her online viewers to read a physical book? To answer this, you must ask: who will be buying the book? The parents. In a world where it’s becoming progressively harder to control what the young and impressionable look at, parents want to know that, if their child is going to be on be online, that they have a role model who will influence them in a positive way. This is exactly what the Zoella brand achieves and most distinctively so in her novel which preaches the importance of online safety.

Zoella Girl Online book signing at Waterstones Bluewater, Britain - 26 Nov 2014
©Glamour Magazine

Ever since the start of her career, Sugg has successfully created a persona (also known as her brand) that is uncanny to the everyday young teenager. Her channel is fixated on subjects and interests of a young girl growing up. She has triumphantly retained the same character that she had nine years ago, despite coming up to her late twenties. This causes her viewers to have a stronger connection between who they think she is and they also feel like they are growing up with her. With such a strong connection, it meant that Penguin could almost guarantee a strong reception to her book, despite nearly all her of her previous brand deals being executed exclusively online.

When entering an industry such as book publishing it’s crucial you build a positive reputation of yourself. But there is one aspect of her novel that caused Zoella to potentially lose the respect of her industry peers and more importantly, potential customers, and this was by hiring a ghost-writer.

When Sugg labeled herself as an author rather than a Youtuber writing a memoir, it suggested she wanted to branch out from her online presence. Yet expanding her audience is something that the Zoella brand may have been unsuccessful in. For an online brand, it is one thing to maintain the trust between the product and a regular customer but a whole different challenge to create a new relationship with a potential customer. When Girl Online was published, critics speculated whether she had hired a ghost writer. It was in December of that same year that a representative from Penguin announced “to be…accurate…Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own.” (Flood, Hannah 2014). It was from then on, that Sugg received a huge amount of criticism from websites such as the Independent. Reporters theorised the damage it would cause her brand which was built on being an honest and hardworking individual. It may also be the reason on why she hasn’t attempted to write a novel different from series she’s already created. Instead she’s only focused on developing the Girl Online Franchise.

It’s hard to criticise such an immensely triumphant franchise and whilst she did successfully integrate having a life online into a fiction novel, Zoella is proof that if you are going to try and stray from being a known only online and transverse to one of the most prestigious industries you must be honest with your audience. Stay clear of branding yourself as something that you fundamentally are not.

A SELFISH business venture

Unlike Zoe Sugg, Kim Kardashian West did the complete opposite. Instead of rebranding herself into an author she put her brand into a book. Published by the self-declared “most beautiful book shop in New York” Rizzoli, SELFISH is a 448-page book, which is literally filled with hundreds of seen and unseen ‘selfies’.

Copyright: Rizzoli

The Kardashian brand have a reputation for making items that have huge demand with limited availability (as can be seen in the Kylie lipstick range), by doing this they ride on the prospect that their products becomes more prestigious, one for the elitist. So, ideally if you combined a book, an authoritative and respected commodity, with a brand, known for producing desirable items, surely it would sell out almost immediately. This could have been one of the arguments behind Kardashian West’s concept. Her regular customer is most likely not interest in reading a book, yet there was a clear attempt to get past this. Her brand also doesn’t run on customer trust unlike Zoella. Kardashian West’s image is about decadence, luxury and self-exposure, so how do you guarantee physical sales? By marketing her product as a coffee table book and doing a pre-release, the photobook had to potential to gain recognition from those who don’t follow her online whilst still catering for her current fans. As stated by MENDO a coffee table book is a beautiful item which has the ability to pull in all different types of people, “from business men to art students”.


Unfortunately, what could have been an extremely successful concept, in reality, did not come through. In April of 2015 Kardashian West had a limited-edition presale comprising of 500 signed copies of her upcoming book. Despite the hefty price tag of $60 the customer response from this looked extremely positive with a sell out in less than a minute. Although, after this, sales dropped and only achieved 32,000 in first three weeks, a tiny number in comparison to what Sugg had achieved six months prior. Considering Kardashian West’s following is nearly five times (165.5 million) larger than Sugg’s, her book’s failure was extremely surprising. One would have assumed, with such a large audience, her book would be an instant success.

Kim’s attempt at making an autobiography through pictures, whilst seems like a perfect concept for a lifestyle socialite, lacks anything intriguing. Most importantly, why would her fans pay $10 for content they’ve already seen for free and this is what the sales figures seem to reflect. This may be the crucial reason behind the books hesitant beginning, Kim Kardashian West’s life is already plastered all over the internet. Any promoting that she would have attempted to do, such as her infamous ‘when you have nothing to wear’ naked selfie, most likely blended into the rest of her social presence.

kimk©Instagram: Kim Kardashian West

SELFISH is arguably the opposite to what can be learned from Zoella’s novel. It shows us that if you are a socialite famous, for being famous, you must work extremely hard to distinguish your celebrity memoir from what your fans already know about you. Because she didn’t re-brand her as an author customers lacked interest. As previously argued by her critics why would fans pay out $10 for something they’ve already seen for free. A problem we’ve seen widespread across the internet with multiple industries.

The Aftermath

Despite the ghost writing controversy, she encountered along the way, Zoe Sugg has continued to promote her sequels, Girl Online: On Tour, which have gone on to be extremely successful. Kim Kardashian remastered her book (October 2016) but is not promoting nearly as much, rather she focusing on her other business ventures. Possibly reflecting her personal views on the success of her book.

SELFISH and Girl Online both beg the question is it possible to create a successful book off of just your social media presence and lifestyle brand. Both Sugg and Kardashian West are extremely affluent from a result of what they’ve achieved digitally. Yet by looking at the response they received, in either criticism or sales, it’s crucial to know that if you do make the move from digital to print you must prove that what you have to offer is worth its weight in gold. It must have substance to survive the print industry and be profitable, and this is what Zoe Sugg got right in her transition. Books demand respect, time and deep consideration, they are not just a regular brand deal.

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What is Snapchat Discover and why is it important in the marketing industry?


Snapchat Discover is something that many people may recognise, but know very little about. From a marketing and publishing perspective Snapchat is a relatively unexplored and unused platform by major companies, mainly due to the app not being considered a viable marketing platform, since its launch in 2011.  However, with the release of Discover, is Snapchat trying to update its unprofessional stereotype?

What is Snapchat:

Snapchat was set up in September 2011 and was created for sending images and multimedia to friends. Nowadays Snapchat is the second most used social network after Facebook, with well over ‘150 million people using it each day’ and is fast becoming an incredibly important social media platform to use for marketing. Although originally seen as a platform for teenagers to send each other pictures of their pets, 63% of Snapchat’s users are actually 18-34 years old and over half of new users signing up are over the age of 25. So as a social media network in which 58% of students claim they ‘would be likely to purchase a brand’s product or service if they were sent a coupon on Snapchat’, why is Snapchat not taken more seriously in the marketing world?

Snapchat vs. Alternative Platforms:

Although Facebook is still the most popular social media platform, Snapchat is the fastest growing; a statistic that some advertisers may consider to be the more important. Americans have a greater brand awareness of Snapchat than either Pinterest or Linkedin, and Snapchat’s ‘swipe-up’ rate (their equivalent to click-through) is a colossal 5x higher than that of comparable platforms.

An Overview of Snapchat Discover:

Snapchat Discover Homepage
Snapchat Discover Homepage

As a way to be seen as more of a serious social media platform and a realistic option for large scale business marketing, Snapchat released the Discover update in January 2015. Discover is a separate section of the app in which the user swipes right, and is presented with all of the stories from the sponsoring publishers and media companies. On their website, Snapchat says:

‘Stumble upon channels from top publishers who curate content daily, watch Live Stories from an event, or check out local Campus Stories — you’ll never get bored!’

At launch, Snapchat selected a few companies that were allowed to post stories on Discover, with an initial range of 11 (including People Magazine, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, CNN, Yahoo, Warner Music Group, Comedy Central, ESPN and Vice) that has since expanded to approximately 20. They release articles (referred to as stories in-app) once a day that last for 24 hours, before being replaced by new ones; this constant refreshing of content is designed to keep the app’s younger audience interested.

It is important to note that the number of companies accepted into the Discover programme is intentionally kept low so as to keep the quality of the service high and to provide a secondary source of income to those companies via third party advertising.

With its release of Discover, Snapchat are attempting to rebrand themselves as an effective and accomplished news source. According to an article on Linkedin, Snapchat has ‘a wide range of sources that include some of the hottest media brands, […and] news that’s easy to find all in one spot… it has the potential to change how people access their news.’ By tapping into the growing trends of young consumers, Snapchat are in a unique position that enables them to capitalise on their strong presence in an emerging market and provide existing companies the ability to advertise to a completely new demographic that traditional media is less effective at reaching.

The Costs of Snapchat Discover:

Instax Advert on Cosmopolitan's Snapchat
© Instax Advert on Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat

There is not a lot of publicly available information on how much companies pay to use the Discover service. It is reported that Snapchat requires payment from the companies, which is to be paid over a specified amount of time, whether or not they are making any money or receiving any views.

However, Snapchat’s main source of revenue that comes from Discover is the ads that are placed on companies’ channels. For example, when CNN first launched its Discover channel in 2015 it featured BMW heavily as a partner.

There is no set price charged for adverts on Snapchat Discover; the price is determined entirely by the owner of the channel and can be negotiated. If the publisher themselves sell the ad, then they receive 70% of the profits, and Snapchat receive 30%; alternatively if Snapchat sell the adverts on their behalf then they split the profits 50-50. Daily Mail’s US CEO reported that he was speaking to advertisers about spending $50,000 per day on the platform. This proves that the Discover service is being taken seriously by prospective companies who are willing to pay large amounts of money to access the app’s audience.

Cosmopolitan On Discover:

Cosmopolitan on Snapchat
©Cosmopolitan on Snapchat

One of the most popular sponsors on Snapchat Discover is the American fashion magazine Cosmopolitan, who have had a channel on Discover since its release in January 2015. The company release on average 5 articles a day and ‘deliver them to [the user] by 8 a.m. everyday, so you can catch up on everything that matters before you even get out of bed’. They also claim that Snapchat has provided a huge boost to their marketing campaigns.

In the summer following the launch of Discover, Cosmopolitan had nearly doubled traffic to it’s profile, going from 1.8 million viewers a day to 3 million; in September 2016, Cosmopolitan reported that this had further increased to 6 million due to its partnership with Discover. When asked whether the app is worth the editorial effort, Kate Lewis, Vice President of Hearst Magazines (who owns Cosmopolitan) said:

‘Oh my God, yes. It’s been amazing, and we have about 3 million people a day on the Discover platform … Cosmo’s Discover Stories are shared up to 1.2 million times daily’.

National Geographic On Discover:

© National Geographic on Snapchat

Another company that claims Discover provided a boost to its marketing presence is National Geographic. Although sceptical at first and only using Snapchat to ‘experiment’, National Geographic has increased its usage of the service, and now claims that Snapchat is a great opportunity for ‘growth’.

The Vice-President of Social Media for National Geographic, Raj Mody, explains in a Nieman Lab article that due to the fact that Snapchat ‘caters to a younger demographic, it’s a great opportunity for us to reach new audiences’ and he goes on to explain that as a Discover user, they can get anywhere between 20,000 and 3 million views a day. Therefore, one can see that using Snapchat Discover has expanded National Geographic’s traditional target audience, and allowed them the opportunity to reach younger readers, which they hadn’t been able to access yet via other social media.

The Removal of Yahoo and Warner Music Group:

Despite all of the apparent success of Snapchat, there are examples of companies who have not managed to utilise the platform effectively. In October 2015 Snapchat announced that Buzzfeed and iHeartRadio would be joining Discover to replace Yahoo and Warner Music Group who were removed earlier in the year. There has not been an official statement as to why the two high-profile companies were removed, but it has been variously suggested that they weren’t attracting or entertaining the primarily younger audiences, Buzzfeed is better known with young adults and teenagers, or even that Yahoo’s content was simply not interesting enough and did not transfer well to the app.

It is clear to see, then, that many companies consider who are interested in targeting Snapchat’s younger audience consider Discover an invaluable source of marketing – provided they are able to adapt to make this 21st Century media platform work for them.

The Present and Future of Discover:

As is always the case in the world of social media, it is difficult to predict the success or failure of any individual platform. However, it is plainly obvious that the current companies using Snapchat Discover are thriving, increasing their spend on the platform, and increasingly consider it a core part of their marketing strategy. With its exclusivity, reach, and new approach, Snapchat has established itself as an indispensable tool for advertising and marketing for forward-thinking and adaptable companies.

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