How to Turn Snapchat into a Serious Communications Tool (Without all the Seriousness)

October 7, 2016 — by Elise James-Decruise    

This byline originally appeared on

Slowly but surely, Millennial workers are taking over the U.S. labor force. In 2015, for the first time, they surpassed Generation X as the largest segment of the workforce. By 2025, they will make up nearly three quarters of the workforce.

In every case, Millennials want to work for organizations that support innovation and help develop their skills. Snapchat turned out to be ideal for our company, MediaMath, because 70% of our global staff is between the ages of 18 and 34, and we’re a global team, with members in six cities on four different continents.

Coordinating our team’s activities, sharing and celebrating wins, and introducing new team members are just a few of the significant communications challenges that we needed to address in order to work effectively and help our team believe in the mission of the company.

Enter Snapchat.

By introducing Snapchat to every member of our team and making it our go-to platform that each person regularly checks in on, we improved our ad-hoc communication, increased collaboration and knowledge sharing across the team, and developed authentic personal friendships that have substantially changed how we work every day.

Team leaders in every industry should consider adopting Snapchat to keep communications immediate, casual, and sometimes a bit irreverent.

How did we end up on Snapchat?

Our move to Snapchat was not planned, or required. Several team members already used Snapchat on a daily basis in their personal lives, and this crossed over into the work environment during a training session in the U.K. in 2015.

U.S. and U.K. members, some of whom were meeting for the first time, exchanged Snapchat information during this training and began using Snapchat to communicate with the rest of the team. This included photos of the venue they were training in, video snippets of their courses, shots of the branded training materials, and group photos with attendees.

Those who were not at the training were able to feel connected in a way that had not existed before Snapchat. The comradery that was created during that event had a lasting effect that soon spread to other teams as well. Within a week, the rest of the U.S. team downloaded the app and became active users as a means to engage with the broader team.

How to get started

All teams can and should use (free) tools that already exist, to keep internal communications fun, casual, and quick. Once you get everyone on your team to download the app, you can launch Snapchat in three simple steps.

  1. Establish use cases. Share best practices with the team regarding the type of content that will be most impactful and effective when sent to members across the globe. This includes providing sample photos and videos to set loose parameters around length and content and ensure that all snaps are coherent, on-brand, and useful.
  2. Start snapping. There is no better way to get people familiar and comfortable with the platform than by asking them to begin using it in their daily routines. Encourage team members to start snapping pictures and videos that align with their projects to get everyone in the habit of sending and checking the latest snaps.
  3. Talk about it. Snapchat can be an effective tool for sparking dialogue around individual and team projects in a workplace setting. Generate discussion around the snaps exchanged between team members in order to foster productive conversation around current initiatives. These conversations ensure that everyone is on the same page and can lead to cross-departmental insights and actionable next steps for improving performance globally.

What could your team snap?

You can use Snapchat for everything from essential news for the team to celebrations of local wins. On the practical end of the spectrum, daily snaps might include photos of events, internal and external communications, live footage of trainings, or relevant industry events team members are attending.

Since videos are so easy to create and share, Snapchat allows for a real-time review process so team members can audit the flow of the event and offer suggestions for improvement. Additionally, it can allow the team members who are unable to attend an event, the chance to catch the highlights of speeches or panels.

At the Festival of Media event, one trainer utilized Snapchat’s Story function to create a visual replica of the entire event that he then shared on social media, which the team was able to reference in later event discussions.

Not everything shared on Snapchat will be as relevant to a teams’ daily grind, but it’s still important to encourage casual and fun exchanges to maintain the collegiality and fun for everyone, instead of making people take those interactions off-line. Snapchat can make coworkers a natural group of friends, and interspersed with work-related messages, they can share events they go to, funny things they see, challenges, or inside jokes.

Again, teams that are new to Snapchat should choose three types of communications that people should share—relevant events they might attend, celebrating wins, team outings, finished products, visits to the office, etc.

You do not need to establish much in terms of a code of conduct or rules of the road, just make sure to tell people not to post anything they wouldn’t want their boss to see. Soon enough, jokes will develop, interests emerge, and people will let their personalities show as they become more comfortable with the platform.

Snapchat has strongly impacted the temporal and cultural differences and communication challenges that can arise in global teams. This enhanced level of communication subsequently increased the team’s utilization of other tools (Like Whatsapp or HipChat), allowing us to continue important discussions across other channels and devices. Additionally, Snapchat has strengthened relationships on a personal front, as the connectivity created by the app isn’t just limited to work hours.

Elise James-Decruise

Elise is MediaMath’s Head of Multicultural Marketing and Inclusion. In her role, she helps MediaMath think about and better position diversity and inclusion within the workforce, workplace and marketplace, and inspires others to do the same. Previously, she founded and led MediaMath’s global educational arm New Marketing Institute, which includes internal and external training initiatives, certification, enterprise education and global program development. Successfully transitioning from the financial sector as a global trainer at Thomson Financial (Thomson Reuters), Elise started out her digital marketing career at Right Media (acquired by Yahoo) where she transformed their internal training program and founded Right Media University for the Sales, Operations and Technical Support Teams.