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Snapchat for Government: Rules of the Game

It ain't just for the kids anymore

In 2016, the Obama White House took one step closer to the cool kids and rolled out its Snapchat account. In its launch announcement, the White House noted that the app fits into its decentralized strategy of “meeting people where they are” on a variety of digital platforms. Other agencies and local governments of all shapes and sizes soon followed.

Yet the social media phenomenon - centered around disappearing 10-second-or-less photo and video sharing - remains a mystery to many. What do government folks need to know in order to make public service snapping a success?

Government Social Media
Pool/Getty Images

Reach a young, passionate crowd that you can’t find anywhere else

For many, Snapchat’s appeal is its deep reach into the younger demographic. The platform has over 150 million daily active users, most of whom are under the age of 30. These people  aren’t as connected to more traditional forms of communication. Young people might not be on Nextdoor or Facebook and they certainly don’t check the city blog. Snapchat? You’ll find them there.

Showcase the fun side of your organization

A Snapchat account just to check the box on a new platform won’t be successful. Content should be fun, visual, and creative. You won’t be able to post a press release or even detailed information about a new strategic plan. You could try a story about a local event, showcase your public transportation system, interview the librarian. Remember, all snaps you post are downloadable, which makes record keeping easy.

City Snapchat
Gilbert Arizona uses Snapchat often - here they encourage people to check out a local business and leverage Snapchat to push people to their Facebook live. Clever!

Make it a team effort

A major sticking point for many when adopting a new platform is time. You just don’t have it. The good news is that Snapchat works best when you provide a variety of content - and what better way to do that then to enlist your entire organization! Think about the events happening locally and reach out to people involved to ask them to take over the handle for the day or send you pictures to post later. Thats right, you don’t have to post in the moment - you can upload pictures from your camera roll into the app.

Government Snapchat
The city of Las Vegas was a pioneer among local governments and jumped on the Snapchat train early. They use it to showcase local businesses and events.

Leverage the knowledge around you - don’t reinvent the wheel!

Before you start, think through how you want to use Snapchat to augment your social strategy. Why do you want to snap? What will you share? Who do you hope to reach? To get started, follow local leaders, news agencies, and your local government peers who are already on the platform. Examples of govies who already snap:

  • City of Evanston, IL (cityofevanston)
  • City of Las Vegas, NV (cityoflasvegas)
  • Coventry, CT Recreation (covparksrec)
  • Department of State (statedept)
  • Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (myfwc)
  • Gilbert, Arizona (gilbertyourtown)
  • Hamilton County Public Health, Ohio (hamcohealth)
  • Hawthorne, CA Police (hawthornepolice)
  • City of Los Angeles Job Opportunities (cityoflajobs)
  • Provo City, UT (provocity)
  • Texas State Parks (TxParksWildlife)
  • U.S. Department of the Interior (usinterior)
  • The White House (whitehouse)
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