Lessons from the Great Canadian Snapchat Roadtrip

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#Roadto150 Snapchat Strategy

A Primer on Snapchat

I’ve been using Snapchat for at least two years, but it didn’t really start to catch my eye from a business perspective until the fall of 2015. Then, in a fit of passion, I wrote a bunch of blogs that talked about how Snapchat was going to change EVERYTHING. Here, and here, and here.

In the fall, Vox joined Snapchat Discover, and I became obsessed with the work their digital team was creating for the platform. (It’s been rumoured they hired a whopping eight people to manage the channel.) I would seek out their Youtube channel to compare their video content strategies. I’d go straight to Snapchat in the morning, excited to see what was coming, and I’d tweet my opinions.

I started reading marketing content about using Snapchat for marketing content. (Story of my life – #buffergoals). One Backchannel piece really resonated with me. I even set an alert in Indeed for Vancouver jobs that mentioned Snapchat, so I could snoop into what other local agencies and organizations were doing.

Then, an app refresh changed the utility of the app. Rather than allow you to select certain stories to watch, it automatically plays them all. This change, combined with my growing list of friends, has caused the app to become more noisy – like my other social feeds. There’s good stuff, but you have to dig for it.

But as a marketer, the changes present a major opportunity. The auto-play means there’s more of a chance your followers will see your stories – and interact with them. Even on my personal account, I’ve noticed the difference. Where previously, 20 views was high for me, my average now hovers around 50. The changes also demonstrate Snapchat’s prioritization of content and consumers over advertising revenue. And that’s appealing to someone like me that makes her living by telling digital stories for clients.

So, we decided to create a Snapchat campaign for ECHO. The campaign wasn’t meant to build a Snapchat following (although, that’s great too!). It’s really a chance for us to try out Snapchat for business. Brand storytelling on Snapchat. What does that look like? How do you build an audience? How do you build a Snapchat strategy? Can anyone get in on the Snap life?

Road to 150

We came up with a concept – a cross-Canada “roadtrip” that would show off city archival photography. It was perfect! It combined our love for legacy and history with our new direction as a multi-platform agency.

We researched all of the cities we’d planned. We brainstormed techniques to best show off the content. Jane saved photographs into neatly organized files for printing (Snapping a screen isn’t the best visual). I created a simple Twitter plan to promote the Snapchat campaign. Cathy designed a beautiful logo.

But then Day 1 came. And our concept of static images, showcased in a digital format, fell flat. After two days, we knew we weren’t happy. We needed to revamp.

Lesson 1: Don’t fight the app’s limitations – use its strengths.

We were unsure we could tell a compelling story with the limiting font options in Snapchat. But photographing copy turned out to look even more budget. So we switched to the in-app typography.

Snapchat Echo Text 1 Snapchat Echo Text 2

Lesson 2: Don’t underestimate the time it takes to create a Story.

On Day 2, I quickly snapped the prepared storyboard, producing the story in less than a few minutes. However, taking the time to focus, centre, and acquire the right lighting cannot be overstated. We went slower on later stories – to great effect.

Lesson 3: Templates are good, but don’t be afraid to go off-book.

Near the end of #Roadto150, I noticed that one of our pre-selected archival photos was particularly relevant to a certain celebrity couple, which begged to be called out. Both in the story, and on Twitter.

Lesson 4: Be realistic about the scale of your first Snapchat campaign.

This one is a tough one. Of course, when we decided to create an archival Snapchat story series to celebrate our great country, we obviously couldn’t commit to just one week’s worth of stories. We had to commit to a 16-day-long event. Perhaps that was a bit overzealous – we might do something shorter next time.

Lesson 5: Don’t underestimate the promotion.

Our advice to anyone planning a Snapchat campaign – think about how the story will translate to different mediums. We used Twitter to promote #Roadto150, which worked well enough for a R&D project like ours – we got about 14,000 impressions and 200 engagements from the tweets. But if you have firm marketing goals, your story concept and promotional plan will be essential to a successful campaign. Focus at least half your attention, time, and resources on a promotional plan (including paid social).

Lesson 6: Expect things to change. And get ready to adapt.

Just five days after we wrapped #Roadto150, Snapchat made some more changes. After taking Snaps of print photos for 16 days, suddenly, we were allowed to upload images from our photo libraries. However, there are still many kinks to work out with this new upload, save, export process. When we tried the new process, we were disappointed. Not only were we unable to mix uploaded images and Snapped images, the export also skewed the archival photos. So, at least in this case, we wouldn’t have been able to adapt our technique anyways. Soon, though, I’m sure the process will improve.


Is Snapchat changing everything? Maybe. Remember, the population of the internet is a flaky group. Just as Forbes announces that Snapchat is causing a shift in our user habits, Fast Company reveals that Pokemon Go has overtaken Snapchat for time spent on mobile.


Ahh, the internet. At ECHO Storytelling Agency, we wouldn’t have it any other way.