Emerging Technology Plan: Snapchat


Snapchat is a social media app available on Android and iOS systems that allows users to send pictures, or “snaps,” to friends for a limited amount of time.  Each snap can be viewable for 1-10 seconds, and then it is deleted permanently. Snapchat also has a feature called “Stories” that allows users to tell a story through a series of pictures that stays up for 24 hours. Snapchat also has the ability to send videos that last up to 10 seconds.

Aaron Schmidt discusses the importance of moving beyond relying on print materials and looking to user experience and design thinking to help us remain relevant; in his column Services Before Content, he discusses focusing more on “creating and connecting.” Snapchat offers a wonderful opportunity for us to do just that. Anyone can snap a picture on their phone, and with a few taps on the screen they can use the app to enhance it with doodles or text and send it back to us, forming a connection between us and our users.

Mobile content is becoming increasingly important today. The App store for iOS devices and the Google Play store for Android devices offer users extensive selections of any type of app that you can imagine and more. According to Matt Enis’ article on mobile evolution, “in 2012, the usage of apps surpassed the usage of browsers on smartphones and tablets for the first time… 54.5 percent of mobile subscribers used apps in October 2012 compared to 52.7 percent using browsers—but the shift could mark a significant moment for mobile computing.” This was three years ago. Think about how many more apps have been developed since then. It’s time for us to take a look at using apps to connect with our patrons, and Snapchat offers several features that could be very useful for the library.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

At Timberland Regional Library (TRL), we are always trying to find new ways to reach out to non-users. Two user groups that we have trouble attracting are teens and millennials. Keeping up with them on social media is a challenge: there is a Teens Online committee that runs the social media accounts for teenagers. We started on Facebook but as teens migrated away from that we moved on to Tumblr, and most recently Instagram. I believe the next logical step is to add Snapchat because it has been growing in popularity among the younger generations.

The Pew Research Center’s 2015 study on Teens, Social Media, and Technology found that 41% of teens use Snapchat, and a study done by the marketing company Sumpto estimated that 77% of college students use Snapchat at least once a day. These are both groups that TRL would benefit from targeting; we span 5 counties with 27 branches, and have many schools that fall within our service districts, including a major university. It’s time to start thinking of other ways to reach these parts of our communities and find ways to encourage their participation at the library.

Goals and Objectives:

Goal #1Engage new user groups, such as teens and millennials

Goal #2Enhance user experience through non-traditional means

Goal #3: Raise awareness for the library and library services

Objective #1Offer opportunities for users to connect and create content that the library can share with others.

It is important for users to feel as though they are a part of the library community. We do not want them to just be spectators. Social media is a great in for participatory culture, and this app allows the library the opportunity to get the community involved through silly user-created content that can be sent to us as fun snaps we can then share on our website and our other social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter.

Objective #2: Create monthly campaigns introducing services the library offers or providing a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at the library that patrons may not be aware of.

Snapchat stories will allow the library the chance to give out ‘backstage passes’ and offer patrons a look at different aspects of the library they may not be familiar with. This could be accomplished through a tour of one of the databases, a series of book recommendations by staff, or a closer look at a day in the life of a TRL courier. Each month could have a different focus offering glimpses into what really happens at the library. Not only will this allow patrons to enjoy some never-before-seen inner workings of the library, but it will take us toward being a more transparent organization.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince the admin team that by approving a Snapchat account for TRL they will be engaging new user groups, especially teenagers and millennials, which will raise our visibility and convince our patrons we are here to stay because it shows that we are able to adapt to new technologies, provide a new space to create connections, and allow our patrons an inside look at the library while also giving them opportunities to create content to share with us.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

General Information and How-To Guides to Snapchat:

  1. Verizon Wireless published a post called Snapchat 101 that gives an overview of what Snapchat is and the different ways it can be used, including Snapchat stories.
  2. 23 Mobile Things provides a brief tutorial on how to set up a Snapchat account with links that include articles about Snapchat and libraries as well as more information about similar apps.
  3. Intro video to Snapchat stories:

Why Snapchat?:

  1. Ross Simmonds created The Ultimate Marketing Guide to Snapchat slideshow, and it has a lot of great tips and compelling suggestions on how to use Snapchat to your brand’s advantage.
  2. Eric Somoso posted an article on Social Media Examiner with ideas on why Snapchat can be beneficial to businesses, and included a few examples of how it can be used to promote your brand.

How other libraries, businesses, and organizations are using Snapchat:

  1. The Northwestern University Knight Lab posted an article with 5 examples from different news organizations using Snapchat.
  2. The blog Librarian Enumerations published a post called 4 Universities Killing It on Snapchat.
    1. One of their examples is the University of Michigan, which published this post celebrating their one year “Snap-A-Versary,” which includes a lot of really cool content.
    2. Another example came from Princeton University; they do Snapchat Saturday on Facebook (this links to snaps from 10/11/15-10/17/15), where they create an album sharing that weeks most creative and interesting snaps.
  3. Library Enumerations also published a post called Snapchat for Your Library, which has some of the basics along with examples of different types of content you can post. My personal favorite is this gem of a video:

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

The members of the Snapchat Team should draft the mission, guidelines, and policies for using the app. They would then need to present it to the Admin Team, including the IT Manager, for final approval. They should base the mission off of TRL’s Library Mission and Vision statements:

Library Mission

Timberland Regional Library invites discovery and interaction
with our vibrant collection, services and programs
for learning, enrichment, and enjoyment
for people of all ages in our diverse communities.

Library Vision

For those who seek – a connection
For those who question – a dialog
For those who create – a palette
For those who imagine – a story
For all – a place to belong

-Timberland Regional Library

The Snapchat Team will also refer to the general TRL Social Media Policy as a starting point, and will further develop any necessary guidelines and policies governing the use of Snapchat. They could also look at or reach out to other libraries using Snapchat for examples of policies. The team may also need to refer to other policies and guidelines in place for general social media use in libraries and develop policies based on their findings. There should be guidelines in place for different types of content that should be shared, posting frequency, and any other expectations that come up during the initial training.

Action Steps & Timeline:

I believe this project, from planning to going live, could be up and running within 3-4 months, depending on how long it takes to get approval from upper management; until they approve it, we cannot move forward with this idea. That would also allow Communications enough time to develop print materials.

  1. Submit proposal to admin team and present at their next meeting
    1. If they say no, find out why and reevaluate what needs to be fixed, changed, or clarified to move forward
  2. Once approved, begin recruiting a team of 4, including at least one member of the Teens Online committee
  3. Plan the initial training and first meeting for the Snapchat team
  4. Meet with Communications Department to discuss marketing and promoting the Snapchat account
  5. Train the team on how to use Snapchat; begin brainstorming ideas for content, stories, contests, etc.
  6. Begin a countdown to when the Snapchat account goes live through other social media platforms (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram); also promote through a print campaign
  7. Publish the first post

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

As there is already a Teens Online team that maintains the teen social media, I believe at least one member from this committee and two or three staff members that work in adult services should coordinate to moderate the Snapchat account. A team of four employees should be sufficient for the first six months, until we have a better handle on the app and everything it will require from us.  Snapchat is not incredibly time-consuming, depending on how you choose to use it. At the beginning, I believe each of these team members should spend an hour each week creating a story, a contest, or a promotion to post on Snapchat. Quarterly, the team should plan three-hour meetings to check-in with each other, brainstorm ideas for future posts, and look at any new features that have been added.  It will be important to keep in contact outside of these meetings because trends are continuously changing and evolving, and the team will want to be sure to stay on top of whatever is current and popular among Snapchat users.

Training for this Technology or Service:  

The initial training should be by someone who has experience using Snapchat. Hopefully, one of the members of the Snapchat team would have personal experience with the app and be able to teach the basics to the other team members.  Ideally, they could design the training from personal knowledge, and read some of the articles included above on how to apply Snapchat to a business or organization. A three-hour combined training and first meeting would be sufficient for the members to learn how to use the app, to explore the various features, and to brainstorm ideas for upcoming contests and campaigns they want to run. Coordinating schedules for a training with four staff members should be fairly manageable.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

Snapchat is a free app, so we would not need any additional funding to create an account. As I proposed above, if each staff member could initially use an hour of time during each work week to dedicate to posting on the site, I believe we would be able to run the content and keep interest up.

The only things we may need to purchase are additional devices for the members of the team to post to Snapchat. Some libraries have “petting zoos” that include devices such as iPads. We also might still have a couple that are housed at our Service Center and could be reassigned. If the members of the team are from libraries with those devices already in place, or we are able to reassign some from the Service Center, no new equipment would be necessary. However, if no extra devices are available, we would need to purchase an additional 2-3 iPads (all of the Teens Online members have or are scheduled to receive devices by the end of the year). On Apple’s website, an iPad Mini 2 costs $269; I would estimate that $600-$900 at most would be necessary to buy these extra devices, though if we chose to buy refurbished versions or another type of tablet, we could come in considerably under budget.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

A print campaign could be developed with our Communications Department that would include flyers and posters that we could hang in-house as well as around the community. This could help us reach people who don’t come to the library very often, as well as spark interest from non-users who may see the ads around town. These print materials could feature our Snapcode, which Snapchat will assign to us once we have an account. Snapcodes are scannable codes unique to each account that allow users to easily add us to their contacts (read more about Snapcodes here). We could also use our website and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram) to begin a countdown to when our Snapchat account will go live. A daily post on the social media sites, as well as a timer counting down on our homepage, would be eye-catching and could generate a lot of interest. By promoting online and through social media, we would be able to reach our patrons that don’t often visit the library.


  • Snapchat does not have traditional performance metrics such as comments, likes, or opportunities to repost our content
  • Users are able to snap back when they see our posts: we could measure over time to see how many snaps we receive, and we could evaluate based on those numbers
  • During the initial promotion through the website and social media we will be able to use metrics such as site visits, shares, likes, and comments to evaluate if the word is getting out about it
  • As we receive snaps back from patrons, we will be able to share that content on our website and social media, and will be able to gauge user interaction through the statistics from the website and social media
  • By sharing user-created content, we will be able to spread the stories we create on Snapchat that those who haven’t added us miss out on, thus raising awareness and showing others how much fun it can be
  • As time goes on, we can evaluate what types of posts get the most interaction and develop those further:
    • We can post more frequently
    • We can post more types of content (contests, stories, promotions)
    • We could offer more in-depth contests or stories
    • We could look for other local businesses and organizations that also have Snapchat and potentially partner with them to do campaigns or contests


There are a lot of unique, creative, and exciting ways a library can incorporate Snapchat into their branding. I believe creating a Snapchat account for TRL would benefit us through a higher amount of visibility in the community, especially among teenagers and millennials, thus allowing us to reach out to new user groups. We could create a new type of virtual user experience, and allow our patrons to participate in fun campaigns and share the content they make.

As an added bonus, here is Part 2 of the Snapchat Song Covers:

This entry was posted in Emerging Technology Plan, INFO287, Participatory Culture, The Hyperlinked Library and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Emerging Technology Plan: Snapchat

  1. Laura S. says:

    Hi Holly.
    I think this is a fun, engaging and great participatory plan that meets teens right where they are at! Snapchat is definitely the most popular app for my teen and young adult, along with Instagram. The Ross Simmons Marketing Guide link was very convincing and a great intro for those who are unfamiliar with how Snapchat works. There is a lot of potential here for this generation of spazzy learners as they scroll and scan to absorb all things flashy. Do you think that Snapchat stories and photos actually “disappear?” I wonder if teens digital footprints will one day be haunted by the reappearance of this “assumed dead” digital media. Great, creative plan and one that I am going to explore and ponder for my library! Thanks!


    • Holly Guthrie says:

      @lschwoerer Thank you! I spent a lot of time debating what I wanted to talk about before settling on Snapchat. I spend so much time working with teens that it just made the most sense. I love Ross’ guide, I think it’s great backup for a pitch, and it’s well-presented. And I agree – with such short attention spans nowadays, having something flashy and brief works really well. I read a lot about how photos are housed, and their servers are cleared so frequently that I think the photos really do disappear from where they keep them. However, that doesn’t mean someone out there hasn’t saved it elsewhere. Princeton University’s Snapchat Saturday albums on Facebook show that; all it takes is a quick screenshot and you’ve got that snap forever. I imagine it’s similar with stories. While Snapchat themselves may not have the room to keep all of this; their site says there are nearly 100 million active Snapchatters each day, which is a lot of content! So you bring up a great point about it being “assumed dead.” You will have to let me know if you decide to go forward with it at your library! I’m glad I could share! 🙂


  2. Melody says:

    Your plan is really well thought out. The plan has well stated goals and objectives. You also introduced me to a new social media that will be a hit with teen programming. I also think your addition tags is a cool idea. Great way to make your site user friendly! Wonderfully executed!


    • Holly Guthrie says:

      Thanks @melody ! I had a lot of fun with it. I wanted to make sure I caught all of the entertainment and excitement that comes from Snapchat. It really is so popular with teens. And I find tags to be really interesting and fun! 🙂 Thank you!


  3. Sarah Liberman says:

    @holly, I’ve often wondered how an app like Snapchat that produces ephemeral content would fit in a library — and I love how your plan illustrates that! Thanks for developing such an exciting, innovative plan. Even though evaluation won’t use conventional metrics, as you point out, you manage to find alternative means to assess usage and feedback from Snapchat for your library. I’d love to hear the progress on how you implement this for your library!


    • Holly Guthrie says:

      @sairuh Thank you! I wasn’t sure at first how feasible Snapchat would be, but the more I read about it, the more I realized it was an untapped resource that could be very useful, especially for the teens and millennials. I really enjoyed coming up with this plan. I find conventional metrics can be very limiting, so I was happy to choose something that made me think outside the box 🙂 I am excited to at least present this to my Teens Online team to see what they think. Right now we are kind of stalled because not everyone has received their devices yet, but our next meeting isn’t until mid-December, so hopefully we will all be on track by then and this would be more practical by then.


  4. Kristen Amaral says:

    “I believe creating a Snapchat account for TRL would benefit us through a higher amount of visibility in the community, especially among teenagers and millennials, thus allowing us to reach out to new user groups. We could create a new type of virtual user experience, and allow our patrons to participate in fun campaigns and share the content they make.”

    This statement resonated with me. Your idea really has multiple benefits. I hope you get buy-in from your library and your project is a success! Nice idea! 🙂


    • Holly Guthrie says:

      @krislib Thank you! I really believe that we have to step up our game and our virtual presence if we want to create new lifelong users from younger generations. I’m glad you liked it! It was so much fun to work on! I am excited to share it with my other teammates on Teens Online to see what they think.


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