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Credit: Image by Snapchat

Although many news organisations such as BuzzFeed, Vice, Mail Online and Mashable are reaching audiences through Snapchat Discover, other publishers have been able to engage with audiences by using the free app alone – creating Snapchat Stories to explain news items in a different way, or giving the public a behind-the-scenes look into their work.

Emojis, fun filters and voice changers can make content created in the app quite informal, and many journalists have found the tool helps them connect with millennial audiences.

Reporters at The Hindustan Times have also been able to use the tool as a content management system – proving there is more to this app than sending and receiving selfies.

But if you're unsure about how your own news organisation can use it to engage a wider audience, check out this advice from Rob Lee, Snapchat consultant and trainer, who spoke at the last Snapchat Storytelling 4 Business Meetup in London.

"My first experience around Snapchat was three years ago, when I downloaded the app having heard so much about it, got completely confused by the interface, didn't have a clue what I was doing and deleted it with five minutes," he said.

"But there are 10 billion video views on Snapchat everyday, for an active user base of 150 million – which means the average users views 66 videos everyday, which is phenomenal."

So if you'd like to get in on the action and take your news organisation onto Snapchat, what do you need to be aware of? Take note of Lee's five-point checklist below before you get started.

1. Define your strategy

"First establish why you are on Snapchat and what you specifically want to use the app for," he said.

"You can't take a video from YouTube that you've spent months crafting, or your carefully picked Instagram pictures and expect them to work on Snapchat. The content has to be completely different, so have a purpose for it."

Whether you want to use the platform for telling a story, such as when BBC Panorama covered the refugee crisis with Snapchat, or simply for teasing people with what's to come, as BBC Business did with its video series CEO Secrets, there's an audience out there for you to tap into.

2. Make your content fun

"Users of Snapchat expect to see content that looks like something a friend would send them, such as material with a sense of humour behind it – this is will help you to develop a connection with your audience," he said.

Lee explained that as Snapchat is an informal platform that lets users tell stories in a raw, creative way, news organisations should utilise the ability to draw on pictures, take selfies and add emojis to their material in order to build a relationship with their audience and give them something a little different from what they are used to seeing from publishers.

BBC Business has been using Snapchat to hook audience's attention with guessing games

3. Find your superstars

"If you are running the account yourself, and don't feel comfortable on camera, find other people in your organisation that can take it over or run it with you," he said.

With the rise in popularity of mobile journalism, reporters are now more likely to be expected to produce pieces to camera, and coverage of an event as it is taking place.

As users can re-record video before they publish it, Snapchat may be an ideal place for reporters to practise these skills, especially before they start livestreaming on Facebook Live or apps such as Periscope.

However, Lee explained it is important for those presenting any coverage to be authentic, and to show that they love the platform as much as the audience does.

For publishers just starting out, he suggested using "superstars," people that are great on camera and comfortable with the tool, to connect with the audience.

4. Use your other platforms

"Snapchat is very much a closed system – you can't find brands within the app so you have to do a lot of work to get your account noticed," he said.

Publishers should use their account's Snapcode – that's the profile image people can use to add each other – on their other social media accounts, even for a short period, to grow their audience quickly and let people know they are on the social platform.

By using Snapchat Memories, journalists can download their stories and then repost them elsewhere, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, enabling them to make the most of their material and save themselves having to produce multiple packages for different platforms.

Hindustan Times use the platform in a variety of ways

5. Use all the tools available

"Snapchat also lets you message your contacts, so why not send a personal greeting to the first 50 people who follow you?

"It's not time-consuming, it takes five-ten seconds to thank them for following you, but from a user perspective, you are making an effort to connect with them and value their attention," said Lee.

Additionally, news organisations along with individual users can easily purchase on-demand geofilters for a news story or event that they are covering, to be used by themselves or those near them.

Lee explains geofilters make content much more personalised and make it easier for audiences to engage with your material, as well as offer them the opportunity to tell the stories from their own perspective, using the graphics personalised to your publication.

"Don't use your logo – but geofilters can help you brand your content and gain more attention for your work," he said.

"You need to think what the added value of your geofilters would be, and how they could persuade users to take their content off Snapchat and put them onto their own social media."

Download Rob Lee's free eBook on how to improve your organisations presence on Snapchat here.

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