What on earth is Snapchat – and do you need it for your health practice?
More and more companies and individuals are using Snapchat, an app popular with teens and twenty-somethings, to reach out to current and potential clients. Should you be doing this, too?
Launched in 2011, Snapchat is an app that you can download to your smartphone or iPad/tablet for free. It allows you to take and send pictures and short videos of up to 10 seconds to friends and followers who are on the site. There are also features like fun photo filters and text you can add to your images.
Sound pretty straightforward? Well, there’s a twist. Every time you take a photo or video (aka, a ‘snap’), you choose how long it can be viewed – anywhere from 1, to 10 seconds. When one of the people you’ve sent it to, opens it, they only have this amount of time to see it, and then it’s gone forever.
You can choose to make videos or a series of photos visible multiple times, for a 24-hour period, by labelling them as a “story”. But even then, they’ll be gone in a day…forever.
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule and there’s one here, too: People viewing your photos or videos can save them. You can also save your own photos and videos as ‘Memories’, which means they can be permanently accessed and viewed by you and your followers. That’s why you might see celebrity Snapchat images from time to time on other websites. It’s also why people can get into trouble if they send a risqué snap of themselves and expect it won’t stay around to haunt them.
So what’s the appeal? Users seem to feel like the (technically) temporary nature of what they post makes them ‘live in the moment’. This doesn’t mean putting down their devices and going out into the world, but, rather, posting whatever they want, since nothing will remain to be judged by others, unlike what could happen on sites like Facebook and Instagram.
For companies, organisations, and celebrities, Snapchat is also a way to show fans and followers a special glimpse into what you’re currently up to – say, a short video of a singer’s recording session, or a teasing glimpse of a designer’s new dress.
Okay, you might be thinking, but how could Snapchat be used by counsellors, hypnotists and therapists?
There are several ways successful Snapchat advertising works. Most of these techniques don’t really seem appropriate for therapists, but there are just a few that might help you attract new business, or simply get your name out there.
For example, you might share a snap of yourself preparing for a session or sharing a motivational quotation. Another Snapchat advertising strategy that companies have had success with, is offering limited time coupons or promotional codes. You know, just like that traditional standby ‘First session is 20% off’ technique, only with tech.
Will snapchatting bring you new clients? Let’s look at one successful story. Plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer (Snapchat handle: @therealdrmiami) has become famous for snaps of his procedures (keeping all patients anonymous, unless they request otherwise, and having them fill out consent forms). It’s also made appointment requests at his clinic more than triple. And there’s been another benefit: Watching his snaps has actually helped people become more familiar and comfortable with certain procedures.
If you find that inspiring, here’s another story, from our own line of work. Snap Counsellors is an India-based organisation that encourages victims of domestic violence to talk to them via Snapchat’s ‘chat’ feature. As with photos and videos, these conversations will be permanently deleted in a very short time, making it impossible for violent partners to find them. The site has already had a massive impact around the world and helped thousands of abuse victims. Adapting this concept to your own practice could be helpful. For example, if a new client is interested in working with you, they could chat with you, knowing their conversation won’t be saved or in any way accessible to someone who comes looking for it later (just make sure you’ve set your chats to be confidential).
Alternatively, you might be running a special program, say a 'Get Fit' or 'Eat Healthy' program, and send out snaps to promote group walks, perhaps a picture of the place people are starting off from, or special recipes - maybe a video, or an image of the breakfast juice you are making for yourself today.
Snapchat can be a fun and creative way to promote your business, but of course remember what I wrote about nothing really ever disappearing. Never show or mention specific clients, or run anything or anyone down. Remember confidentiality rules, and, if you do want to give a glimpse or insight into a session for some reason, remember to have signed permission from anyone involved. One of the keys here is to remember that engagement will still need to have some healthy boundaries for your own, and the wellbeing of your clients; manage that well and you should be right.
Now that you’re in the know, why not give it a go? You can use a helpful article like this one to get you started, or else just jump right in, if you’re the more intuitive type. Either way, have (responsible) fun and see where snapping leads.
Here’s how to get started:
- Download Snapchat onto your device of choice.
- Since you’re only using this account for professional, not personal, reasons, you’ll want to make it public. So head to the “settings” (gear-shaped) symbol at the top of the screen. You’ll see a list of choices under “Who can…” including who can see your stories, snaps, and more. Here’s more info on that.
3. Start snapping!