digital diplomacy

Snapchat, Livestreaming and Digital Diplomacy

Bond 007 snap by UK FCO

UK FCO using James Bond in Snapchat! (source:

From a personal perspective, it has taken a while for me to see the point of Snapchat and live-streaming apps like Periscope.

First the ephemeral and live trends have some crossover, but they’re also a little different (which might be worth another future post), but both are so new that they’re worth talking about together.

One of the issues with both ephemeral and live social media is that it can be hard for an organization to measure engagement in the traditional sense.  Some have suggested that this can be a major hurdle for the adoption of these new technologies, but I disagree that it’s an engagement issue.  It’s simply more that for marketers and communication staff, there is not yet any real way to measure the engagement yet in the traditional sense and link it to expectations such as “bottom line” or to traditional KPIs such as “conversions”. Although even on that, there are some indicators–and just like 10 years ago with twitter, the US government might be leading on this as the US government has recently jumped onto Snapchat.  In announcing their entry onto the platform, they even shared how they were going to :

  • Followers: We’ll measure our audience size after six months and assess growth. Are we seeing new followers being added or are people unfollowing us?

  • Views/Completion Rate: Snapchat lets you see how many people are watching your story and where they drop off in the process. We’ll measure those numbers to determine if people are watching the whole story or giving up halfway through. We’ll also analyze what kind of content performs best so that we can deliver more of what our audience wants.

  • Engagement: We’ll look at the number of people who send Snaps back to us to help determine how engaging our content is.

  • Screenshots: Snapchat notifies you when someone takes a screenshot of your content. We’ll use screenshots to help us determine if we’re sharing important information that our audience thinks is worth keeping. We’ll look at what kind of content is screenshotted the most to learn what’s important to our followers.

(The UK’s foreign ministry also uses Snapchat well in their international outreach, although I preferred how simply the above example crystallized how they were going to measure results. However, the UK blog post which is well worth reading, explains some of the challenges of using Snapchat very well.)

Many of these products are integrated into larger platforms – Facebook Live with Facebook; Periscope with Twitter;  upcoming YouTube Connect with YouTube.  So these snaps or live broadcasts can be repurposed and shared elsewhere. This means you’d possibly then see engagement from there.  The hurdle is not the newness of the platforms, but getting your content right and doing your due diligence as with any other social platform. See very often organizations simply jump onto new platforms without assessing their resources, thinking about the demographics their targeting and keeping in mind the pecularities of the platform.  I’d imagine that this is still mandatory even if you are jumping onto a new platform!

The last thing I’d say is that the potential long duration (Periscope and other live apps) of video should not be intimidating. It’s actually ok if viewers jump in and out of videos and this is not necessarily that new. It’s just not how people consume even traditional media like television, think of how often the TV is on in the background at your house!  Think of any broadcast or video you’ve seen before, for example, in 2014, the United Nations streamed their entire UN Social Media Day which if I recall correctly, I followed on livestream.  I obviously did not sit all day watching it, but I remember sending in tweets in their Q&A that were responded to, so I was able to “engage” and derive value without watching the whole thing.  And now the video is available on YouTube as are experts from it.  Basically, I don’t think all types of live streams necessarily require ones full attention from beginning to end.

Very interesting to see how all this develops.