Snapchat is bigger than ever and with over 100 million daily active users — now is the time to jump on board (if you’re not already).

It’s much more than just a personal messaging app. You can run what’s essentially your own mini-TV channel in the form of daily video/photo stories. The app is constantly evolving and the wacky possibilities are endless — transform yourself into a face-morphed tiger, an alien or see what the love-child of you and your partner will look like.

I’ve been creating short-form video content for 10 years and in March I was asked to speak at the biggest travel conference in the world — ITB Berlin — about Snapchat strategy advice for travel brands. I created my Snapchat account (AliciaExplores) last November and within two months I was getting 2,000 hits per snap, partially thanks to the encouragement and advice I got from my Brazilian Snapchat superstar friend Lucas Estevam (lucasestevam1). I hope I can pass some of that on to you.

1. Think of a narrative, not just a single snap.

Rather than thinking about each snap separately, be creative. Visualize a story and use your imagination to make it happen. It’s called ‘My Story’ for a reason, and having a narrative to follow will encourage your audience to stay tuned. Do something daring and funny that will take your audience by surprise. I was in a hotel room in Miami and challenged the bellman to spontaneously dance to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.” My followers went crazy for this and wanted me to pass on messages and continue the crazy antics.

2. Watch and learn.

Who are your Snapchat idols? It sounds simple but watch, learn, and speak to people who inspire you. If you like their content, tell them. Many of your favourite travel influencers will have their settings unlocked so you can send them a personal video/photo/message. Keep an eye on the top Snapchatters highlighted in lists like this to see what they’re doing right. Don’t copy, but be inspired and put your own unique spin on things.

3. Experiment with lenses and geofilters.

Snapchat has so many fun features — from geofilters that have graphics of specific hotels, sights, brands and cities, to lenses that can morph your face into cartoon characters, animals and even put makeup or facial hair on you. It may sound like something that appeals to a teen — but keep an open mind. It can be absolutely addicting. Experimentation is key with Snapchat, so don’t be afraid to play and keep your audience entertained.

4. Save your content and repost it.

Done something cool on Snapchat? Don’t let the 24-hour ticking timebomb put you off. Did you know there’s a button to download and save your content? Archive your footage on to your phone and upload it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc so you break the time constraints and have more chance of being discovered by new followers.

5. Collaborate.

Don’t make it the ‘all about you’ show; collaborate with other Snapchatters. Cross-promote and get them to plug your channel and vice versa, this way you’ll gain new followers and your audience will enjoy seeing new people on your snaps.

6. Be spontaneous.

The beauty of Snapchat is its spontaneity. It captures those on-the-go moments in life and what I love the most is to surprise people with my snaps. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous – my best example of this is the time I was on a domestic American Airlines flight. I got chatting to the cabin crew; before I knew it, they were Snapchatting me via in-flight WiFi and I was in the cockpit chatting to the pilot (after the plane had landed of course).

7. Download your Snapchat QR code and plug it on other platforms.

You know that little yellow code that surrounds your image? You can download your snapcode and promote it so users can connect with you quickly. Be inventive — put it on social channels, your business card. Why not set it as your profile picture? The main reason it’s difficult to gain followers on Snapchat is because you can’t search for other people organically — you have to know their snapcode or snapchat name. The way to get around this is to promote your QR code everywhere so it’s easy for people to find you.

8. Cover cool events people want to see.

If you’re at a festival or an unusual event — tell people about it and announce over social channels that you’re going to be covering the event only on Snapchat. If people are following the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for example, they’re more likely to follow your feed if it’s an event they want to see.

9. Communicate with your audience.

The most successful people on snapchat are the ones who are engaged with their audience. They involve them in competitions, answer their questions and make them feel part of a community rather than a spectator from afar. So make an effort to answer every personal message you receive and get to know who your audience is.

10. Define your ‘thing’ and be real.

Your audience want to see the REAL you and have a behind-the-scenes insight into your life — so be authentic, not rehearsed. If you make mistakes — roll with it! Laugh at yourself and publish that snap of you stumbling over your words. People will love you for it! Also ask yourself what makes you unique and what makes your content stand out. My followers always say that they love how my content involves other people, not just me, and I like to be very jokey and spontaneous with my snaps so people never know what to expect. Define your ‘thing’ and give your audience something to remember you by.

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