Feeling Like an Old Geezer at the New Social Media Party

What is this snapchat?

I tend to pride myself on being open to new experiences, whether it’s traveling to a new country or engaging with new technology or digital media.

But with some of the emerging social networks, well, it’s been tough. I get asked by writers at conferences what the “up and coming” social media networking tool will be, and I feel like shrugging. Even though I’ve tried them all a bit, it’s hard to see how they’ll be hugely relevant. And I don’t care about them. Don’t I have enough to do already?

Simultaneously, I’m thinking: Uh-oh. This is a sure sign I’m getting old.

I have to remind myself: I originally signed up for Twitter in 2008, mucked around a bit, and abandoned it for nearly a year because I didn’t see the point. When I finally returned, I was in a better mindset to appreciate it. And now of course it’s hard to imagine life without it. (More on my Twitter story here.)

Here are a few of the “new” social media networks I’ve been mucking around in lately. For the most part, they’re not really “new,” just new to people of a certain age. They offer potential for writers who want to enjoy being an early adopter and creating a space for themselves in a community or environment that hasn’t become completely filled with marketing and promotion messages.

1. SnapchatJane Friedman SnapChat Code

Snapchat is kind of like instant messaging on steroids. You can send annotated photos and videos to friends, with one big catch. After they’re viewed, they disappear. For that reason, the network tends to favor privacy and close connections.

I’ve long been disregarding Snapchat, for several reasons:

  • The whole point of Snapchat is that everything you send or post is completely ephemeral. Your messages self-destruct after a certain period of time. Even if you wanted to keep something around for friends to see, you can’t. From my POV, this is great if you’re a kid trying to hide things from your parents—or an adult who needs risky pictures to disappear.
  • The app is not intuitive. It’s not clear how to navigate it or use it, it’s not clear how reciprocal friending is, or who exactly you’re sharing things with, and if they can share things with you. Frankly, I think this is exactly the appmaker’s intention.
  • I have fairly limited interest in documenting my life through selfies and short videos (a major pastime of Snapchat users), and almost none of my friends are using it anyway.

What long confused me about Snapchat is that celebrities, musicians, and other public figures use it to connect with fans. But how could such an intensely private network be used to broadcast?

Well, this is going to be confusing, but try to come along for the ride anyway. There are two ways to share your photos/videos on Snapchat. You can (1) share with select friends—and whatever you share will disappear after being viewed, or you can (2) create and share Stories that are public, at least to the extent that all of your Snapchat friends can see that Story. Stories are available to be viewed for 24 hours and can be viewed repeatedly, unlike other stuff on Snapchat.

So, in a nutshell, Snapchat users can friend their favorite celebrities (I assume the celebrities are not friending back, so it’s a Twitter follow model, not a Facebook friend model), and can then see their Stories show up.

That makes it sound like it’s easy to go friend celebrities or people you don’t know on Snapchat. It’s not. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone on Snapchat if you’re not already connected somehow. However, there is a separate area where major media brands have their own “channels” (for lack of a better word) with their own stories; you’ll find CNN, Cosmopolitan, People, The Food Network, and more.

Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation with Jeffrey Yamaguchi about Snapchat, and I have to credit him for inspiring me to do this post in the first place. He thinks, and I agree, that authors could and should be experimenting with the Snapchat Stories feature.

What would such a thing look like? Well, below is an example from someone who’s been written about in the New Yorker for using Snapchat.

You can find me on Snapchat under the username janefriedman.


The List App2. The List App

The List App is getting a lot of attention right now because it just officially opened to the public, and it’s very straightforward: You create lists with it, which anyone who uses the app can read, like, save, relist, or comment on.

The lists might be very personal lists, informational lists, quirky creative lists, or collaborative lists—what’s so wonderful about this app is that it prizes creativity, imagination, and community. It has both a practical, useful side as well as a whimsical side. And it’s beautifully designed. (Hat tip to Chris Kubica for making me aware of this app.)

A few people or companies to consider following, to see and understand the potential: NPR, The New Yorker, Mollie Katzen (the cookbook author), McSweeney’s Lists, Susan Orlean.

The app allows you to include images and links with your lists, and you can also create lists that remain in draft-mode or private.

Periscope3. Periscope (and Blab)

The Periscope app allows you to broadcast your phone’s video feed so that anyone can watch and listen. (You can also save the broadcasts and make them available later.)

Michael Hyatt is the one person I’ve seen using Periscope consistently and well for professional/career purposes, and I recommend taking a look at one of his posts, What I Love About Periscope.

Periscope is kind of like a cheap way to have your own TV or radio show. Not to belabor the obvious, but you need to have the right personality to do well in a live environment, have something interesting to say (or something interesting to show), and/or something interesting to discuss.

I have not broadcast any Periscope sessions myself, but I have an account on the service should I ever become inspired.

Also see: Blab. This is very similar to Periscope, only it brings together several people for a live broadcast conversation.

After you use the apps above, I bet posting on Facebook will feel like chiseling on stone tablets, and Twitter like writing on papyrus scrolls!

Seriously, though: None of these networks are a must, but they all offer creative opportunities; I see them as a way to explore new ideas and find like-minded people, as with all social media sites.

What are your experiences with the above networks? What new social networks are you using? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Digital Media and tagged , , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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21 Comments on "Feeling Like an Old Geezer at the New Social Media Party"

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[…] A closer look at a few of the "new" social media networks, which offer potential for writers who want to enjoy being an early adopter.  […]

Lynne Spreen

I would eagerly embrace any of these if my target demographic were on them. But since I write for 50+, I’m not going to focus on it. And I am really happy to have an excuse, because I am way too busy on all of the networks I’m currently using!

Jane Steen
I have accounts on both Snapchat and Periscope but I’d need a reason to use them. Like you, I joined Twitter in 2008 and didn’t start using it for another year, when it began to go mainstream. It’s still not my preferred medium but it does come in handy. I don’t want to embark on a new channel until I really have something to say on it. For example, Pinterest is finally starting to impinge on my consciousness as something that could be a great way to express myself visually vis-a-vis the world in my head that finds its way… Read more »

One comment about Periscope, I recently watched a live streaming event that was all streamed through Periscope. Not the greatest camera angles and the person who provided the video kept commenting to friends about the content. Next time I see a live streaming event that is hosted through Periscope providers, I’ll try it but probably steer clear of since the annoyance factor far outweighed the learning factor.

Kara Lane
Hi Jane. I had not even heard of The List App, but I downloaded the app and am already addicted to it! I found & followed you and favorited & commented on your “Timeless Writing Advice Books” list. I also clicked on what looks like an old floppy disk, but I’m not exactly sure what that does (save maybe?). I also created 2 lists (1. funny but true quotes about life and 2. quick self-help: 5 bestselling personal development books under 200 pages). One question: Do you have any thoughts on how to begin building a following on The App… Read more »

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Kendra Phillips

Great article! An important aspect for me is being up to date on apps my 12 year old daughter is using. This is a crucial age to ensure kids’ online safety.


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Elizabeth S. Craig

This made me smile. I’m on Snapchat with one friend….my 14 year old daughter. My college-age son refuses to friend me for reasons that I’d rather not contemplate. 🙂 Love the idea of broadcasting through stories, but have a feeling most of my readers aren’t on there.

The List sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing, Jane.


[…] strategy expert Jane Friedman says documenting their lives through selfies and short videos is a major pastime of Snapchat users, making it useful to celebrities for connecting with their fans. But not only are […]