On Snapchat, Meeting the Audience Halfway Is Key

Like any good friendship, the relationship between a brand and its audience on Snapchat should be a two-way street.

Rodale Executive Director of Video Matt Johnston
Matt Johnston, Executive Director of Video, Rodale

You need to meet the audience where they are and give them content they'll find valuable, says Matt Johnston, executive director of video at Rodale. Otherwise they'll tap their way right past your message.

Johnston, who works on video for Rodale's health and fitness brands, including Men's Health and Women's Health, previously built Vulture's Snapchat Discover channel from the ground up as executive producer at New York Magazine.

We recently sat down with Johnston—who will discuss Snapchat at the upcoming Digital PR & Marketing Summit Oct. 17-19 in Miami—to get his perspective on how best to connect with users on the platform.

PR News: What are the biggest mistakes you see brands making in their Snapchat strategy?

Matt Johnston: The biggest mistake brands make is not meeting the audience halfway. That's the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to distributed platforms. What that means is that you need to walk the difficult tightrope between messaging and language. It should be your message, their language, their objectives, instead of your message, your language, your objectives. Ultimately an individual will engage with a brand on Snapchat because of their own ideals and values rather than the brands. It's best to take the ego out of the equation.

PR News: What's the best tactic or lesson you learned from working directly with Snap, Inc.?

Johnston: There was a lot, but the biggest lesson was geared toward the “time spent” metric. I was working specifically on a Discover channel, and it was paramount to stop the tapper in their tracks. The content needed to be equally grabby and rich. The more time they spent on each snap, the more time they spent on a story, the key to engagement.

PR News: Can you give us an idea of what it took to create a Snapchat Discover platform? What did your timeline look like?

Johnston: I was running a weekly Snapchat Discover platform and even that had a very high workload. Discover is a place of high visual and content-rich standards. It was much more like programming a packed weekly magazine than anything else. It was so intensive we always worked a week ahead.

Do you have more questions for Matt? Tune in to PR News on Sept. 20 at 11:00 am ET for a Facebook Live interview with Matt, and ask away!

PR News: Do you think having a Snapchat presence is possible and a good idea for a business of any size, including nonprofits? Why or why not?

Johnston: I don't think it's a good idea for every business. The size is less important than the key demographic. It may seem obvious but it's true. You know, of course, that the Snap audience is young, but you may not quite understand just how young they are. Very, very young. We're talking like early high school, here. Of course, people of all age ranges use the platform, but Snapchat takes young audience to a new level.

PR News: What do you hope attendees at The Digital PR & Marketing Summit will take away from your session on October 18th?

Johnston: I think the biggest point to drive home is meeting the audience and potential audience halfway. I hope folks who attend the session get some ideas about how to translate their brand message into effective Snapchat action!

Connect with Matt: @ByMattJ

Connect with Samantha: @samantha_c_wood