How to Get Started on (and Quickly Addicted to) Snapchat

shutterstock_278693798If you don't have a teenager handy like I do, Snapchat might be somewhat confounding. It was for me, anyway, until my 15-year-old showed me the basics. If you're already a Snapchat pro, stay tuned for an upcoming article on advanced Snapchat features. But if you're just getting started and no teens are at the ready to help out, read on.

I had heard about Snapchat back when it launched and people seemed to be mostly using it for sexy-time fun. So when said teen seemed to be using it pretty often, I became concerned and investigated. It turned out there's much more to the app than disappearing naked snaps and selfies.

I quickly became addicted to Snapchat for its—forgive the overused word—authenticity. Because you can only post video and photos you've just recorded, there's no time to edit anything to perfection. It has an immediacy that Instagram had for a minute when it was still new and before everyone spent hours editing their selfies. And that's something rare and exciting, especially in the ultra curated and glossy world of fashion.

Mine was a long path to figuring out Snapchat, but yours doesn't have to be! Here are the most important functionalities on the app that helped me discover how fun it could be.


1. Add Friends

Tap the little ghost at the top of Snapchat's screen, and you should see your own icon (which you can personalize or change by simply tapping it). Below that you'll see “Add Friends.” Click on that and you'll have the option to add by username, from your address book, by snap code or from someone located nearby.

It's easiest to add from you address book. Simply click on that option, and Snapchat will give you list of people in your address book who are already using the app. They'll be alerted that you've added them, which will likely encourage them to add you back.

If you want to follow someone who's high profile, say Aimee Song or Bryan Boy, you can either search the web for their username or for their Snapcodes, which are unique QR codes that will add a profile when you place it in the frame of your screen then press and hold the screen (or take a photo of it) whith the app open. Check this page for tons of celebrity codes.

If you're hanging out IRL with someone and you want to add them quickly, click “Add Nearby” and have them also click it, and they should show up in the cute little animated area. Or, you can share your username via email, text, Twitter, Facebook or several other apps directly from Snapchat with “Share Username.”

2. Record a Story

Now that you have some friends, swipe up from the ghost screen and you'll see a screen that basically looks like a camera app. From here you can record photos or 10-second videos. After you've taken your snap, swipe left for some fun filters you can add, including your location or the temperature, or you can swipe to the turtle or bunny icons to speed up or slow down your video.

If it's a photo, you can choose from the bottom left how many seconds you want it to appear for your viewers. If it's a video, you can choose whether you want it to have sound or not.

Next, click on the little square with the plus sign at the bottom of your screen to add your snap to your story. That will allow anyone to view your snap an unlimited number of times for 24 hours. Or, you can click on the arrow in the bottom right corner and send it to individuals on your contact list (you can also add to your story from here).

All the snaps you add will be woven into one story, and the circle that appears next to your name will get smaller, as if someone were taking slices of your pie, as time goes on. This indicates how much longer each snap will be viewable (each one is viewable for 24 hours). If you want to save your recording for posterity, you can download it from the “Stories” screen by clicking on the three vertical dots to the right of your story icon, then clicking on the downward arrow.

You can also click on those three vertical dots to see how many times your snaps have been viewed and by whom. A little number will appear to the right, and if you click on the number, the app will list everyone who has viewed.


3. View Stories

I have to say it's been REALLY fun watching fashion bloggers' snaps from New York Fashion Week, since I didn't attend myself. (Plus, since the weather in NYC was so extremely cold, it's been much more fun to watch from home in California!)

From your stories page, you'll see a “Discover” section, which features media channels including MTV, Discover, Vox, Cosmopolitan, Vox, etc, and their stories are typically really fun and interesting to watch. Below that you'll find a section called “Live,” where you'll find snaps about current events like fashion week or the Westminster Dog Show. Below that you'll find updates from folks you follow.

As you watch a story, you can tap the screen to fast forward to the next snap, or swipe down if you want to move on to someone else's story.

A number in the bottom right of your camera screen will tell you how many of the people you follow have new updates ready to view. Click on the number, or swipe left, or click on the three horizontal lines at the bottom right of your screen to get back to the Stories page at any time.

And then swipe right to start over again with your own Snap!

Once you've mastered the basics, check out these tips and tricks to take you Snapchatting to the next level.

Are you addicted to Snapchat? Tell us all about it in the comments!

[Photo via Shutterstock]

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About The Author

In addition to being editor at IFB, Kristen writes for Forbes, Eat, Sleep, Denim, and her own blog, Stylenik. Previously, she served as the San Francisco editor for Racked, covering the intersection of retail, fashion, and technology. She has written about everything from human cloning to luxury shopping for publications including Wired, Gizmodo, Refinery 29, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in a '70s house in '70s clothes on the Northern California coast. 

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