Why You Should Use Snapchat For Your Agency

    NAGW Navigator: Volume 1 • Issue 1 • Summer 2017

    Many local governments have adopted social media as a means of communicating with constituents, increasing citizen engagement and enhancing transparency. While apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have attained great popularity in government use, government organizations are much more hesitant about using other, newer social media platforms.

    Not so the City of Santa Clarita, California.

    Irish Festival in Snapchat“We are always looking for new ways to engage our citizens with technology,” said Frankie Rios, Santa Clarita’s Web Developer and NAGW West Region Director. “Our social media team is great about adopting new trends to reach our younger audiences – teens, high school and college students, etc. – and for about two years now, we’ve been having great success with Snapchat.”

    Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to capture images and video to share as “moments” with friends.

    “Snapchat posts or ‘Snaps’ are best described as moments because you’re sending photo or video messages immediately after taking them but they will disappear from the recipient’s inbox in 10 seconds or less after they’re opened,” said Frankie. “Unlike Facebook or Instagram, where you can upload images that have been in your camera roll for a long time, you can assume that a Snap from a friend is going to be a quick, personal glimpse into a moment they have chosen to share with you as they are experiencing it.”

    Snapchat’s unique ability to share moments is complimented by another feature of the app that Santa Clarita enjoys using – Geofilters, or special overlays for Snaps that can only be accessed in certain locations.

    “When sharing a moment on Snapchat, your picture or video can be accompanied by a filter that acts as a picture frame,” said Frankie.

    The filters are fun graphics that illustrate anything from a restaurant, city name, or an event -- their form and design will be based on a user’s phone’s GPS location, so the filters one sees in Santa Clarita will differ from those users will see elsewhere.

    “For a reasonable fee, Snapchat gives us the ability to design our own Geofilters for events we hold throughout the city,” said Frankie. “Our Snapchat users love discovering new Geofilters at all of our events and they use them to decorate the moments they share with their friends. Not only do Geofilters give our events more publicity, they also provide a sense of innovation and attention to detail that our citizens appreciate about their city.”

    Some examples of Santa Clarita’s filters with their associated costs are provided below.

    Snap chat filter example

    “In the first example, we created a custom filter in Photoshop and had it cover 47,685 Sq Ft for 3 hours. Total cost was $5.00,” said Frankie. “In the second example, we had our filter cover 331,541 Sq Ft for 33 hours. Total cost was $101.78.”

    Snapchat’s increasing popularity has been documented in Snap Inc.’s initial public offering prospectus (February 2017), showing that 158 million people use the platform daily and 85% of users are between the ages of 18 and 34.

    Santa Clarita is one of few governments who were early adopters of the app – other government organizations are more hesitant in using the technology, primarily because of archiving and FOIA issues.

    “The temporary nature of Snaps can be a concern for governments because we’re required to keep a record of the content that we produce, and Snapchat Snaps are no exception,” said Frankie. “Luckily, Snapchat has been very compliant when it comes to records requests.”

    Santa Clarita Cowboy FilterSnapchat retains all Snaps for 30 days, after which they are deleted. However, an agency may put in a preservation request with the company.

    “If you’d rather not go through the process of making requests with Snapchat, there is an easier way to preserve your own content for as long as you’d like by saving it to your ‘Memories,’” said Frankie.

    Snapchat’s “Memories” feature is a searchable and shareable archive of Snaps that is accessible from the app. “Memories” backs up Snaps to Snapchat's servers and automatically categorizes users’ saved snaps according to location.

    “In the case of governments, I would suggest that all Snapchat videos and images taken from the government account be saved to ‘Memories’ to comply with open public records requirements,” said Frankie. “I would also suggest that the content be purged from the account according to a specified retention schedule.” 

    Learn more about Snapchat’s legal process

    More information on Snapchat


    Geofilter Example One

    Click on the image to view a larger version of the geofilter.

    Geofilter Example 1

    Geofilter Example Two

    Click on the image to view a larger version of the geofilter.

    Geofilter Example Two

    Government agencies to follow on Snapchat

    Below are a few government agencies on Snapchat -- to follow them, install Snapchat and enter each username. Source: Girardin, Lauren (2016, February 24). Snapchat for Government: The Basics

    • America’s Navy (americas_navy)
    • Be Ready Utah (bereadyutah)
    • City of Evanston, IL (cityofevanston)
    • City of Las Vegas, NV (cityoflasvegas)
    • Civil Service Fast Track Apprenticeship, UK (csfasttrack)
    • Corporation for National and Community Service (nationalservice)
    • Coventry, CT Recreation (covparksrec)
    • Department of State (statedept)
    • Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (myfwc)
    • French Government (gouvernementfr)
    • Hamilton County Public Health, Ohio (hamcohealth)
    • Hawthorne, CA Police (hawthornepolice)
    • House Republicans (housegop)
    • Provo City, UT (provocity)
    • Texas State Parks (TxParksWildlife)
    • UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (ukforeignoffice)
    • U.S. Department of the Interior (usinterior)
    • The White House (whitehouse)


    UPDATE: "Snap Maps"

    Snap Maps is a new Snapchat feature that was launched last week. The Snap Map gives the user the ability to turn their location on and share it with friends. In the app, you can open a virtual map that will show avatars of all your friends who are sharing their location. Privacy concerns naturally come to mind because the app will update your location for all of your friends to see each time you open it. It is clear that this feature has the potential to aid stalking, lurking, and other dangerous situations, but there are pretty easy ways to prevent your location being known: 
    • The feature is opt-in, meaning that you have to choose to share your location, it won't just share without your knowledge. 
    • Your location can only be shared with your Snapchat friends list and is not available to all of the public. You will also receive notifications periodically reminding you that your location is being shared to make sure you are still comfortable with it. 
    • And lastly, if you have shared your location, and would like to turn it off, you can easily activate "Ghost Mode". 
    Of course, it is suggested that all agencies using Snapchat keep their profiles in "Ghost Mode" so the employees moderating the account aren't broadcasting their location to their ever-growing list of followers.