Surely, one of the most popular messaging apps in the world will have caught at least a portion of your attention right now. Whether you’re a casual smartphone user or a hooked-in millennial, we’ve got a “for dummies” guide that will teach you the basics of Snapchat, and get you on the path to more fruitful fun on that device that follows you everywhere.
In a competitive market, the app that not only climbs the mountain of success but also remains at the top is absolutely worthy of your attention. Featuring hundreds of millions of regular users and registered profiles, it’s impossible to deny Snapchat’s success, or the impact that it’s had on our social media culture. Without a doubt, if you spend even a few minutes of your leisure time online, you’ve happened upon selfies featuring puking rainbows and face-swaps that are either hilarious or grotesquely comical, or both. Though young people don’t make up the entire crowd of Snapchatters, they make up a significant portion of it.
No matter which age demographic you fit into, though, there’s a ton of fun to be had with Snapchat. On top of the fun, it’s also an incredible messaging and communication tool. After recent updates in March 2016, it can even stand toe-to-toe with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp in quite a few ways. In addition, the Snaps that are its namesake, it also has video calling and messaging features that can keep you in touch with any of your other contacts.
Though we’ve written about ways that you can use an emulator to run Snapchat on Windows 10 and other desktop or laptop operating systems, we’re going to allow this guide to focus on those platforms where Snapchat runs natively–iOS and Android.
The fact that these two mobile operating systems are far and away the most popular on the market only makes this direction that much more apt. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Your first destination is going to be your mobile device’s app store, either Android’s Google Play store or Apple’s App Store. Snapchat is free to download and free to use (outside of regular monthly data costs, which take place on the user-end), so you should be able to search for the app and download it without any trouble. Should you encounter any third-party apps that make promises to enhance your Snapchat experience, ignore them. At least for now, we’re going to concern ourselves with the primary Snapchat experience
Once the app is installed, we can proceed with setup!
Your Snapchat profile is going to act as the hub for all of your activity in the app. Everything comes back to your profile, so let’s do it right the first time!
The Snapchat app is going to ask for certain information from you during the profile setup process. It’s enormously useful to have all of that information handy and ready-to-go before you reach this point.
- Email address. Make sure it’s one you check often, and is also secure!
- Password. Your best bet is to use a series of uppercase and lowercase letters, combined with numbers. Keep it handy, but don’t pick something obvious!
- Username. Here’s the opportunity to be unique. Your username cannot be changed, so pick something that really speaks to you. Other users will contact you through your username.
- Phone number. This is an optional step, but since your Snapchat account is tied to your mobile device anyway, you might as well! This additional identity verification can be awfully handy.
After these few steps, your profile is ready to rock and roll! You’ve now done enough work that you can move on to any feature in Snapchat that you’d like to explore, but I recommend following the rest of the guide through to the end. A tour of Snapchat’s best and most-used features can only ever be helpful, right?
Since Snapchat is a social media messaging service, you’re going to find yourself awfully lonely without anyone in your contact list. However, one of the joys of Snapchat being an exclusively mobile app is that you have several easy ways to bring people into your Snapchat contact list.
First off, tap the little white ghost silhouette at the top of the main Snapchat window. Surprised to find that the hub for your Snapchat activity is actually your camera’s viewfinder? Don’t worry; that surprise won’t last for long. That little icon is going to give you access to all of Snapchat’s menus, and the one that you want to tap next is “Add Friends.”
From here, you have some options, but you want to tap “Add from Address Book.” If you’re new to this process, and Snapchat didn’t try to perform this task when you were first setting up your profile, then you likely will have to give it permission to access your contacts. Do so, and the app will automatically cross-reference the email addresses and phone numbers in your mobile device’s contact list in order to find them on Snapchat!
You can also add friends using two other features: Snapcodes and Add Nearby. The first will allow you to use your device’s camera to scan and import a visible Snapcode (you saw yours after tapping the little white ghost, remember?)
The “Add Nearby” feature will use local networks to connect you with anyone in your immediate vicinity. If you’re at a party or an outing and you want to add as many people nearby at once as you possibly can, this is a fantastic feature.
Lastly, you can also export your Snapcode as a shareable image that is then free to distribute on other social media networks. Want to show yourself off to your Facebook or Instagram friends? This is the way to do it!
Your First Snap!
Hopefully, friends are on the way! Now that you know how to add them to your Snapchat contacts list, it’s time to start looking at the primary function of the Snapchat application–Snaps!
They’re actually a lot simpler than many of the flashy images you’ve seen online would suggest. If you know how to shoot a picture or a video capture with your mobile device, then you already know the basics of taking a Snap.
As you’ve likely surmised from your time spent on other social media, the majority of Snapchatters use the app for selfies. Using the little camera icon in the corner of the window, you can swap to your device’s front-facing camera and take one of yourself! No matter what you choose to shoot a picture or video of for your first snap, don’t worry too much about it! Once you truly get in the groove, you’ll be snapping all of the time, without hesitation.
However, before you start Snapping like crazy, read on to discover some of the ways that you can enhance and color your snaps. Artistic expression is part of what makes this app fun!
“Stories” is a unique feature in Snapchat that allows you to build a series of snaps over 24 hours. Like the namesake suggests, they allow you to use images and video to construct a brief narrative. However you’d like to put together your story, this is definitely worth exploring if you ever want to share an entire day’s activities with your fellow Snapchatters!
Lenses, Filters, Stickers, Oh My
Here’s where we get to the real meat of the Snapchat app–the tools that you’ll use to make your Snaps stand apart from the thousands of others that are submitted every second! Some of these features will be accessed after you’ve already taken a Snap, but lenses are applied beforehand.
Selfie time! When you have your face lined up in your camera’s viewfinder, press and hold to activate the lens feature. By swiping through the available lenses, you can use Snapchat’s excellent facial recognition tech to apply some pretty fantastic, animated graphics to your beautiful features. Sprout strawberries from your mouth, light up your eyes, or puke rainbows!
This feature is constantly changing, and so are the lenses that are available to you on a given day. Because they’re all free (they weren’t always!), you’ll always have a fresh selection, and one or more of them will often be sponsored by big-name brands.
After you’ve taken a picture or video, you can swipe from the right to activate the filter feature. They come in a variety of different options, and we actually have a few guides on Appamatix that will help you to understand the nuance of each. Photo filters will be familiar to Instagram users; they add a screen over the entire image that changes the color palette, tone, and shading of any media that you shoot. Geofilters will add graphics based on your location, and Snapchat has even implemented tools that allow users to create and submit their own!
If you tap on the little square symbol at the top of the Snapchat screen, you’ll be presented with the sticker menu. Recently added in an update to the app, there are currently over 200 stickers that you can slap on your Snaps. Rotate them, resize them, stretch them; try using them all!
Pen and Text
These longstanding features allow you to do simple–yet colorful–markup on your snaps before sending them off. The text feature allows you to do just as you’d imagine, placing a thin banner over the image or video in order to make your text easy to read against any background. The pen feature comes with a color filter that will allow you to select virtually any color that you’d like to write in. On your device’s touch screen, use your fingertip to add embellishment and custom design to your Snaps!
Have you had ample chance to play with all of the features that Snapchat offers for your images? If so, and you’re ready to send it off to your contacts, just tap the “Send” button in the corner of the window! There are more options you can play around with, of course; you can change the Snap duration from between 3 seconds and 10 seconds, and you can also choose to display the Snap as part of a story.
For now, however, let’s get this first one out the door! After selecting Send, you’ll be able to choose who among your contacts you’d like to send your Snap to. Pick some lucky recipients, and sent it on its way!
Of course, there’s much more to Snapchat than the directions above will give you. It’s an experience that rewards exploring, and so the final step of this guide would be to urge you to do just that! Continue to assemble your rockstar list of contacts, and share moments from your day with them! Social media is its own reward, and partaking in the Snapchat phenomenon can be an immense amount of fun. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, I hope that our “for dummies” guide to the Snapchat basics has been helpful!