Why Snapchat is a Metaphor for the Modern World

Let me talk to my over-35 folks for just a minute.


I get that you don’t get it. I mean, it’s not like you aren’t social media savvy. You can Facebook and Tweet with the best of them. You uploaded all your vacation photos on Instagram so everybody could see what you ate on your two-week trip to the south of France. But this Snapchat thing. Why would anyone want to post a pic that disappears in 10 seconds? And who’s got time to use filters to doodle a mustache on a cat?

Um, they do. You know who they are — they are those tweens, teens and 20-somethings that make up the critical core of your audience. They are the customers you are trying to build loyalty with so your business stays viable into the future. They are the employees that you hired at rock-bottom prices because you wanted to bring their energy, drive and new ideas into your workplace.

They also brought their Snapchat apps with them. And if you still think it’s silly, you aren’t paying attention.

The massively popular video and messaging app is a metaphor for the modern world. It enables users to move quickly to the next thing, making the last thing irrelevant. It feeds the beast and scratches the relentless itch for newer, faster, more. That’s exactly how we’re living now, and it’s so counter to the thought patterns of previous generations. Before, you wouldn’t put effort into something that would disappear in a matter of seconds or 24 hours.

Technology has made the world a digital, disposable, temporary place. Everyone has a short attention span. To keep up, you need what I call Smart Speed. It isn’t just about being fast, it is about being fast with intelligence because as soon as something is done, someone will copy it in one form or another, and then you have to start over. Wash, rinse, repeat. Faster and faster.

The whole concept reminds me of a comment from a journalist I worked with when I served as a consultant to a television news website. This journalist was reminiscing about her days in newspapers when her team would, quite literally, turn out a new product every 24 hours. What they did yesterday didn’t matter anymore; what mattered was what they were doing today for tomorrow’s paper. Ah, the good old days of eight years ago.

Now that she was working on a digital news platform, what her team did an hour ago no longer mattered.

“Think about what happens during a big breaking news story like a mass shooting or a hurricane, when people are hungry for the latest information” she said. “If we don’t give it to them faster and more accurately than anyone else, they will click to the next site or turn to the next channel. Smart Speed is now part of Journalism 101. They should be teaching it in school along with the who, what, when, where, why and how.”

Here’s another example from The Wall Street Journal. Marisa Thalberg, the 47-year-old chief marketing officer at Taco Bell, told the newspaper that she reluctantly agreed to a Cinco De Mayo campaign, pitched by her social media team, to pay for a Snapchat filter that would let people transform their heads into a giant taco drizzled with sauce. The goofy idea garnered 224 million views.

“I think it’s important that sometimes I feel uncomfortable,” Thalberg was quoted as saying. “On this one I’m really glad I trusted the instincts of the team.”

Smart Speed fits neatly into my intrapreneurial philosophy because it isn’t about merely embracing change, it’s about creating a workplace that inspires and nurtures the very ideas needed for change to occur. Smart Speed is an employee-driven model that produces results at a fraction of the time and costs of traditional strategy and planning efforts. Simply put, Smart Speed is about innovation. And it’s within reach.

We’ll talk more about this topic in the future. In the meantime, I want to leave you with a homework assignment. Think about a work situation in which an out-of-the-box idea was a smashing success or colossal failure. Why did it work or not work? What would you have done differently? I would love for you to share your experience in brief in the comments below.

One last thing for you to ponder before I go…I just read in that WSJ article that Snapchat is valued at $18 billion. Temporary has never been worth so much. Sigh!

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K. Melissa Kennedy

Chief Innovation Officer, Founder, Intrapreneur. Entrepreneur. Enthusiastic leader and speaker. Teller of truths at 48 Innovate
I spent many years working for and building successful companies. I parlayed that experience into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: it’s the people.) I'm an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secrets that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Working with companies like Cisco, Lancope, Arby's, Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media - WRAL, PRSONAS, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog, REVO Communications, Erno Group, Focus Carolina, Madan Global, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, INZONE Brands, Albright Digital, Spring Metrics and NC State Kenan Fellows.

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