Featuring Kirsten Alana.
Kirsten Alana likes to describe herself as a digital media entrepreneur who wears many hats, including photographer, video host, tour guide, consultant, public speaker, content creator, influencer and blogger. She was a portrait and wedding photographer before turning to travel full time in 2010. Alana has been part of several of the most awarded social media campaigns in the travel industry and is regularly featured as a top Instagram account to follow.
Alana’s current and past clients include Travel+Leisure, Four Seasons, Expedia, Explore Minnesota, Preferred Hotels, Calypso St. Barths, Banana Republic, Visit Britain, AFAR Magazine and Focus Camera. We caught up with Alana to find out how she uses Snapchat to tell stories.
As a photographer, what’s your goal using Snapchat?
Initially, I started using it simply because my job seems to depend on my using every network that exists whether it makes sense for me or not. I think the goal morphed into simply sharing a look into my life that’s not as polished or as perfect as what I share on other platforms.
How long have you been using Snapchat and how many followers do you have?
I’ve had my current username, kirsten.alana, for around a year and well, none of us know for sure how many followers we have because Snapchat doesn’t tell us. While I’ve read articles that suggest there are methods of finding out, I find them hard to believe so I honestly don’t know.
How often do you share?
I share when I feel like it and not because I feel I need to. That’s usually every day when I am traveling on assignment or when my life at home in New York City involves my being out and about. If I am just working from home, I don’t share much because there isn’t as much to share!
Your snaps do a great job telling a story of your day or an experience. When you put together a story, how do you construct it? What do you include?
Thank you! I aim to share details that I’d want to know about the people I interact with. Personal details but nothing that’s too personal and certainly never anything inappropriate. I share occasional selfies but not at the level others do. And I don’t overthink it, in terms of deciding what to share. If I feel like sharing, I will.
Can you describe an example or two that you think worked especially well?
When I shared live from the Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico I had more private messages and screenshots than normal. I think the combination of being with two other women who were very charismatic on camera, having a great setting to share and fun activities to share from that location made for a perfect storm of ideal Snapchat content.
What dos and don’ts do you have for telling stories on Snapchat?
Don’t include too much text, which is a rule I break myself sometimes. Do have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. And do give your followers enough time to both see the snap and read if it you have text. There’s a fine line between having an individual slide up for too long or too short a time!
What’s the hardest part about telling stories on the platform?
Balancing showing and telling. Sometimes I want to narrate a lot or use too much text. But often it works best just to show people with photos and videos what you want to say. And I think giving up control of wanting it to look better than it does. We’re all on an equal playing field there. Snapchat just doesn’t make anything look good without a lot of light!
How is what you do on Snapchat different from what you do on other social channels?
It’s far less polished! And it’s more about me and my personal likes or dislikes than any other channel is. I think it’s added a sense of realness to my marketing overall.
How do you cultivate a following?
It’s like any social network I think. I try to post things people actually want to see. I reply to comments and messages. I interact with other people’s content and try to always be nice. Sharing your username and/or the link to follow you helps, but people won’t follow if there isn’t something worth seeing.
How has Instagram Stories changed your approach to Snapchat?
I’ll use Instagram Stories more because my audience is already there and using Stories in a volume that is probably 10x or more what I have on Snapchat. However, it won’t actually change the way I use Snapchat when I do use it. They are different. Instagram lends itself well to a slightly more polished and serious form of storytelling while Snapchat is still the fun place to play around with selfie filters that Instagram just doesn’t have. (And which I actually hope they don’t incorporate.)
All photos © Kirsten Alana
For more tips to lock down a rep and seal the deal, check out The Photographer’s Guide to Snapchat.