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Your Uncensored Guide to Snapchat

Snapchat, perhaps the most youthful of all the social media channels, is remarkably receptive to marketing.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some people may be surprised to learn that I -- at 58-years old -- am super engaged on . While most may see this platform as a hangout for people born post-1990, there are people of every age using Snapchat to grow their brand and business today. I don’t consider Snapchat a fringe social network that I rarely get on -- I’m snapping daily. If you see me making a silly face in front of my phone, you know I’m probably snapping someone. I’m always looking for ways to stay relevant and in touch with younger generations. Using Snapchat is personable -- you can directly speak to someone in a short video message.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A year ago I was told my audience was not on Snapchat and it was a waste of time for me. The minute I heard this I knew it was wrong because I remember being 15 and feeling so lost. My dad had died when I was 10 and all I wanted was some direction and guidance from someone. Even at 15, I was already interested in money business, and success. Today, I’m reaching young people on Snapchat who remind me of my younger self.

Today, I use Snapchat as many as 40-50 times a day to help young people who seek business advice, inspiration, tips, a little motivation or personal insight. I have people from all over the world who I have become like an uncle with. The difficult part is responding to hundreds of snaps back, but it’s all worth it.

Related: 7 Brands That Are Killing It on Snapchat

To get started, simply download the free Snapchat app. After you create an account, open the app and tap “Sign up.” Pick a username that represents your name or brand. I use @GrantCardone and you can follow me. After you scan your contacts you can take a selfie that will be your profile pic. This doesn’t need to be a professional shot like your profile -- keep it light and fun. Here’s mine:

I want to define some words that may be new to you:

Snap: A Snap is a picture or video you send. On , you call it a post, on you call it a tweet, on Snapchat you call it a snap. Snaps are very short, 10 seconds or less. Just as on Twitter you’re limited to 140 characters, Snapchat limits you to 10 seconds.

Stories: The Stories part of Snapchat shows photos and videos that you’d like to share with all your Snapchat friends. To view your friends’ stories, just swipe left from the Snapchat app’s camera screen. Think of stories as similar to your Facebook or Twitter “wall” because this is where people go to see your videos.

Related: B2B Marketers, It's Time to Add Snapchat to Your Repertoire

Memories: Memories is a feature that backs up your Snaps. You can make your Memories public or private. You can also post older Snaps to your Story from Memories.

As a quick primer, once you get on the app, you can take a picture by simply tapping the circular button at the bottom of the screen and to take a video, hold the button down and a red marker will appear to show that it’s recording. You can tap the ‘X’ icon to throw away the photo or video if you don’t like it. Once you are ready to start snapping, you can overlay your photo or video at the top of your screen with any of the following:

1.Stickers: This is the square icon that looks like a sticky note. You can add stickers from their library and put them on your snaps. Here are what just a few of them look like:

2.Caption: This is the T icon. It allows you write out a message for your friends with text. You can see that adding some simple text can often make your snap a little better.

Related: 3 Ways to Use Snapchat for Marketing

3.Doodle—This is the pencil icon. You can basically draw with this thing to spice up your photos or videos. 

4.Snap lenses—Snap lenses let you put animated special effects to your photos or videos. Unlike Snap filters, you use lenses while you are taking a Snap. Basically, lenses recognize your face in the camera and apply a mask or a distortion to it. I can do things like making myself look like a crazy rabbit or put a mustache on. Here’s my video guy Robert Syslo using a lense in my office:

Once you get the hang of using stickers, captions, doodles, and lenses you are ready to jump into the world of filters and geo-filters. A filter is a great way to add variety to your Snaps by having an overlay. A geo-filter is a filter unique to your current location. To enable geo-filters, you have to be sure your location is on. You can also create your own custom geo-filter which I do sometimes because it’s great for building brand awareness. I like to put sometimes a 10X or Obsessed filter over my snaps.

I’ve got millions of views and it seems the platform is continually growing bigger. This is how I’m connecting with people in 2017. Snapchat is a big part of my strategy.  

When you jump into it there are three main mistakes to watch out for:

1.Not using it: If you don’t use something of value, you lose it. The biggest mistake many people are making is signing up on Snapchat and then quitting. A big part of success is just showing up. 

2.Not using it correctly: Here’s where many get lost. The Snapchat platform, when you first get on it, is a little confusing and takes some time to learn. Spend time playing around with it and read some more how to articles if you need to.

3.Not using it enough: Here’s where most fail. They simply don’t use what’s available to them often enough in quantities great enough to have much of an impact. 

You can reach more people by getting on Snapchat. I’m getting out of obscurity and at the same time helping a lot of young entrepreneurs. It’s fun and it’s easy to use after you get accustomed to it. If you’re ready for a great way to engage with a new audience, I’ll see you on there.

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