How our remote team works better together: Snapchat as an internal communications tool
About two months ago, we started getting really into Snapchat. Not in the Kardashian sense. But as an internal communications tool for our growing remote team.
While the Close HQ remains in San Francisco, the majority of our team members are nomadically spread across North America, Europe and Asia.
A few times per year, we get together at our company retreats to align, strategize and let the good times roll. But in between those, we get a glimpse into each other’s daily lives through Snapchat.
In this post we talk about how we use Snapchat as an internal communications tool and why we think it’s a great addition to the existing software stack for remote teams.
The remote tool stack: Consistent team communication, poor personal connection
Some of our favorite companies, including Basecamp, Buffer and Automattic, are companies that have all pioneered the remote work culture.
Yes, times are changing. By 2020, 40% of the workforce in the US will consist of freelancers, making remote more and more mainstream as companies discover the benefits that come with a remote team culture.
Today, companies use tools such as Slack, Zoom, Basecamp, Hackpad, Timezone.io to keep communication channels open and active across teams and timezones.
And while the software stack for internal communications is impressive, it comes with one huge flaw: it lacks a genuine human connection.
This is where Snapchat comes in.
Why Snapchat is a unique tool for internal communication
Working remotely can make some of us feel lonely and disconnected. We can’t just turn around and ask our colleagues a question, suggest a walk or go grab a coffee.
On a daily basis we use HipChat, Mumble, Zoom, Skype, Gmail, and KnowYourCompany as our main platforms for communication. While these feature rich tools get the job done, they don’t offer much when it comes to bringing us closer together in a more personal way.
Instead, we found this in Snapchat.
Snapchat adds a welcomed element of maintaining your relationships with other team members that goes beyond emails, Skype calls, and HipChat emojis.
It gives us a more fun and personal way to stay connected and create a team culture that’s not only centered around work, but also life outside it [Tweet this!].
It allows us to build better relationships between each other not only as a team, but also as individuals.
1. It removes friction
On other platforms, creating videos comes with a lot of friction. Snapchat on the other hand, turns recording videos into a frictionless experience.
Because of the nature of the platform and the lifespan of its content, no one expects a high production value. This makes people comfortable with creating videos that focuses on capturing the moment they’re in, rather than creating beautiful, Instagram worthy content.
The value lies in sharing the moment in real-time, not in the visual composition itself.
Whether a picture or a video—one snap says it all.
In fact, today Snapchat gets 4 billion video views a day. That’s the same as Facebook.
No wonder Snapchat grew in one year as much as Twitter has in four years combined.
2. It’s instant
As soon as the notification pops up and you tap to view the snap, you know exactly what your colleague is up to.
Whether they’re shooting over a reminder to reply to an email or deal with an issue, raging over poor internet connections or bugs, or sometimes just saying “Hi,” it immediately creates a connection that helps your relate to their current situation.
Then you can choose to either a) reply with words of encouragement or b) leave them to deal with things.
3. It’s personal
On Snapchat you’re more than a name in a chatroom with an avatar attached to it. You’re … you. Or however you choose to portray yourself.
Over time, you’ll get a better sense of who your colleagues are as team members—what motivates them, frustrates them and makes them laugh. But you’ll also get to know them outside work: Where they live, what their habits are like, who their friends and family are.
Despite being remote, you’ll develop a closer relationship with them. And closer relationships make for a better and healthier team dynamic.
4. It’s (sort of) private
While Snapchat is highly popular and boasts 100 million daily users who spend between 25–30 minutes on it, it has so far avoided the kind of saturation we see on Facebook and Twitter.
Partially due to the nature of the platform itself and partially due to its users, Snapchat has brought us a less public medium, yet one that allows us to seamlessly maintain multiple relationships.
It has the personal aspect of a text message, the reach of Facebook, the visual aspect of Instagram and the real-time aspect of Periscope.
With all the filters you could possibly wish for.
How we use Snapchat at Close
Snapchat has come to serve a multitude of purposes. From one-to-one snaps, team snaps, to company wide snaps, this is how Snapchat helps us build a stronger remote culture.
Keeping each other motivated
We can’t be on our A-game all day, every day.
When inspiration is lacking and motivation is absent, when you’re feeling stuck and frustrated, that’s when it tends to suck the most to not be in the same room as your team.
The physical pat on the back, words of encouragement and “Here buddy, I got you a coffee” are notably missing. Instead, these have been replaced with ridiculous videos with silly filters, dumb drawings and selfies that should never have seen the light of day.
If you’re battling with bugs or been sunk by a poorly performing email, in your darkest hour, you know that your team members are a filter and a snap away.
Sure, Snapchat might not be the most appropriate medium for sending feedback. But when sending short, quick and visual feedback is all you need—it gets the job done.
You can go from “fix it” to “fixed” in a matter of seconds. Boom.
Shooting over reminders
We all have a ton of things to do and we all forget things. Getting a reminder to do something on Snapchat rather than via email is more friendly, engaging and fun.
Documenting life on the road
Steli keeps a busy schedule as he does keynotes around the US and Europe frequently. As a team, we keep up with his endeavors on the road by tapping on his story.
Documenting customer visits
When location and schedules allow, we do customer visits. These keep us from slacking off and help us build a product that makes our customers more successful.
Using Snapchat, everyone gets to meet our customers and receive their feedback in real-time.
Taking founder walks
Two pieces of the co-founder trio, Steli and Anthony, are using Snapchat for the purpose of virtual founder walks. With Steli based out of the Palo Alto HQ and Anthony (and Thomas) who-knows-where, the traditional format of co-founder catchups has been challenged.
Today, Anthony and Steli jot down their thoughts and shoot them over in sequences on Snapchat. At their own convenience, they go for a walk to go through what’s on the other person’s mind and snap back their replies.
As for the third co-founder, Thomas, he’ll be on Snapchat as soon as he’s done looking for food.
Keeping fit is essential to staying happy and productive. Spearheaded by Alberto “Muscles” Nodale, Close has turned into a team that gets excited about sweating.
Through Snapchat, we send each other both pep talks and gym guilt.
Where Snapchat falls short
Snapchat wasn’t meant to be an internal communications tool, we’re just using its features for our benefits to the extent that we can. It’s all become one grandiose experiment. During this experiment, we’ve noticed a few downsides.
Here’s where Snapchat falls short.
1. You can’t guarantee employee adoption
Nope. Not everyone gets excited about Snapchat as a platform for team communication. And while our Team Directory includes a separate column for Snapchat usernames and everyone’s encouraged to participate, not everyone's on board.
However, with a bit of convincing we anticipate the adoption to be company-wide shortly.
2. You can’t group snap
Snapchat doesn’t allow you to create a group to which you can send your snaps. This means you need to individually select the friends you want to send your snaps to.
Depending on the size of your Contacts list, scrolling through it and selecting the recipients can be annoying. You’ll also end up forgetting to add people to your send list, especially if they’re not listed at the top under “Best Friends”.
Meet the team: How we snap at Close
We’re about 10 frequent snappers here at Close, meet a few of them below.
Steli Efti, Co-founder and CEO
Home base: Sunnyvale, CA
What to expect: Hustle
When not in Palo Alto, Steli roams around the US and Europe spreading the word about the best CRM for SMBs and startups while sharing his sales insights.
His snaps feature anything from airports, conference stages, fans of The Startup Chat and moments with fellow hustlers.
Alberto Nodale, Sales
Home base: Palo Alto, CA
What to expect: Gainz
Our favorite Austrian (also the only Austrian in the company, but whatevz) will hit you with daily gym guilt. Follow for fitness tips and sales talk.
Stefan Wojcik, Engineering
Home base: San Francisco, CA
What to expect: Tech wins and fails
Stefan, Stefan, Stefan.
This guy is the source of all happiness. His snap game might not be as frequent as one would want it to be, but once that notification pops up on our phones? Oh, the joy.
Craig Nagovan, Support
Homebase: Milford, CT
What to expect: Sarcasm and complaints
Don’t be fooled. Craig (whose name is actually Greg) is our bundle of joy who delivers humor infused support updates weekly. Seriously, it’s a highly anticipated event and a true highlight. Once, he wore a suit.
The support team noticed that Craig had been online for way too long and urged him to take a break and go outside. To prove his outdoor adventure, he sent us this.
Is Snapchat just this summer’s hype for us here at Close? We don’t know. So far, it’s made team communication more fun, engaging and creative. We’re going to keep experimenting and see where it takes us.
Six months from now, we might have moved on. Or our snap game might be the best in the industry.
Stay tuned and happy snapping, everyone.
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