Words of wisdom from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel at Cannes Lions

The founder and CEO of ephemeral photo-sharing app Snapchat took to the stage at Cannes Lions today with Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles, touching on everything from the company’s core values to the power of listening to each other. Here we sum up 10 of the key learnings.

1. Snapchat isn’t about careful content curation. “Historically, social media has been about collecting those important photos and memories to say ‘look at all the experiences I’ve had’. Snapchat is about saying I am the result of all those experiences, expressed in that moment today.”

2. If you’re a brand, everything you’ve been taught about social media is wrong. Don’t try and act human. “As people, we change every day, whereas brands stay the same over time; they just change how they express their message. So it’s weird when a brand tries to act like your pal,” he said, advising, “be friendly, but don’t be a buddy.”

3. Video content works best when shot in portrait. “We were one of the first companies to realise that people just don’t rotate their phones. We see about 9 times the completion rate on full screen vertical video for Snapchatters.”

4. Video ads are often more effective when inserted in the middle of content rather than the start, as is the case with traditional online advertising. “Putting videos in the middle of our content means people are much more likely to watch them – plus it’s less annoying.”

5. Don’t underestimate the reach of Snapchat. “If you go to an NBA game today, 20% of all attendees will be contributing to that Snapchat story feed.” Spiegel also gave the example of New Year’s Eve in the US: 15m users sent NYE-related stories on the night, while only 5m people were watching TV channel’s ABC’s coverage.

6. Pulling together thousands of people’s perspectives on an event – such as the recent shooting in Charleston – is much more powerful than traditional broadcasting: “It gives you a depth of experience you can’t get with other linear forms of broadcasting,” Spiegel said. “The Charleston massacre saw Snapchatters expressing themselves in ways I’ve never seen – it was incredibly inspirational.”

7. Deliver relevant advertising without creepily targeting consumers. “There’s a big difference between good targeting and bad targeting. We’re all about great creative video content, so we don’t have to focus on the more unattractive advertising techniques.”

8. Snapchat employees are encouraged to make decisions quickly and then change their mind again. “We want to try to increase the speed at which people make decisions. But we also encourage people to change their minds. It’s fine to wake up the next morning and go the other way.” Spiegel said Snapchat only launches 1-2% of the products it works on, so what it does put out is of the highest quality

9. The company also focuses on empathy to deliver great results. “At Snapchat we try to understand the world through other people’s eyes and perspectives. Splitting up into small groups and talking about our feelings is one of our core values.” Spiegel said the point isn’t to build trust, but to encourage employees to listen to each other more. “I just don’t think we listen enough these days. It’s important to listen because that’s where a lot of creativity comes from.”

10. It’s ok to get it wrong. “If all advertising was great then no ads would be effective, because nothing would stand out.”

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