Just before 3 a.m. Wednesday on television, NBC anchors Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Dan Rather and Savannah Guthrie looked shaken as they waited to report the final polling numbers of the presidential election.
Meanwhile, on Snapchat, female college students were shown crying in their dorm rooms following the announcement of Donald Trump winning Ohio. In one of the four Live Stories curated Tuesday to Wednesday, there were eight videos of women crying as the results came in.
Alongside the tear-filled snaps was celebratory footage of a white male college student sporting American flag overalls. Another shirtless white male was lifting weights and screamed: “Let’s go Trump, YEAAAH!”
On Election Night, Snapchat captured and showed the anxiety and polarizing emotions that people in the U.S. experienced in the hours leading up to and after the final count like no other media outlet or platform.
“The people’s election”
Back in October, Stephen Colbert asked Snapchat CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel if 2016 was the “Snapchat election” to which the young billionaire replied, “It’s definitely not the Snapchat election. It’s probably, definitely, the people’s election.”
The people is exactly what Snapchat showcases.
While cable news networks were home to talking heads trying articulate what happened Tuesday, Snapchat was a real-time look into raw human emotions. Snapchat’s Election Day coverage included five continuously updating Live Stories: “US Election Sound Off” (international shoutouts), “Voting Day” (polling booths), “Election Night” (watch parties), “Colleges React” (college campuses) and “Trump Wins” (victory speech and aftermath).
Here are some snippets from the “Trump Wins” Live Story:
“I’ve never been this disappointed and scared as a black man in my life,” said one Snapchat user while walking in Harlem.
“I’m in Times Square and seeing a lot of ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, and I’m scared,” said a woman wearing a hijab.
“A couple years ago we got marriage equality, and after tonight, I feel like I’m going to lose it all again,” said a girl in her bedroom.
“I would rather have a racist, arrogant, womanizing president any day of the week than a criminal,” said another woman.
Similar sentiments hit Facebook and Twitter, but how Snapchat differs is that you’re not choosing whose words you read or voices you hear. There’s a commitment to journalistic integrity and breaking news that it’s only continued to double down, as Mashable reported last month. The curation, done by a team of journalists, shows diversity in perspectives. If you ever doubted the presence of young Trump supporters nationwide, you can turn to Snapchat.
The app doesn’t reach everyone, but it does capture the attention of 150 million people every day at last count. The Live Stories referenced earlier typically reach millions, and unlike most traditional news networks, Snapchat has the attention of millennials – more than 60 percent of smartphone owners aged 18 to 34 in the U.S. use the app.
Snapchat’s embrace of the election
Snapchat, or rather the company now known as Snap Inc., entrenched itself in the election. In the spring of last year, it built a team dedicated to getting politicians to use the platform and hired a team of producers who then attended rallies, debates and other events nationwide.
For candidates, Snapchat provided a free campaigning tool which nearly everyone used after they realized the reach and access to millennials. The company also recruited top political ad sales people. This week, both candidates purchased Snapchat ads reportedly in the six-figures.
Like other social networks, Snapchat encouraged and helped register people to vote, as Mashable first reported. “If I can figure out Snapchat, you can figure out how to vote,” President Barack Obama said in a Live Story titled “Voting Day.”
In another step to encourage and celebrate voting, Snapchat fought for the right for people to take selfies at polling places in New Hampshire – and won.
Snapchat doesn’t stress about defining itself as a media company or tech company. It’s a camera company that has built itself into a news network. In addition to having Live Stories be an outlet for Snapchat users to share their emotions, the team of journalists sources and includes videos from people directly involved in the event, like Obama, Trump and Clinton Tuesday.
Prior to the election, Snapchat didn’t just showcase voices. It also informed. For the last year, Peter Hamby, formerly a political reporter at CNN, hosted a show on the app called “Good Luck America.” He took on topics like explaining how the electoral works and what are the swing states.
Snapchat users could also find political content from media partners on Snapchat’s Discover channel, including CNN, Wall Street Journal and VICE. (Mashable is also a partner).
NowThis joined earlier this year with a particular focus on the election and ran another Discover channel called “We The People” in partnership with Politico cofounder and former executive editor Jim VandeHei.
It’s unclear how much Snapchat really influenced voters – whether on their decision or even to get out to vote. But it’s evident that it left at least some impact:
For Snapchat as a business, the 2016 election provided a path to prove its worth in an arena that’s so crowded with social apps. It’s not unlike the pedestal YouTube had from the 2008 election and Facebook and Twitter captured in the 2012 election.
It benefitted from mainstream attention and also political advertising dollars, which help pave the way for its upcoming initial public offering expected in 2017. Snapchat’s ad revenue is expected to reach $1 billion by the end of 2017, according to research company eMarketer.
The election may be over, but Snapchat’s impact is far from it. Timed with Election Day, the company teased its latest big bets: augmented reality and video-camera sunglasses.