Takeaways from an attempted Snap-stagram takeover

By on November 1, 2017

ONA Local groups are innovating in digital journalism skill sharing all over the world, and we love to hear what they’re working on. This post is a dispatch from ONA South Florida on lessons learned from a recent field trip to explore Snapchat and Instagram Stories.


On Saturday, July 29, ONA South Florida met at The Frost Science Museum in Miami for a — read it slowly — Snap-stagram Skills Challenge. That’s right, instead of doing a lecture-style digital storytelling workshop, we took the group on the road: Dropping them right into the story and challenging them to “cover” the event on Snapchat or Instagram.

The kicker: They wouldn’t be left to their own understanding of these digital spaces. No, they’d have riddles to figure out and execute on the platforms. Why? Because live digital storytelling can be just as bland and boring as any other kind of storytelling. It can sound monotonous, and it can feel slow and lazy. The riddles we gave were all about exposing the potential within Snapchat and Instagram stories. Using various effects adds style and tone to a story, and we hope these style decisions help retain viewers. We wanted attendees to leave with a greater understanding of these platforms as reporting and storytelling tools.

But this article isn’t about how much fun we had or how many buckets of sweat we dropped (because it was 90 degrees that day)—it’s about how we executed this event, learning from each other’s missteps and executing a meetup with more ease and more success.

Lesson 1: How much money is enough to get people to show?

The Frost isn’t a cheap museum, and we charged $5 via the Meetup listing, hoping that was enough to guarantee folks would show. Well, it wasn’t. The event was technically sold out, but only half of the people who reserved their spot by purchasing a discounted ticket actually showed.

This hammered home a tip we picked up at the Local Leaders Summit at ONA17 in D.C.: Always anticipate a 15-20 percent drop in attendance from those who accepted.

Lesson 2: Can your event listing be private?

Yeah, we did get all kinds of folks registering for this ONA Local event. Were they members of ONA? Did they have active media credentials? Umm…no. So that was a total mess. We got it all figured out by the event day, but what an unexpected headache. So don’t let our headache be yours: If you’re opening up access to a hot ticket space, consider making your event private or password protected and then communicate that info accordingly to your group.

Lesson 3: Have you heard the saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew?”

Yeah, we have too, but that didn’t stop us from expanding this event from a Snapchat Scavenger Hunt to a Snap-stagram Hunt instead. The addition of Instagram was definitely the “more than we could chew” part.

But shout-out to ONA for giving us the keys to their Instagram account to share the event for the ONA family across the globe. Excellent idea, not-so-excellent execution. See lesson four to learn why.

Lesson 4: How ‘bout that WiFi?

Showing up three hours early to make these scavenger hunt clues live was just not enough time. Wow. The WiFi was terrible, and while we thought about this going in, we also decided to do the clues at the actual museum instead of prepping in advance. We thought that would spark more ideas with the participants. So while this helped other people to see what we meant by each clue, this also affected the overall hunt because we couldn’t get the Instagram story to upload for our folks, as well as ONA folks across the globe, to participate.

Lesson 5: Second time’s a charm ;)

Why was this live event totally worth it? Simple: Not all journalists want to mingle over cocktails! This event was awesome because, even though the group was smaller than we had hoped, it brought out folks who wanted to learn in a safe but fun environment. And some of these folks aren’t part of our ONA SoFla core group. We don’t always see them and the scavenger hunt gave us some great one-on-one time with people that we hope will become regulars to our future events and regular contributors to our Facebook group.

So there ya have it, y’all! Here’s hoping this helps you all to think big, outside-the-box ideas for your next ONA Local event.

You can check out the riddles here. This is a link with editing permissions because we know this is just the start to how cool digital storytelling meetups can be. Add your own ideas and clues as you do your own Scavenger Hunt. Stay rad.

Samantha Ragland

A Southerner to the core, Samantha is the Digital Content Strategist at The Palm Beach Post responsible for acquiring and engaging new audiences online.