When it comes to social media platforms, Snapchat users might be stuck with the most limitations. Most famous for its (supposedly) self-destructing messages, Snapchat limits videos to 10 seconds, text to 31 characters and offers only rudimentary tools for users to draw images.
But Snapchat celebrity Shaun McBride, known as Shonduras to his followers, says Snapchat’s limitations foster creativity rather than restrict it.
Hundreds of thousands of Snapchat users have tuned in to watch McBride, a 28-year-old Utah native, gorge on massive bowls of cereal, pretend each of his many airline flights is his first or perform skateboarding tricks with his luggage.
McBride’s creativity and cheerfulness have built a massive and devoted fanbase and sizable earnings through branded stories. In an exclusive video for Poynter’s Fun at Work Week, he shared some tips for creativity and audience engagement. Read the highlights or watch the full video below.
Like the Snapchat platform, many newsrooms offer only limited resources. How do limitations affect creativity?
Limitations actually really help your creativity. You have to think outside the box. There are ways that you can make your content unique and make it pop from the other people creating the content on your same platform.
For example, on Snapchat, most people thought it was just a disappearing picture. I would do one-second pictures, back-to-back, and create a flip book, or a drawing. There are lots of different ways that you can really get creative with your medium, and I think being limited and not having all options in the world forces you to be creative and really helps out in that.
How do you keep pushing forward to keep your work fresh?
I like to push the limits of Snapchat. Instead of just drawing the same pictures and taking the same ideas and changing them a little bit over and over and over, I like to think of new ways that I can use my platform. I like to think of unique ways to tell a story — so, for example, I like to tell a story from the future and go back to the past. I see how creative I can get within my storytelling, and it keeps it unique. That’s what keeps it moving forward.
How can people foster their own creativity?
You know, I eat a lot of cereal, so maybe that helps?
Your mind is constantly working to come up with new ideas — if you are writing, if you’re creating Snapchat stories, whatever it is, your mind is thinking on that format at all times. And ideas and concepts come at all different times.
I’d say the most important part to being creative is remembering your creative ideas. I keep everything written down. And if you write those ideas down you can go back to them later, pull them up and then add a new perspective or thought process. You just kind of mesh everything together.
And I guess the last thing that a lot of people have a hard time with is execution. You have all these cool, creative ideas, hopefully you’ve written some of them down, you’ve rethought about them — just go for it.
How do you keep that creativity alive?
For some people, their jobs gets repetitive, just the same thing over and over. When you have a job like ours where you’re telling a story, where you’re creating content, as long as that’s your passion I think you can stay creative forever.
One thing that keeps me going is my fans’ responses to my creativity. When I create a story and I see people respond in a positive way it drives me to keep on creating. And so I think it might be important to make sure to get feedback, read comments. That’s kind of what keeps you driven to continue creating.
What role does audience play in your work and creativity?
I think an interesting thing that I’ve done that has really helped me grow and kind of become the Snapchat guy is I use my audience within my medium. It’s not like I’m creating and the audience is consuming; I like to take out that buffer. Essentially, I’m creating with my audience.
I’ll be like, “Hey guys, I’m going on a trip. Where should I go? Two weeks from now — plane ticket — we’re going to go on an adventure.” I Snapchat a couple different places I think would be cool. And I let them vote on where I’m going to go.
At the end of the day, the audience is what drives us. That’s why we’re creating, it’s for our audience. I think we need to be more mindful of the audience as we’re creating the content — involve them, make sure it’s what they want to see, make sure it gets them thinking, make sure it keeps them engaged and wanting more.
Related: Poynter’s News University has a week full of creative and inexpensive ways to have fun at with Fun at Work Week, running August 3 through 7. Webinars include Inform and Reward: Build Online Communities that Last. Join the conversation on Twitter with #happynewsroom.