Law firms using Snapchat for publishing commentary and engaging their audience. Sounds a little crazy, but so did law firms using Twitter for sharing news in 140 characters just five years ago.

Snapchat, an image messaging and multimedia mobile application launched just five years ago, is going public within the next month with a valuation of close to $20 billion. A lot of people in the investment community believe Snapchat is here to stay and that the number of users, now 160 million, and revenue are only going to grow.

I’ll confess. Though I have a Snapchat account, I have never used it.

But when Ken Doctor at Newsonomics reports that the New York Times is going to devote a half dozen staffers to publishing a daily Snapchat edition, it makes me think that there’s a publishing opportunity that awaits us in Snapchat.

The Times is not alone, the Washington Post shared last week that it will be the breaking news source on Snapchat’s “Discover.”

CNN which has been using Snapchat for a couple years, publishes a mix of content, per Digiday, including international stories, entertainment news and political coverage — in text and video form. It has also experimented with creating Snapchat-exclusive interactives, such as one it made about the Supreme Court.

Snapchat is seen to represent a new direction in social media, with its users wanting a more in-the-moment way of sharing and communicating. With less emphasis on an accumulation of ongoing status leaving permanent material, Snapchat focuses on fleeting encounters.

Messaging apps with these characteristics surpassed social networks in unique digital audience within the last year, per Doctor, and Snapchat takes advantage of this trend. Snapchat, a mobile app company also takes advantage of the growing mobile networking phenomenon.

How do users communicate or publish on Snapchat?

By creating multimedia messages referred to as “snaps,” consisting of a photo or a short video, which can be edited to include filters and effects, text captions and drawings.

Snapchat “publishes” content via “Stories” and “Discovers.” Stories allow a user at a specific event to contribute “snaps” to a curated story promoted to all users.

“Discover” is an area containing channels of ad-supported short-form content from major publishers, including BuzzFeed, CNN, ESPN, Mashable and People.

I thought Snapchat enabled users to share pictures and video that disappeared upon the recipient’s viewing. But “Memories” allows snaps and story posts to be saved into a private storage area, where they can be viewed alongside other media stored on the device, as well as edited and published as snaps, story posts, or messages. Snaps can also be retrieved by search.

If I am butchering how Snapchat works, please excuse me. Like I said, I’ve not used it.

The amount of media being delivered via Snapchat is staggering. In May 2015, users were sending 2 billion videos per day, which jumped to 6 billion by November. By 2016, Snapchat had hit 10 billion daily video views.

Like social networks before it, Snapchat’s user base is gradually getting older. Three years ago, Snapchat was only being used by 5% of smartphone users age 25-34 and 2% of users age 35+, according to comScore Mobile Metrix. By last year, the numbers moved to 38% and 14%, respectively – probably not too far off Facebook’s maturity.

Marketers are attracted to Snapchat because it allows brands to be more genuine. There is apparently room to be real rather than to run display ads.

What could all this mean for lawyers and law firms?

  • We may have a new and growing medium for engaging clients, prospective clients, referral sources and influencers.
  • A new medium that will enable genuine exchanges establishing trust and relationships.
  • How Snapchat will be used by lawyers, who knows?
  • Of course, not everyone needs to use Snapchat, there’s only so many hours in the day.
  • Those who choose to use the medium will need to use it like the masses, free of the constraints lawyers and bar associations place on innovative social apps.
  • Learning to use Snapchat effectively will come, like it has with other social media before it, through trial and error,
  • Lawyers and law firms using Snapchat will likely have an edge on others who are not reaching such a large audience on the audience’s terms, just as lawyers have had an edge via other social media.

I have a hard time believing I am blogging about Snapchat for lawyers. When is the number of social media a lawyer could use ever going to stop? How crazy can the next social media be?

But I remember blogging about Facebook and Twitter in their early days, blowing off each as inappropriate for lawyers and business development.

If I have learned anything since, it’s that social media for cryptic communication that looks unprofessional and that could only be used for personal exchanges can become a very real way of building a name and relationships, professionally – the linchpins of business development for lawyers.

Where are we going with Snapchat? Who knows? But if I’m a betting man, I’m not betting against Snapchat being used by lawyers for business development.