Social media star Casey Neistat talks Snapchat versus YouTube

Since Snapchat Stories have been around for only a year or so, Snapchat celebrities are still a rare breed. Compared to viral Vine stars with their own cross country tour schedules and YouTube creators with their Hollywood deals, Snapchat stars are still building a case for themselves.

One such star, Casey Neistat, isn’t new to the social media fame game. His primary site is YouTube, but he started creating Snapchat Stories early on and built a separate following there. People watch Casey for his little narrative snippets, where he takes users on a journey throughout his day, whether it involves a flight home from Singapore or filming a movie with fellow Snapchat star Jerome Jarre. Neistat first gained a name for himself with an HBO special about him and his brother.

I chatted with him to hear why he’s bullish on ephemerality, doesn’t care that Snapchat hasn’t courted him, and isn’t interested in Discover.

What compels you to snap?

I don’t keep an ongoing dribble of updates of my day, but I tell little compartmentalized stories everyday on Snapchat. I use it much more like making a movie than maintaining a diary. When people watch my 60-second clips there’s a beginning, middle, and end.

I’m not an exhibitionist, I don’t have a compulsion to share the ins and outs of my daily life with a public audience. The compulsion instead is when I experience something interesting, whether entirely mundane, going to dinner with my wife, or something much more specific, like I’m flying to California and all of the arduous experiences of flying in an American Airlines plane to LA. I just pluck the experiences of my life and there’s always one a day.

How does your Snapchat content differ from your YouTube content?
The artist in me that likes to make amazing movies, that doesn’t get to be exercised on Snapchat. But the part of me that likes to share little ideas does. I’m not able to make amazingly perfect precious pieces of content, but I get to make awesome spontaneous content that’s frequently ephemeral. That’s what turns me on about it.

What I hate about Snapchat Stories, and maybe I’m just old, is that you spend time capturing this content and then it just disappears. Does that bother you?

The ephemeral nature of Snapchat is what makes me so willing to make content that I wouldn’t otherwise. When you remove the scrutiny of longevity. I’m so careful about what I post on Instagram because it’s subject to scrutiny from now to the end of time.

I saw that Jerome Jarre left Vine to focus on Snapchat, which seems like a big loss for Vine. Is Snapchat a place to augment stardom — using it to supplement your content on other apps — or can you just be a “Snapchat star?”

It’s largely a new audience for me. Some came from YouTube or other social video outlets but for the most part it’s a really new audience. I think there’s a real social, almost viral side to Snapchat.

[Snapchat] has reached a critical mass. They’re big time now. They’ve grown up. They’re up there with the big boys now, they’re in the Twitter and Instagram space. I think we watched the turning point happened in the last few months where they went from a niche app to something more.

I’ve written about how Vine had failed to court its social media stars, who were a big draw for the app. Does it matter whether social media companies build relationships with their biggest content creators? Have you heard from Snapchat or YouTube?

When you’re talking about having several hundred million users, managing a community is incredibly important. The support that I get from YouTube and the relationship I have with YouTube is greater than the support from HBO when I had an HBO show. Technical support, studio resources, if I need a production studio I’ll have it tomorrow. [YouTube] will send someone to my office if I’m having trouble. That’s a big deal for a creator like me.

Snapchat has reached out to me, they’ve been very warm to me. But we’re talking about three emails and a phone call. Exercising some show of appreciation for their community is important, but it’s not make or break. We’re on it because they built a really great tool.

What do you think of Snapchat Discover?

I don’t know. I like what they’re going for, I think it’s probably smart. I think the UX is really interesting but I don’t know if it’s for me. I am a power user news junkie kind of guy and I don’t need that delivered to me via Snapchat.

I don’t send and receive messages on Snapchat, I never have. Stories is the only feature I use. I think of them becoming a more dynamic social network and I think it’s great.