How a 40-year-old radio DJ from Florida became a Snapchat star

Snapchat talk showMark KayeMark Kaye.

YouTube, Vine, and Instagram all have super-famous stars, people that have leveraged the platform to gain a following and even make money. 

Snapchat users recently started to follow suit.

One of these people is Mark Kaye, the host of the first-ever Snapchat talk show.

Kaye’s show, Talkin’ Snap, airs every Monday and Thursday on his Snapchat Story at 5 pm EST. He uses the show to interview famous Snapchat artists, including Shaun McBride (better known on Snapchat by his username, Shonduras) and Evan Garber, as well as musical artists that come through the radio station where Kaye DJs, in Jacksonville, Florida.

Kaye decided to start his show in August. He had just reinstalled Snapchat after downloading it two years ago, ignoring it, and later deleting it.

“I have the skills to build programs on the radio and on TV,” Kaye tells Business Insider. “It took me about a month or so to figure out that I could translate that to Snapchat. I take the things I’ve learned from being on the radio and working in television and apply it to Snapchat, and that’s what no one else is doing. It helps me a bit.”

Kaye says he started by taking pictures of his food and himself — “drawing mustaches on myself, drawing funny pictures on buildings.” As he started getting more into Snapchat, he started Googling famous Snapchatters — like Shonduras.

“I said, hey, these people know what they’re doing — if I interview them, I’ll learn about Snapchat,” he tells us. “So I reached out to Shonduras, and he was my very first interview. He said, ‘yeah, let’s do it,’ and as soon as he agreed to do it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, now I have to figure out how to do a talk show on Snapchat.’ I sent him questions and I said, ‘Just snap me back some answers and I’ll figure it all out.'” 

It wasn’t too difficult for Kaye to figure out. He downloaded editing apps and software and went into his radio station studio. He used his iPhone to record, edit, and upload the whole episode when it was ready. 

Since then, Kaye has recorded more than two dozen episodes of Talkin’ Snap, featuring popular Snapchat stars and musical stars alike. One of his first interviews was singer Charli XCX, who happened to be in his studio at work one day, and he also recently talked to Flo Rida.

He puts episodes of his show, which consist of 10 to 12 Snaps Kaye seamlessly edits together, on his Snapchat Story, where they live for 24 hours before self-destructing. He also posts a recording of each episode on YouTube, and then on his blog, where you can watch every episode of Talkin’ Snap.

Here’s his recent episode of Talkin’ Snap, featuring Flo Rida. 

There’s one thing that makes Kaye quite unlike his Snapchat demographic: he just turned 40. But that doesn’t bother him.

“I work for a Top 40 radio station and I’ve spent my entire life talking to 18-to-25-year-old women, which sounds creepier than it actually is,” he says. “I’ve built a career on that. My job is to watch what they watch, read what they read, and listen to their music. So it’s not odd for me or for anyone I know. My wife totally expects it. Whenever there’s some hot new app I’m there. I think [my age] gives me more insight, especially since I come from a professional media background.”

Kaye says he uses a lot of third-party apps to make his broadcasts “seamless” and to add music, since he’s big on sound effects in his shows. “You can do anything with your iPhone,” he says. However, Snapchat is making doing what he does more difficult by starting to clamp down on the use of third-party apps, which Kaye and other Snapchatters use to manipulate their Snaps.

“I understand why. They have had security issues. They’re running a business and they need to make sure it’s working the way it should,” he says.

Kaye uses two phones now: One is his regular Snapchat phone, where he has “thousands” of followers who watch Talkin’ Snap. He interacts with his fans using this phone, which he says is hugely important: He gets valuable feedback about each broadcast almost instantly, and his fans can give him suggestions about who he should talk to next.

‘His other phone has a separate, secret Snapchat account that he uses to scout talent and keep tabs on the people he’s interviewed.

“There’s so many people on Snapchat and so many people I communicate with. I really need to stay focused on who’s the next potential guest,” he says. “Having those two different phones helps me do that. Plus, one’s Android and one’s iOS, and that way I can see how people view my stories on different devices. That helps too.”

For a while, Kaye did Talkin’ Snap once a week, and then once every two weeks, before realising that if he scheduled episodes like a TV show — or a radio show, for that matter — people will come to expect it. He also runs teaser trailers 24 hours beforehand, like movies do, so people know what’s coming up.

By January, Kaye says, he realised he had built his own following. “Not only was I interviewing these Snapchat stars, but I’d kind of become one myself,” he says. “It’s kind of taken off from there. And then sponsors started calling.”

Kaye has done a few sponsored programs, most recently during NBA All-Star Weekend, when he interviewed Snapchatter Evan Garber, and the two gave away a pair of JBL headphones to a lucky viewer. For now, most of his sponsorships are for a single program. But if he were making enough from sponsorships to do it for a living, he absolutely would.

“I stare at my phone 20 hours a day for free, so if I could get paid for it, I’d love that,” he says. “My big goal is — I don’t know if you’ve ever watched American Idol or The Voice — but the judges on American Idol have Coke cups because Coke pays for it, and The Voice has Starbucks. If I could get someone to sponsor my show, I’d throw a Red Bull can or wear a Nike t-shirt and make it my full time job.

“I’m not at that point yet, but if it gets to that point, sure, I’d love it.”

One thing that makes it hard to get sponsorships on Snapchat, Kaye says, is the lack of available metrics to demonstrate to potential advertisers how influential and wide-reaching you are as a Snapchat star.

On YouTube, you can see how many times your video has been watched or how many followers you have, and on Vine you can see how many plays you get on each video. But Snapchat doesn’t disclose a lot of metrics — it’s an incredibly, and sometimes frustratingly simple app. “We’ll see if they open up a little bit more,” Kaye says. However, Kaye thinks Snapchat is still growing, and will become an even bigger, influential social media platform. “We’re at the beginning of another YouTube, absolutely,” he says.

One gripe Kaye has about Snapchat is how difficult Snapchat makes it for you to gain followers. He’s right. There’s no “Follow” button like Twitter, and there are no URLs to profile pages — you have to know someone’s name and physically type it in. But, Kaye says, Snapchat users are “way more into your content and way more valuable than a Twitter follower or a Facebook follower, who just clicks a button and forgets about you.”

Snapchat talk showMark KayeVine star Curtis Lepore is one of many people Kaye has interviewed on Talkin’ Snap.

Kaye gets about 25,000 views per episode, so he’s looking at a pretty sizable monthly audience. One of his fans, it turns out, is a Jonas brother.

“I was sitting in the studio one day and I got a Snap from Kevin Jonas. I didn’t believe it was really him. He started live chatting with me on Snapchat to prove it was him,” Kaye says. “He said, ‘I’ve heard of your show, I love what you’re doing, I’m working on some projects, can we talk?’ And I said yeah! So I interviewed him and ended up talking to him. He was the first person to really reach out and ask to be on my show.”

Kaye used to have to beg people to join him on the show as guests, but now, he says, people approach him and tell him they want to be featured on an episode of Talkin’ Snap.

Essentially, Kaye was doing months ago what Snapchat just started to do with its Discover platform: provide original, engaging content to viewers on a regular basis. 

Now, Kaye says, every time he has a new guest on his show, both he and his guest gain a ton of new Snapchat followers from the collaboration.

“It’s kind of cool — I feel like I’m helping discover new Snapchat talent,” he says. “I get new followers every time they shout me out, but I think having them on my show really increases their following and exposure.”

What’s Kaye’s ultimate goal with Talkin’ Snap? “To make people smile,” he says. “With Snapchat my first goal was, how can we make this exciting and new? And I think I’ve found a way.”

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