Snap recently introduced a major change to its visual messaging app, Snapchat. Universal search, the feature at the center of its latest update, is a marked improvement in terms of both layout and usability.
The complaint you hear the most in regards to Snapchat is that it makes life hard for new users due to its lack of guidance. The app has always lacked discovery options in the vein of a Twitter or Instagram’s Explore tab, not to mention Facebook’s apt-titled News Feed. With the introduction of universal search, however, navigation issues are a thing of the past — it’s just a shame the app remains restricted when it comes to other departments.
The good news is that universal search is as self-explanatory as it gets. The feature amounts to a single search bar that runs the top of the app, allowing you to find great content in seconds. The bad news is that it doesn’t recommend any users to follow outside of your contacts, nor will it let you search through your chats or your media library in Memories. Hopefully, these features will be introduced in later updates.
With that in mind, here’s a detailed guide to all the things universal search can do. From finding Discover content from top publishers to adding friends, the new tool houses it all in a single — if not convenient — location.
Accessing Snapchat universal search
If you launch Snapchat as you would normally, you should see “search” in the upper-left corner. It will be positioned next to either a ghost (the iconic Snapchat logo) or your personal Bitmoji, if you’ve created one. The feature can also be accessed from the “chat” and “stories” sections of the app. Tap “search” and you’re good to go. Simple, right? Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
Connect, re-connect, and invite friends
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter universal search is the “quick chat” tab located beneath the search bar at the top of the display. If you’re an active user, you can jump into conversations with your friends immediately by tapping their corresponding profile pic in this tab. Holding a profile pic down will bring up additional information, including their username, score, settings, and a host of actions. Give it a try — just scroll right or left to sift through the profiles.
Below “quick chat” is “groups,” where you can resume any group chats you happen to be a member of. Holding down on a specific group will bring up a pop-up menu with additional customization, along with quick chat and snap options.
The majority of the display is devoted to the New Friends and Contacts tabs at the bottom. You can swipe between these sections and scroll through them. The first lets you initiate chats with other people and send snaps to people you’ve recently added. The Contacts tab lets you invite friends that aren’t already signed up with the app.
Search via names, usernames, and emojis
This is the fun part.
Snapchat’s universal search is a powerful tool that puts a lot of great content at your fingertips. You now have two options: be spontaneous in your search and see where it leads you, or look up people you want to add by entering their username. The latter is a lot easier if you’re searching for verified celebs, who can be found using their real names or stage handles.
Once you find someone you want to follow, just tap the “add” button next to their name.
You can also search with emojis. We tried it and stumbled upon some interesting results. The rocket emoji brings up the official NASA account, for example, and the American flag emoji will surface the president’s profile. A bit of experimentation could lead to even more interesting finds. For now, however, inputing a single emoji tends to produce results in the search field. Chances are you’ll often be presented with more than one account that uses that emoji. The flexed biceps emoji, for example, serves up Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Rock, WWE, and a bunch of other random users.
Verified users all have their own personalized emoji, making it easier to stumble across celebs that use the little icons.
Watch stories and live stories
There are two types of content you can directly access via universal search without having to actually follow the account that posted it.
First up, you can watch stories from verified accounts and general users who have their stories set to public by simply tapping the circular tile contained within their profile card when it pops up in the search results. This only applies if they’ve posted a story within the past 24 hours, however.
You can also tune into live stories via a keyword search, but this really depends on the content that is on the app at the time. Live stories appear under a separate Stories banner in the search results, but tapping on a live story card will let you tune in just as you would with public stories.
Find and subscribe to Discover channels
Snapchat universal search will also bring up Discover channels and publishers. The former will appear under the “publishers” banner when you search for them, and include media partners who regularly upload content (known as “episodes”) to the app.
To watch a publisher’s content directly from the search section, just enter the channel’s name — i.e. National Geographic — and tap on the profile to view the most recent episode. You’ll also find a “subscribe” option on a publisher’s profile card in the search tab, which lets you follow that channel.
The same goes for other publishers that aren’t official Discover partners, including sports leagues such as the NBA. These publishers will appear as regular profiles, albeit verified ones, which makes them easier to find. If you add them, they’ll appear in the stories section automatically. Sports fans should also keep on the lookout for live stories from the NBA, NFL, and MLB.