Everybody knows Facebook and Twitter. Even Instagram became a household name in seemingly no time at all. Most schools incorporate these media platforms into their daily social media routine. They’re even beginning to include the new kid on the block, Snapchat. Students are using it, and so are schools.
Snapchat is attractive because it’s raw, POV perspective; provide real insight into the user’s personality. Since all content has to be directly posted from a phone, it prevents curated posts and doctored images from invading the newest frontier of social media. Since photos can’t be altered significantly besides doodled on and attached with emoji, Snapchat provides a real sense of connection. A genuine message and story can be communicated.
Jessica Brandt, the social media manager at University of Houston, an early adopter of Snapchat, said that the app provides a “fresh way to tell a University’s story”. Snapchat doesn’t thrive well individually, but if implemented correctly and effectively, it can add a lot of value to a school’s social media presence.
Usage and Demographics
According to comScore, Snapchat’s millennial penetration has gone from 24% to 69% amongst 18-24 year olds since 2013. Snapchat has also surpassed Twitter as the most used social network behind only Facebook and Instagram, both of which have been around for 5+ years. Snapchat quickly came on the scene and is proving itself everyday that snaps are here to stay.
A number of universities and institutions have begun adopting Snapchat into their social media arsenals in notable ways. Among those schools are:
• University of Michigan (UofMichigan)
• University of Houston (UHouston)
• University of Kansas (Jayhawks)
• Temple University (TempleUniv)
• West Virginia University (WestVirginiaU)
• MIT (mitstudents)
A noticeable similarity between most of the schools is that they are large state schools. They utilize the massive school pride their fan bases are known for by Snapchatting at large events taking place on campus. Examples include alumni events during homecoming, school sponsored grad parties during graduation, or even orientation for admitted students, etc.
These schools understood what captivates their community, and utilized it. Michigan and Houston’s Snapchat accounts were active during rivalry matchups when football season and basketball season were in full swing. Temple University posts individual students’ post-grad destinations during its university-wide grad ceremony and even uploaded photos of families with multiple generations of school alumni. This engagement and connection with the audience keeps others engaged, strengthening the trust and relationship between a University and it’s donors and students.
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Snapchat Good Form and Etiquette
Timing – Images with more text or art on the screen should have more timing available so the reader has more time to understand the content. While Snapchat is about quick, short term memory, you don’t want your viewers to misunderstand what the message is.
Scripted or pre-prepared snapping is received as poor form, and discourages engagement. Snapchat is attractive because it’s personal, mostly casual compared to the structured social media campaigns PR firms construct for other types of platforms. The universities listed above found ways to create routine, but there was still an element of surprise with their posts keeping the user engaged and excited for what unpredictable content they might see.
On campus, Snapchat works great for contests, or for pop-up events. Pep rallies, t-shirt giveaways, anything. Snapchat can be used to showcase the experience for those missing out, or remind those in the area where the place to be is. People chase a good time, and Snapchat is great at letting people know where that is.
Spontaneous Activity and the Act of Surprise
Snapchat is most useful as a surprise. There’s a reason why all Snapchat notifications end with an exclamation point. Updating daily can lose your followers attention. Keeping posts spontaneous and randomly distributed, while balancing a little routine will maintain equilibrium between expectation and surprise. Tim Cigelske from Marquette University in an article explaining how Snapchat works, wrote “A friendly snap has a remarkable way of temporarily brightening a friend’s mundane or hectic workday”. That’s all it is, Snapchat is a temporary feeling. It might seem counter-intuitive, but over time, the small moments of great temporary feeling will create loyal followers and build trust between a University and its community.
The split second it takes before someone opens up a snap, you want them to be guessing. If someone knows exactly what they’re going to see before it opens, the snap loses its punch. Aim for quick surprises or a reason for the person to feel engaged, a quick sense of attachment.
Fitting it into the Marketing Mix
Snapchat’s best purpose is targeting and engaging audiences of people who already have a relationship with the school they follow. Because content is only cast to current followers, other networks such as Twitter and Facebook where content can be made public are more suited for awareness. The schools listed above utilized Snapchat as a tool to connect with current students, alumni, incoming students, faculty, etc. There was an already existing relationship between the target audience, outside of Snapchat, and the app helps strengthen that bond.
Snapchat can be used to guide visitors down the path to leads. It’s a platform that can help build trust thanks to its raw and genuine connection and the ability to delight possible followers from every stage of the students or alumni’s journey.
Snapchat is powerful and effective for every stage of the journey, but as stated, difficult to assume that someone who isn’t aware of your University is going to just follow you in order receive the content you publish. Keeping this in mind, the positives of Snapchat outweigh the negatives and it’s probably worth giving it a shot, keep in mind the tips that we have outlined here and before you know it your Snapchat followers will enjoy the small moments of positive temporary feelings that you snap!