Chris Syme (@cksyme) is principal at CKSyme.org, a consulting firm in Bozeman, Mont.
Snapchat, a social media app that allows users to share photos and other information that self-destruct after a period of time, is a hot topic of social media conversation on campuses. Several institutions are experimenting with the platform; others have tried it and left. Recently, Mashable published market research from Sumpto stating that more than three-quarters of college students on social media use the platform every day. Given this data, more institutions might want to take another look at Snapchat.
The real gold in Snapchat is using the “stories” feature, launched last fall, which allows users to string together a series of “snaps” that tell a story in chronological order—using either video or stills. Clever snappers use the doodle function to liven up their stories with art and text. Each snap in a story has a 24-hour lifespan, so as the hours pass, the story gets smaller, and then disappears when the last snap reaches its time limit. Schools can use both stories and regular snaps depending on the campaign.
Snapchat is easy to use. Set up an account and start following other accounts to see what is being posted. (You’ll need to download the app to your mobile device first.) There are several good tutorials on YouTube—search “how to use Snapchat” to find them. Here are several accounts that I believe use the platform effectively. (The account names are in bold.)
- dabttll – This account is managed by Mashable’s Snapchat expert and the most talented snapper I’ve seen. She can doodle like nobody’s business and is very creative. On Valentine’s Day, she took her followers on a wonderful chocolate tour of New York City. She’s a must follow.
- notthisnews – This account highlights trending stories in international news. It is one of the most creative ways to highlight international news that I’ve seen. The account managers always use the stories function and, yes, there are political overtones.
- eagles – The Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) have a creative Snapchat presence. They usually send out single snaps. This one came yesterday:
- mashable – This is where dabttll does her official work for Mashable. Fun stuff.
- snapreds – The Cincinnati Reds baseball team is on Snapchat, experimenting with some exclusive fan content. So far, so good.
- tacobell – If you’re a coupon chaser and like Taco Bell, this is a good follow. There are interesting doodles and product pictures that make you hungry.
- saints – The New Orleans Saints football team had an active account during the season although the account is quiet now. The account managers have said they use the account strictly for exclusive content for fans. I really like their short creative videos with players doing fun things.
Snapchat also has a business development team to help brands get going. I found them extremely helpful.
Here are some institutions that are using Snapchat.
- Liberty University (sparkyflames). Liberty University Lynchburg, Va. has been on Snapchat longer than other institutions. According to the athletic department, the account belongs to the school’s mascot.
- University of Houston (uhouston). The university announced the launch of its presence last month. It is the first institution I’ve seen with just a university account, not tied to a specific department like athletics. The school plans to use the account for promotions, including on-campus T-shirt giveaways on Cougar Red Fridays. I like the fact that the school is using it strategically and have defined goals.
- University of Kansas (jayhawks). The university is using the account to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the home basketball games. It uses a good mix of video and stills and scored a win recently with a great selfie of reporter Holly Rowe from ESPN.
- Eastern Washington University (ewuathletics). I worked with EWU to get its Snapchat strategy up and going—the institution used it to to promote the student fan experience during sports contests throughout the football season. The university uses the stories function to show the student experience with behind-the-scenes game day snaps and exclusive content by student-athletes and includes cross promotion with Twitter. The purpose of the account is to increase student attendance at games. Read about the campaign and see how initial results were measured against goals.
- Wichita State University (goshockers). Wichita State is using Snapchat to give exclusive content to its followers surrounding the very successful men’s basketball team. The school has made some very creative posts, including asking fans to send snaps in fan gear, taking screenshots and cross-promoting the pictures on Instagram.
How should institutions use Snapchat? Make sure you think through how you’re going to use the tool strategically, consider including specific goals with specific measures. Also, cross promoting with Twitter and Instagram, two other platforms where many students hang out, is a must. Amy Jo Martin, head of Digital Royalty, a social media consulting firm, says:
Take risks and fail early so when everyone else hops on the bandwagon their failing process begins when you’re winning.
Yes, Snapchat is one more channel for limited resources, but if you like to experiment, you may want to try and ride the wave while the surfing is good. Next year, it might be another platform that 77 percent of college students use daily.
Is your institution on Snapchat? Share its experiences below.