Whether you love it or hate it, it’s impossible to ignore Snapchat when you’re in charge of social media for a university or a college.
Snapchat is the top social media platform in terms of daily usage among prospective and current students.
They use it every day, several times a day. It’s their lifeline to stay in touch with friends.
Yet, it’s still unclear whether or not schools should invest time and resources in this platform. Some do. Some don’t.
That’s why I asked the 12 presenters of the 5th Higher Ed Social Media Conference to tell us if they think schools should invest time and resources on Snapchat. (If you’re interested in what *I* think, I wrote a post about it a few weeks ago)
Yea! Angi Roberts, Info Services Manager – University of Guelph
This is one of our most successful communications tools with prospects. The level of engagement we can achieve through Snapchat is beyond the reach of any of our other social media platforms. If that is where your audience is, you need to be there.
If you want to communicate to a group you go to where they are. We host online chats through a chat room forum, and historically, we’d get 80-100 ‘visitors’ to the chat room.
Last year we ran Snapchat chats where students would snapchat their question and we’d answer it in Snapchat Story format (making the story out of all of the answers from the questions we received). Engagement was close to 2,000 people.
Yea! Jacob Schupbach, Social Media Specialist – University at Buffalo
Our Snapchat channel is dedicated to our students, and the main strategy behind the account is to help build a campus community that is proud to call itself the UB Bulls.
We know for a fact that students want to be involved in our social media efforts. Whenever my team works with students, the students have limitless passion and take pride in having their chance to shine on our social channels. We host takeovers, give behind the scenes access to events and have even wrangled a lively group story of a huge number of Bulls in a group story affectionately named “The Horns Up Herd.”
Snapchat has also given us our fair share of magic moments. From study abroad trips across the world to an organic call from our students to start posting hundreds of pet pictures to help lift spirits during a hectic midterm week, Snapchat has delivered!
I believe this platform has certainly changed our campus community for the better.
Yea! Holly Hill, Director of Web and New Media Services – Flagler College
Some institutions have not ventured down the Snapchat path due to manpower. Additionally, it is also hard to capture the ROI of this medium and then explain its impact to decision makers.
However, according to a Statista study in 2016, 23% of daily users are 13-17 years old and 37% are 18-24 years old, which means a large portion of our target audience in higher education is on this channel.
We use current Flagler students to help drive the direction of our Snapchat channel. They pitch ideas and if it fits our strategic goals for the week then we run with it. For example, we know that prospective students want to see what the town of St. Augustine is like. We have a series called, “Flagler Favorites” where a current student takes the snap audience on a tour of their favorite places in town. About 900+ viewers follow these stories with an average open rate of 89%. This is a significant number for smaller institutions like Flagler.
Yea! Jessica Stutt, Integrated Marketing Manager – University of New Brunswick
I recognize that Snapchat can be frustrating, particularly since ROI is so challenging to prove and metrics are unavailable.
However, I definitely believe it makes sense to invest time and resources in the platform. There is little doubt that it’s an extremely popular channel, particularly for the undergraduate and future student audience.
The key to any successful social media strategy is to leverage tactics that are meaningful to your target audience. There are changes happening within the platform that should improve its usability – including the self-serve ad platform. We have seen some data points showing positive results, including follower growth on the platform and are finding success in leveraging student takeovers to share meaningful and organic content on Snapchat.
Yea! AJ Lopez III, Social Media Coordinator – Midwestern State University
We have invested quite a bit of time on Snapchat at our university.
It’s part of our content strategy for our social media calendar. We schedule geofilters for big events. We work with students to create snapchat takeovers to give our followers a different point of view. Our office creates Snapchat content, but when we give the account to our student assistants (who we have trained on the university brand), they understand better how our current students use this platform.
Unlike the other social media platforms, Snapchat is targeted to such a young audience that you need the help of students to use it effectively.
Yea! Holly Sherburne, Director of Digital and Social Media – Bowdoin College
Snapchat can be a useful platform for higher ed, and many great examples exist. Whether or not you decide to use it will depend on your goals and audience, and whether you have the time and resources available to execute on a solid strategy.
We actively used Snapchat last year, using students primarily, in order to keep a student-centered focus and voice. The lack of analytics on the platform made measuring success difficult, and with the introduction of Instagram Stories, we eventually made a decision to focus our time and efforts there. We continue to monitor the platforms and what makes the most sense. With social media, it’s important to always keep trying new things and reevaluating what’s out there.
Yea! Dominique Benjamin, Communications Coordinator – Texas A&M University
Yes, and I think that will be the case even more so as the platform continues to add new features that appeal to advertisers.
As of right now, On-Demand Geofilters are still an effective way for us to empower brand ambassadors.
For example, during high school graduation season we purchased geofilters at several graduation ceremonies across Texas to celebrate #Aggiebound students. We even surprised one student in California with her own geofilter! Being able to have that kind of impact, even when our target audience is on the other side of the country, is a powerful thing.
Yea! Dr Corie Martin, Digital Marketing Director – Western Kentucky University
I think Snapchat is like any other medium, it only works well with time and effort.
We have had most success with stories told in the student voice. We recently implemented a #WKUStudentSquad social media ambassador team and we allow them to takeover our Snapchat account during student events.
A heavy sales (“recruitment”) message really doesn’t fit the medium.
We have also had great adoption rates of geofilters we used during very specific special events (graduation or orientation). We consider geofilters a great investment when it comes to engagement, though ROI is hard to determine. You can’t necessarily tie use of a geofilter back to enrollment, retention, or graduation rates.
Is it worth it to do it just because people like it, or is it a better idea to use a medium that is more directly tied to one of our strategic initiatives, like recruitment? THAT is the question!
Yea, but Nay! Erin Supinka, Assistant Director of Digital Engagement – Dartmouth College
With the right focus and team, Snapchat can be an incredible tool for higher ed.
One of the biggest “controversies” is the platform’s lack of tools for small businesses and teams. It’s hard to warrant the time when it requires so much manual measuring and documenting. Snapchat has continually made it difficult for “smaller” (used loosely because while a school may not be small, the resources dedicated to social can be!) brands to utilize the platform successfully. The lack of analytics that stick around longer than 24 hours, missing engagements pieces, and low-quality customer service make it a tough platform to jump on and take advantage of.
For us, Instagram Stories quickly became our go-to ephemeral content platform because of how accessible they made the platform and its features.
Yea, but Nay? Andrew Twist, Digital Content Producer – The University of Sheffield
As a university social media manager I find Snapchat’s University and Place stories to be a fascinating insight into how our students communicate with each other and what they like to do. We’ve had a university account for just over a year and we use Mish Guru to help us manage our content and work efficiently as a team. During this time we’ve seen a pretty strong uptake in audience size amongst our student community and strong engagement around sports and graduation events.
With that in mind I think Snapchat is definitely a platform that universities should invest some time in as part of communication with students and prospects. However, there’s a potential caveat: I’m not sure how much our students want us (or any brand) as part of their Snapchat experience. Snapchat’s initial popularity stemmed from it being a less public social network where friends could talk without their messages being stored forever online and without the experience being full of brands, ads and news.
My suspicion is that the more Snapchat starts to look like other mainstream social networks (full of paid-for content, audience data used for targeting, bloated with advertising and brands) the less fun and cool it will be – and if that happens, people will probably move their conversations somewhere else.
Nay! Rebecca Stapley, Assistant Director, Multimedia & PR – Nazareth College
This is a really interesting topic. Snapchat certainly has a large degree of followers that fit right into our primary audience (hello, high school students!), but at the end of the day it all comes down to results and resources.
In our case, we had a brief soiree into Snapchat, but ultimately shut it down in the wake of Instagram stories, and the drain of resources we were feeling for very little impact and results that we were seeing from Snapchat.
We decided instead to shift our focus and become an early adopter of Instagram stories and within 6 months of launching IG stories, our Instagram audience had grown by 30%. Not to say that this was the only cause for our growth, but it was definitely a factor. For us, we already had a large instagram presence/audience and were excited to enhance their experience with stories.
By shutting down Snapchat, we have been able to focus more of our resources on stories content (even paid ads), takeovers, and exploring new ways to approach vertical video. For us it really came down to resources (time, energy) and being realistic about the scale and scope that we could achieve with each platform and how they aligned with our overall goals.
Move on! Nikki Sunstrum, Director of Social Media – University of Michigan
If Snapchat is a battle you are still fighting at your institution, abandon ship.
There are many other tools that you can leverage to tell your story.
Spend your time and effort on creating valuable content within the platforms and communities you already have available to you.
A conference focusing on higher ed social media?
The Higher Ed Social Media Conference is a must-attend event for higher ed social media professionals and teams looking for new ideas and best practices.
Watch below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Social Media Conference say about their experience.