Higher Education and Snapchat

How Universities are Using the App

It’s no surprise that millennial and Generation Z-targeted brands are jumping on the Snapchat bandwagon. According to eMarketer, the heaviest Snapchat usage is among individuals between the ages of 12 and 34, with the core audience falling between 18 and 24 year olds. Seventy seven percent of college students use the platform, and it’s among the top four most popular social media platforms according to college students (eMarketer). So given this (growing) footprint, one of the most obvious industries tapping into this space is higher education.

So how exactly are colleges and universities using the app?

Contrary to the slightly more formal means of messaging that we’re accustomed to seeing from universities – even on other social media platforms – naturally, Snapchat is a place where universities are sharing more candid, relaxed and casual moments of student and campus life, allowing students or potential students a more personal connection with the brand.

Brand accounts are no different than personal accounts. The same steps apply: brands can take a photo or a video, then add a caption, filter or doodle and send it directly to a friend on the app. Alternately, the photos/videos can be added to the brand’s “story,” a 24-hour collection of photos and videos, which can be broadcasted to the world or just the brand’s followers. Users can view brands’ snaps for up to 10 seconds before they go away. The latter is more widely used among universities as they embrace the temporary nature of the platform by sharing things like daily campus life, events such as commencement or concerts, special announcements and even host contests to help increase engagement.


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Kent State University (@KentStateU), for example, uses Snapchat stories to share announcements and daily campus images.



Another way universities are working the engagement factor in to their Snapchat strategy is by encouraging and answering students’ questions. NYU (@NYUsnaps) holds frequent student takeovers and responds to users’ questions either directly or through sharing a story.




Universities are also taking advantage of the snaps received from students to the university accounts. Since Snapchat doesn’t allow users to post an existing photo or video from their photo stream, universities like NYU and Princeton have created Facebook pages and albums dedicated to the best snaps received from students. This is another great way to utilize user-generated content across multiple platforms where it makes sense.

A high-demand feature of the app is the “Our Campus Stories,” which allow universities user-generated photos and videos that are shared in a live campus feed. The campus stories are geotargeted and can also contain paid ads. Live campus stories are something that both users and universities can contribute to, allowing users in the area (ideally potential and current students) to have a diverse view into the university’s student and campus life. Ohio State University (shown below) is just one example of a school that has the “Our Campus Story.”

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But what about measurement?

Although marketing tactics come in all shapes and sizes, one thing remains a constant and that is brands want to be able to measure results. Unfortunately, Snapchat does not release its detailed analytics to anyone … yet. This is bound to change as more brands adopt Snapchat as part of their social strategy. While detailed analytics are not currently available, there are a few ways universities can measure their snaps and stories, like looking at the number of photo/video views to gauge awareness, or how many screen shots were taken to measure engagement.

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Common Theme

Universities are breaking the rules of traditional social media by having fun with Snapchat to get on the same level as students and potential students. We’re talking about a generation who grew up surrounded by advertising, and know when they’re being sold something. These teens and young adults want to hear genuine messages from a university that they will hopefully proudly declare their alma mater. So before Generation Z finds the next newest and greatest social platform, Snapchat is one where teen-focused brands can break away from the norm of traditional marketing and social media and have a little fun.

Want to view some more higher education and Snapchat case studies? Here are a few more success stories.



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