4 Snapchat Best Practices For Higher Education

March 15, 2015

Snapchat for higher education
Snapchat, the exceedingly popular photo messaging app, has been around for more than three years. The company got off to a slow start before picking up steam with high school students in the fall of 2011. That means the students now enrolling in higher education institutions were early adopters, and universities are beginning to take notice.

High school students flocked to Snapchat for one simple reason. They began to realize the Internet is forever. They are looking for tools to have more private conversations with their network. They’ve also grown up accustomed to visual content and they will actively seek it out.

The personal messaging space is competitive with companies like Kik, Vine, WhatsApp all competing for users. However, there are only two platforms most universities need to focus on– Instagram and Snapchat.

snapchat growth
This charts illustrates why universities are focused on Instagram and Snapchat. Their market penetration is much higher than other competitors. The closest company to Snapchat is Vine at 5%. Vine is a great platform with vast amounts of great content. Given that Vine is a niche it’s hard to justify spending enormous resources in creating content for that specific platform.

Snapchat Study

This study, conducted by Sumpto, polled more than 1,600 self-identified social media users in college from around the United States

The data above was obtained by Sumpto, a company dedicated to connecting influential social-savvy college students to brands. We haven’t seen data like this since the early days of Facebook. It’s astonishing that more than three-quarters of college students reported using Snapchat on a daily basis. I can list pages of apps that would kill to have that kind of user engagement. It’s obvious college students really love it.

With that love form the students, Snapchat is a new opportunity for universities to connect with their Gen Y audience. It’s so early many are still trying to figure out the best practices and what kind of content students will engage with. Discovering best practices is made more difficult by Snapchat’s lack of analytical data. Here are some simple tips you can start using today to help you advance your strategy:

  • Use Snapchat’s doodles
    Snapchat is great for visual communication, and drawing is one of the foundations. The app allows you to draw on your photographs, though with a MS Paint-like quality, to make them more fun. This type of communication is organic to Snapchat and your users will appreciate you communicating in that fashion. (Tip: Purchase a capacitive stylus, like this one. It will make your doodles much better!
  • Build a template
    Snapchat is a very manual process when it comes to content creation. You can speed up your content creation by creating digital or physical templates. This could be a whiteboard or building a graphic with Adobe Illustrator. Hopefully new tools become available over the next year to help with Snapchat content.
  • Use time restriction to your advantage
    Time restriction is what Snapchat is all about. Some may see it as a negative, but use the disappearing content to your advantage. Provide sneak previews or give you followers just a taste of what is coming down the road. Build their enthusiasm and curiosity with the short snippets of content.
  • Don’t be afraid of the personal snap
    Brands use a feature that is known as the “Stories”. It allows you to build a timeline of content that users can consume with a push of their screen. However,  the platform was founded on user-to-user personal communication. It’s still possible for large brands to send personal snaps to users they select. Don’t be afraid of this kind of communication. It’s a personal communication and unique moment that you can share with your community– something most other social platforms can’t come close to replicating. When used correctly this kind of directed and personal communication can be incredibly powerful.

Snapchat and Instagram will be the hottest platforms in higher education during the next twelve months. They will continue to be a high-growth and high-opportunity plays for universities that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Instagram and Snapchat are already experimenting with advertising. This means the platforms will become more noisy and less organic. The opportunity to win big early on with organic strategies and creative content will decrease over time. I’m not saying I’m against social platform advertising. You can’t be ignorant to how social advertising fundamentally changes the social space.

Are you using Snapchat? What has been your experience or learned best practices so far? Share your comments and experience in the comments below.

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