6 Amazing Tips To Improve Your University’s Snapchat

May 31, 2016
Snapchat in HigherEd
Snapchat. It’s the platform higher ed social media content-slingers are trying to master. Social media experts across the spectrum from Gary Vaynerchuk to Carlos Gil are urging everyone they need to jump in the proverbial pool. I’ve been tinkering with Snapchat since February of 2015. Working towards figuring out how to best tell engaging narratives that resonates with the platform’s user base.

You could say I drank the kool-aid. Realizing I needed help, I hired an ambitious social media intern at the University of Colorado Denver. The student I hired is passionate about — you could probably call him a power user. Making the choice to go in full-force with an aggressive Snapchat strategy has led to making some great revelations. It’s not as easy as you might think thanks to Snapchat’s lack of critical features like analytics, web-based access and having a streamlined ads platform.

Here are 6 things I’ve learned with using Snapchat in higher education.

Don’t Fracture Your Narrative

Fracturing is a term devised by my student intern, Brian Young. It refers to the way in which Snapchat chooses to post content. If you use Snapchat the way it was intended you’ll post one video or photo to your Snapchat Story at a time. This sucks. Let me explain. As you begin capturing your Snapchat content, within minutes your users will begin finding it in their SnapStory stream– but they’ll be seeing it incomplete. It may take 10 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour or two to capture a complete Snapchat story. However, within the first hour our snaps receive hundreds of views. This fracturing leads to a bad experience for your followers and just creates noise in their story feed.

The solution to fracturing is a hack that is sketchy, but worth it. Put your phone into airplane mode and begin capturing your Snapchat story. When you try and post it will error out, but your content will stay queued in the app and you’ll be able to post all your Snaps at one time eliminating the fracturing of your content. So why is this hack sketchy? If Snapchat crashes for some reason while your gathering content it will be lost. Yeah, a real bummer.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short Stupid)

Keeping content short and sweet is not a radical idea. Our attention spans are shortening, some say it’s now shorter than a goldfish. Snapchat is built around the idea of being ephemeral. Your story is live for just twenty four hours and your content itself should mimic the other more personal content– short. We try and keep our Snapchat stories around 45–60 seconds– 90 seconds at the absolute max.

Storyboard It

Snapchat is great because it’s so easy to produce content. You simply need a smartphone and a thumb to press record. To be awesome on Snapchat strategically you need to think about what your overall narrative will be. Think about things like:

  • What is my scene?
  • Who will be more subject/actor? Are they good on camera?
  • What are the components for my Snapchat story? (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action)
  • Does the content communicate key messages/strategic vision that supports the overall brand?
  • How do we balance authenticity with polish?

The last bullet point is crucial. I’m not saying you need to polish your Snapchat story to the point of feeling professional or being scripted. You need to skillfully cover the above points while make it feel like it’s an off-script and authentic piece of content. It’s not easy.

Track Your Analytics… The Best You Can

One of the major downfalls of Snapchat right now for marketers is the lack of analytics. It’s something my student intern knows all too well. During the first ten stories we completed on the University of Colorado Denver Snapchat he was waking up every hour in the middle of the night to record data. This wasn’t mandated by me, but something he wanted to do. Something he felt he needed to do to get a baseline.

Do you best at tracking data on Snapchat. Here is an example of a spreadsheet we use internally to track our content:

Snapchat Analytics

We record views on the first snap of the story and the last snap. This “fracturing” metric is how we judge whether our content it hitting the mark with our audience. The wider the gap between first and last snap tells a story on how many users got bored and bailed before finishing.

One interesting observation we’ve noted across our dataset is fracturing increases slowly over time with most stories. I speculate that the most prolific Snapchat users are more likely to consume their entire story stream while others may jump through it more readily looking for content that matters most to them.

One Narrative Per Day… Max!

We’ve found that having one narrative in a 24 hour period is ideal. Anything more than that and you risk creating noise and overloading your audience’s stream. This could be difficult for large institutions to follow, but one I strongly recommend.

Use Snapcards To Your Advantage

Snapcards are an ending screen we put with almost every story. Think of it like an emoji-esque flyer where you can include a strong call-to-action at the end of a story when appropriate. Try this tactic and you might be shocked just how many users screen capture it and follow up later on.

 Snapchat Snapcard

Why I Love It, And You Will Too

Social media is progressing towards a more real, authentic 1-on-1 style of communication. Snapchat is the embodiment of that trend. This makes Snapchat a major pain in the ass because it’s in its infancy and has not matured rapidly enough for marketers/strategic communicators. It was built for the users, not for business. In fact, Snapchat made the app as simple and intuitive as they could and that is one thing users consistently say they love. It’s easy and not full of a bunch of crap– a common complaint with Facebook.

Though it has its early challenges, higher education marketers will continue to flock to the app as long as our core demographic are snapping like there is no tomorrow. That is until Snapchat makes it more streamlined for marketers and we’ll promptly begin ruining it for everyone.

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