Are You Ready to Be on Snapchat?

Paul Redfern offers four signs you aren’t ready to be on the social platform -- and his advice for a Snap-strategy if you are.

October 4, 2016

Snapchat now boasts an estimated 150 million users, surpassing Twitter by more than 10 million, according to stats published by Bloomberg this summer.

NBC News ran a piece last May outlining how many colleges across the country are using the new tool. A new platform that can provide prospective students with authentic, real-time, insider’s taste of life on campus would be great news! So, isn’t it time for marketing professionals in higher education to snap to it?

Well, not so fast. Before diving in and integrating Snapchat into your digital strategy, there are several things you should consider.

If any of the below apply to you, you probably aren’t ready for Snapchat.

1. Your website isn’t responsive and enrollment focused. Your institutional website is a deal breaker. If you don’t have a top-notch website that is responsive and built to help you recruit students, then you don’t need to be on Snapchat. You need to find a way to pour some resources into your website first.

2. You haven’t thought about the content on your department pages. If your academic department landing pages are boring, laced with long pieces of text, hard to find, and generally not laid out well for the web, Snapchat should not be your priority. Commit the time to put your academic department webpages on a rotation to be looked at and updated. During key yield times for prospective students, these pages are critically important.

3. You need a content strategy. If you don’t have a strategy that drives what content you are producing, for what audience, combined with what timing makes the most sense and how to connect the visual assets then don’t even think about Snapchat. Find a way to learn about content strategy and build a plan and a team that can execute it.

4. You don’t have a plan for Facebook and Instagram. If Facebook and Instagram are not significant parts of your digital marketing strategy then Snapchat is not the answer. These two social media platforms are more established and provide better analytics and a better return than any other platform that we have experimented with at Gettysburg to date.

But what if I can check all the boxes above, should I start snapping?

If your institution has a great website from homepage to academic department pages, is executing a content strategy tied to metrics and key institutional goals, and integrated Facebook and Instagram into the marketing mix, then it might be time to give Snapchat a try. If so, here are a few thoughts about getting started.

Look around

At Gettysburg College, before we launched @GettysburgSnaps, a core group of our team started snapping and following a variety of people and organizations. We learned lessons from accounts as varied as the White House to Gary Vaynerchuk to the University of Michigan. We learned from each other about what works and what didn’t work. We even bonded a bit as we experimented together.

Build a team

We talked to our students. We developed a very robust internship program sponsored by our office, and each year we have half a dozen talented and motivated students working for us. We asked them what they thought, what they would want to see, should we follow people back who follow our account (their advice was no) and what were some of the trends.

Use Geofilters

Geofilters (branded and illustrated overlays or frames) give you a chance to extend your visibility and take advantage of some of your campus traditions. Last May, during commencement weekend, we had two geofilters that were used close to 1,000 times with almost 90,000 views. More fun, more views — not bad for a few hundred dollars.

Tell a story

Snapchat gives you the chance to provide a prospective student audience with authentic visual content. If you organize your account and try to tell Snap stories, you can download them and then upload the video to YouTube, providing fairly easy and authentic video content for academic departments, key offices, or campus events.

We launched @GettysburgSnaps last March and we are consistently seeing 800 views per snap, which has grown significantly since we started. For comparison, around graduation time we were at 500 views per snap. We believe it’s important to deliver authentic visual content as a part of our digital strategy.

If you feel like you have a content strategy that drives what you publish on your website and already incorporates the top tier social media platforms, then Snapchat may be the next step in your digital plan. Before diving in headfirst, try it out personally and with your team and build a plan that you can execute well.

Paul Redfern leads the communications and marketing team at Gettysburg College and is a frequent presenter on marketing and brand topics at national conferences.


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