Teenagers have always pushed the limits of social norms. Now they are pushing into social media platforms that their parents have never heard of. Creative online marketing to teens now deals more with Snapchat and Whisper than it does Facebook and Twitter. Teens are flocking to the latest social media outlets, including: Instagram, Yik Yak, and of course, Snapchat. And as it turns out, the best way to successfully engage teens with your message is in their terms and on their turf.
By definition, Snapchat is a text-, photo- and video-messaging app that millions of people are using to send messages that will disappear just seconds after they’re received. Users are able to control who exactly they follow and receive “snaps” from by adding in the specific usernames of individuals or organizations they wish to keep tabs on. The sender is able to determine how long the recipient(s) can view the message before it vanishes. Finally, once the snap shows up in the recipients queue, they have the choice to view the snap or not.
As you can see, this is a very permission-based type of communication.
How Can Colleges and Teen Programs Use Snapchat?
With its image-based approach, Snapchat has capitalized on America’s dwindling attention span. All about visual stimulation through pictures and videos, this platform has become one of the primary means of social interaction. Not surprisingly, several colleges are leveraging this social shift to their advantage to appeal to prospective students.
Considering that the perspective of the campus and atmosphere is so vital to universities’ marketing strategies, the stunning and positive imagery they can display via Snapchat is ideal. Throw in the fact that nearly 77% of teens and college students use Snapchat daily and it becomes clear which forward-thinking universities have gained the advantage.
According to Time Magazine, colleges, gap programs, and summer programs can hit students at a crucial time in regards to “future decisions” by sending attractive visuals and videos. They might send snippets of current students indulging in the culture and memorable times at that school or program. With teens reaching key crossroads when choosing a program or college, an appeal on a platform they feel comfortable with is well worth the effort.
While the trend for colleges and universities using Snapchat is ticking up, only a few businesses have managed to run successful Snapchat campaigns. Here are four examples of colleges, businesses, and organizations that have figured out how to integrate a successful Snapchat strategy into their overall marketing:
University of Michigan
Operating under the username “uofmichigan”, the University of Michigan launched its Snapchat presence on February 26th, 2014. Using cross-channel promotion, the marketing team generated a tremendous amount of buzz on other platforms before the Snapchat account went live.
“With a plan at hand, we began dropping hints to our students that our Snapchat was coming. The excitement was building, and we couldn’t wait to reveal the secret!” their marketing team revealed. “..We officially revealed our new Snapchat account on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The results were overwhelming! Immediately, we were bombarded with follows and Snaps from our students, prospective students, and alumni.”
In just one week, they gained over 1,100 followers and received nearly 800 snaps. Less than 6 months later, they had grown fan base to more than 1,800. After reaching out to the UofM Snapchat account in hopes to find out an exact number of followers, they responded:
They use this channel to drive brand awareness, increase engagement, advocate transparency, and build trust on the UofM campus. To say their efforts have been successful would be a considerable understatement!
Taco Bell has had more success marketing to teens than any other company. Starting in May 2013, the fast food restaurant launched its Snapchat marketing campaign.
It started off by advertising the return of the Beefy Crunch Burrito. Before sending the message, Taco Bell advertised its Snapchat account on Twitter, asking its followers to add them.
At the time, Taco Bell's venture on Snapchat was seen as risky. When we look back, it can be viewed as innovative and ingenious. Their advertisements seemed to hit followers on an even deeper level, especially since they have quite a large teen following.
University of Houston
In addition to several other social media tools, University of Houston joined the Snapchat community as a way to engage their campus in a more interactive way. Using the handle “UHouston,” they grew their fan base to 695 followers in their very first week.
“Using Snapchat to tell the University’s story is in line with our style,” said Jessica Brand, UH social media manager. “Using a new and effective tool to reach students is a reflection of how the University is always looking forward and embracing cutting edge technologies.”
So far, the UH social media team has been using Snapchat to promote T-shirt giveaways, document student social activities, and gain insight about how students and prospective students want from their college experience. This strategy is very much in tune with the current social habits of the university’s target market. It’s no wonder they’ve seen such great success.
Metro Chicago's entry into Snapchat advertising showed how brands could offer incentives on the social media platform. In its very first Snapchat to followers, the transportation system offered a universal promo code that could be used for discounted fares.
Such a strategy introduces an element of word-of-mouth advertising. Metro Chicago's goal was most likely to create a buzz amongst social media users in Chicago. The promo code could only be found on Snapchat, so this is a key example of how to use promotional push to gain followers and traffic.
The Bad News, Good News
University of Michigan, Taco Bell, University of Houston, and Metro Chicago proved that they weren’t scared to break into the Snapchat scene, and their efforts have paid off with each respective campaign.
The sort of bad news: they likely beat you to the punchline.
The good news: the Snapchat platform isn’t yet completely saturated and there are some solid examples of success that you can use to guide your own campaign! Chances are good that you could see similar success in your own program if you take the time to put together a solid strategy.