Doing it for the LOLs

Sarah Bradley explains why the University of Northampton chose to use Snapchat to engage with its Millennial audience

It’s become really apparent that Snapchat is an essential marketing tool for anyone trying to engage a millennial audience, whether they are in higher education or not.

The fantastically whimsical nature of the app’s filters combined with instant photo and video sharing has made a huge dent in users’ digital storytelling since it came . What better way to make your friends laugh than send them a 10 second video of you with a rainbow coming out of your mouth?

The benefit of working in HE of course means that a large portion of our audience are Millennials, making Snapchat a fantastic social network to engage with and universities worldwide are embracing it as a genuine way to engage with their prospective and current students, the University of Northampton included. 

The way we use Snapchat is simple: we share content that our applicants or students would find useful, interesting or just plain funny. We do it for the LOLs. 

What better way to make your friends laugh than send them a 10 second video of you with a rainbow coming out of your mouth?

As its influence on our audience cannot be disputed, Snapchat should be used as a pure engagement tool within an overall social media marketing strategy. Clear defined KPIs, content plans and an expectation of the kind of content that should be shared and when is essential to success on this platform. 

ABOVE: Sarah Bradley experiments with some of Snapchat’s photo filters

The pros of Snapchat for universities:

  • Direct line to target audience, you can’t share an update with ‘the world’ organically so only those with some interest in you will see it. Perfectly targeted.
  • Individual messages can be sent, perfect should someone need a bit of a brand-specific bit of attention.
  • It’s a heck of a lot of fun, easy to use and the images or videos shared can we captured on your device and re-shared on other platforms.
  • There are lots of ideas in The University of Northampton’s social media strategy that have come directly from Snapchat, which will be implemented later this year.

The cons of Snapchat for universities:

  • The lack of analytics on the platform makes it a hard platform to justify ROI.
  • Some universities may run the risk of trying to be ‘just like their students’.
  • There is no longevity; unless a post goes viral, you can’t look back on successes easily unless you capture each one or your followers do.
  • Snapchat advertising is pricey and as you can’t justify your organic ROI using the platform it’s even more of a challenge to justify ads.

Sarah Bradley is Assistant Director of Social Media, Digital Content and Engagement at the University of Northampton

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