The Facts About Teens, Snapchat, and Higher Education Enrollment (continued)

Last week, we discussed a little of the history of Snapchat. As it turns out, teens are the main users of the app. When we left, we were just getting used to Snapchat. Now, we’re going to cover how to put together a Snapchat campaign.

Getting from here to there.

Before you get started snapping, think about your campaigns along these dimensions:

• Audience: whom will you be asking to follow you on Snapchat? Prospects will want different information than accepted students.

• Objectives: what do you want to achieve with this particular audience?

• Platform: how will you launch your Snapchat handle?

• Call to action: what will you use to entice your audience to friend you on Snapchat?

• Touchpoints: what is your content plan? How will you stay within your brand? Who will be snapping?

• Reward: what’s the big win for friending you?

Now that you have an audience and objectives, you need to decide how you will build your Snapchat friend list. Friend lists are normally driven by phone numbers in your phone. Upon installation, Snapchat looks through your contact list to find numbers that are registered with Snapchat. As an institution, you won’t have that luxury.

Lessons from McDonald’s

When McDonald’s decided to pursue a Snapchat campaign, they built their friend list by capitalizing on their robust social media network. Using their Facebook page as a platform, they enticed people to friend the restaurant chain with offers of exclusive content available only to Snapchat users.

McDonald’s then introduced a new hamburger, teasing the launch with multiple touchpoints with snaps from celebrities promoting the impending date. Then, McDonald’s ended the Snapchat campaign story with a request to follow them on Twitter.

Note how McDonald’s started. First, McDonald’s built their friend list from an existing social network. Your college is poised to do something similar. Use your current platforms to reach your audience. If you are using Snapchat as part of a student search campaign, consider including your Snapchat handle in your emails and landing pages.

The next lesson from McDonald’s is to develop a compelling call to action. McDonald’s took the ‘exclusive’ content route. Now, you don’t have to throw a million dollar concert with behind-the-scenes clips of Kanye West to get friends. The University of Kansas joined Snapchat and now uses it to give a glimpse of the Jayhawks between games – a treat that rabid KU fans likely devour.

If you use Snapchat as a part of a yield or acceptance campaign, you will find that students waiting for news will willingly friend you. That digital connection peels back the curtain of the acceptance process.

Do not forget to compensate your audience for connecting with you on Snapchat. Remember that McDonald’s did all this to tease the launch of a new hamburger. That is certainly not much of a gift. But getting a personal snap from LeBron James is. What will you provide?

In the retail world, stores offer coupons or swag for loyalty. Higher Education can provide similar perks: t-shirts, bags, and other prizes are all excellent rewards. But, remember your touchpoints – the snaps that you send to keep students engaged. What will your content be?

Tennessee Wesleyan College used Snapchat to create a scavenger hunt for prospective students during a visit day. During an Inquiry campaign, reward students with personal messages to make them feel like part of the family early on. When a student is still deciding, those snaps could make all of the difference.

Tying it all together.

To review, before you start a Snapchat campaign, you need some key components:

– Platform: all of your current social and traditional marketing tools can be leveraged to launch a Snapchat campaign.

– Call to action: in your communication, you need to give your audience a reason to friend you. Entice them with something that they can’t see anywhere else.

– Touchpoints: once you have students on Snapchat, you need to keep them engaged with the snaps that you will send out over the course of the campaign – your content plan.

– Reward: give your students a big win for being an early part of your community.

Putting a Bow on It

A campaign like this requires quite a bit of coordination. I recommend getting your team in a room to map out the entire process. Social networks can be visualized easily with index cards or sticky notes. It may sound a little analogue in an Internet age, but I’ve found that having the team together to map out the flow of content creates the best ideas.

The Facts About Teens, Snapchat, and Higher Education Enrollment

Snapchat, teens, enrollmentIn November of last year, Snapchat turned down a $3 billion dollar buyout offer from Facebook. Astonished social media wonks cried foul. How could a company that has no revenue be worth $3 billion dollars?

There is a general theory in digital media that money follows eyeballs. So, who are the people that are driving this enormous valuation?


Snapchat is one of the worlds leading social networking services. 46% of 12 − 24 year olds use the app to communicate. 77% of college students use Snapchat to send pictures, text and video.

Wait, you haven’t heard about Snapchat? No one can blame you. The company is only three years old. From simple beginnings as a Stanford class project, the mobile app has grown from handling 25 images per second in May 2012 to 700 million per day in May of this year.

Snapchat has grown into a mainstream communication tool. Since most of these images are coming from Millenials, agencies, businesses and higher education institutions have flocked to it.

Why should you care about Snapchat?

snapchat-teens-enrollmentThe rapid adoption of Snapchat by teens represents a fundamental shift in the way people use the Internet. Millenials are the first generation of mobile users. They don’t surf the open web on desktop computers. They don’t use email. They don’t talk on the phone. They use private apps like Snapchat and Whatsapp to communicate with their own controllable, private network of friends.

According to Business Insider, Snapchat is attempting to corner the handset market for the millenial generation. If Snapchat becomes the “start app” for millions of teens, higher ed professionals need to learn how to market accordingly.

Believe it or not, the ephemeral nature of Snapchat is also a boon to marketers and institutions alike. Unlike Facebook or even Twitter, users must stay actively engaged with their phone to communicate. If a student receives a snap from their school of choice, it disappears in 10 seconds, leaving the student waiting for the next post.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a photo messaging mobile application that allows users to send photo, video, and text messages to a private network of friends. Photos, dubbed “snaps”, have a limited lifespan. Users can set a timer from 1 to 10 seconds. When the timer runs down, the image is destroyed. Snapchat users are in control of who sees their snaps. Likewise, they can control which snaps and friends they want to see.

In a way, Snapchat is a perfect storm of generational disconnect. Teens crave privacy. Parents don’t “get” technology. Placing a private network in the hands of sixteen year-olds across the world was bound to create a tsunami of data that only Millenials would understand.

Getting to Know Snapchat

The best way to learn about the app is to download it for yourself. It runs on Android and iOS.

Once you’ve downloaded it, you’ll get a practical lesson in Metcalfe’s Law. Snapchat isn’t very useful if you aren’t connected to any friends. Find a student in your office, ask them to friend you. Play with the app. Send and receive snaps. Snapchat is intuitive, and you will get the hang of it quickly.

Now that you have an introduction to the top communication tool for 12-24 year-olds, it’s time to plan a Snapchat campaign.


This wraps up the first post in a series about teens, higher education, and Snapchat. Snapchat has risen from a college project to a major social networking phenomenon. Teens, in particular, are the primary users of the tool because they can communicate within their own open, secret garden, protected by a wall of mobile technology. In the next installment, we’ll look at some examples and lay out a plan for building your own higher education Snapchat campaign.