Crystal Maldonado No Comments

Higher Ed Marketing Memos by Crystal Maldonado

It’s never easy to launch a new social media account for your institution. As if you need one more thing to manage, right?

But if you’re going to invest in another social media account, let it be Snapchat. According to Social Media Examiner, nearly 100 million users visit Snapchat each day, with 26 million in the 13-17 age group, a key demographic for colleges and universities.

The 2016 College-Bound E-Expectations Survey Results shows how much prospective and upcoming students rely on the plaform on a weekly basis.


When I started at Springfield College a little more than a year ago, we knew we wanted to have a presence on Snapchat. But I had no idea where to start. I didn’t even use Snapchat myself, and, quite frankly, I was terrified I’d be bad at it.

I did a bunch of research and often found recommendations from large institutions with staff members who were dedicated strictly to social media. Wow, I’d think. That’s great for them. But what about those of us, who are part of a tiny team, who work at a smaller institution, or who worry about not having enough content to share?

If your situation fits in any of those categories, I have some tips to help you launch a Snapchat account for your institution and find success.

Learn by doing

Snapchat LogoIf you’re unfamiliar with Snapchat, try a personal account first.

Yes, this will mean you probably need to enlist a friend to be the victim of your first few snaps as you figure everything out.

Once you’ve got your own account, try everything.

  • Send a snap and post a story.
  • Take a selfie using a filter.
  • Take a selfie using a geofilter. (They’re different!)
  • Draw on a picture.
  • Shoot a video and then add emojis onto it.

Do it all!

Have a list of content ready to go.

Creating content on Snapchat is so different than creating content on any other channel. It’s intentionally less polished and more creative, which is great news if you’re a small team. Your photos don’t have to be professionally shot and, in fact, the more professional they look, the less authentic they feel. Your videos don’t have to be perfect, either. It’s OK if the camera is a little shaky or if the sound isn’t pristine.

A few ideas to get you started:

  • Take photos of event flyers posted around campus
  • Have a plush version of your school’s mascot? Put it in fun places around campus and snap a picture
  • Interview students before an event and ask what they’re most excited about
  • Take video from an event, like a concert, play, or sporting event
  • Host a contest and give clues, treasure hunt-style, that lead students to the prize (this is an excellent way to gain followers!)

    Snapchat contest

    Snapchat content

  • Ask students their favorite thing about the college and post a video of their answers
  • Interview your college president or a beloved faculty member

Advertise across your channels.

crystal3Don’t be afraid to use your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to let your students know you’re now on Snapchat.

When we launched the Springfield College account, we promoted the new account wherever we could, which helped our followers find us.

Tap into your students for input.

They know Snapchat better than any of us do and they won’t be shy with their opinions.

So, if you are able to work closely with students, don’t be afraid to ask them what they want to see or even if they’d like to contribute (as Jes Scott did at UVic).

Students are great at creating content (Angi Roberts from UGuelph thinks they rock), because they’re out there on the campus seeing the things we aren’t.

But if you don’t have the budget to hire social media ambassadors, try a “student takeover” and allow student volunteers to post on behalf of the institution.

Work with other offices on campus.

Depending on which office manages your institution’s social media efforts, you may already work with other units at your school (like Sandra Ordonze at Stevens Institute).

For me over in the communications office, the best way to get a steady flow of content has been to partner with the student activities and admissions offices. They work with plenty of students and now help keep our account active.

Make a geofilter (or two or three or four).

Geofilters are location-based images that show up when you swipe left on your photos.

You can actually create geofilters yourself and use them to promote events on campus, build brand awareness, or just to give your students something fun to put on their snaps.

Community geofilters are free to make and submit, too – even though there’s also a paid version.

So far, we’ve created geofilters using the school’s logo, as well as for our accepted student open house day and what we call “Discovery Days” (where we invite high school students to visit our campus).

Snapchat Discovery Days Geofilter

Our Discover Days filter was the first event-based geofilter we submitted, and it was popular with current and prospective students on campus.

Start. Like, right now.

Most institutions haven’t jumped on the Snapchat train yet, so now is your chance to be one step ahead.

Stop stressing about making your Snapchat account perfect and just go for it!

You’ll be happy you did. Snapchat is the perfect venue to have fun and be less perfect.

Discovery Day Snapchat Geofilter

Meet the Author: Crystal Maldonado

Crystal Maldonado is the Social Media Manager at Springfield College. She is also a graduate of Higher Ed Experts’ professional certificate program in Social Media Measurement for Higher Ed

Tags: ,