UK Universities Using Snapchat – Newcastle University Case Study
Most people know of Snapchat as an app to send funny pictures and videos to friends, with the added reassurance that their Snap will disappear forever within seconds of it being opened. But the rollout of My Story in late 2013 meant that universities now had a tool where they could show off their unique personality by piecing together a collection of their own different Snaps which last for 24 hours.
There are some great examples of US universities using Snapchat to its full potential (such as the University of Houston, who we talked about in another blog about Snapchat) but UK institutions don’t seem to have caught on so quickly with the trend. So when we discovered that Newcastle University, who sit right on our doorstep, had embraced the app we had to find about how they were getting on.
To find out more, I spoke to Matt Horne, who oversees all of Newcastle University’s central channels – including Snapchat. This is what he had to say about their journey with Snapchat so far…
When and why did you start using Snapchat?
We started using Snapchat back in April. It had been on our radar for a while, but we hadn’t quite worked out how it could complement our key goals. After some research, it was clear the people we wanted to speak to were there, we just had to work out if they wanted to hear from us. Within a month and zero cost, we had over 500 followers and now we have over 1,000, so it would seem they did.
What was your goal for using the network?
We were looking for a new way to engage with current and prospective students that allowed us to showcase different aspects of campus life in a less formal style.
Do you think Snapchat has been an effective digital marketing tool for Newcastle University?
It’s early days at the moment. It’s definitely effective in reaching one of our target audiences as we’ve seen from the channel’s growth and how it’s also spread on to other social networks. Whether it makes someone apply to study here, we couldn’t say for sure. But then again who can say a billboard or a newspaper ad makes someone apply? We’ve anecdotal evidence that it’s working as a way of keeping applicants warm and engaging with our current students
Can you give me some examples of successful content that you’ve rolled out on Snapchat?
We’re still experimenting with the medium at the moment. We tend to just do one off snaps of things on campus unless there’s a big event happening when we might pull together a full story – like with our Open Day. But sometimes we’ll just do something random like a “mini campus tour” story (which went round miniature campus buildings and ended with a really bad joke) that takes a couple of minutes to do but still gets engagement levels way above that of Twitter.
Can you tell me about the results you’ve had since you set up the channel?
It was slow to start, as we didn’t have an audience or content to pull them in. But since we’ve grown the audience organically we’ve now started to see over 1,000 views on our stories and screengrabs on most snaps. We also have applicants and current students contact us through Snapchat too, asking questions or just showing what their day on campus is like. The best indicator of a snap for me though is when we see it appear on other social channels with positive comments like when one person screengrabbed part of an aerial view, posted it to Twitter and said it made them want to get on campus even sooner.
Have you tried anything that didn’t work? What did you learn?
For more established channels, we pretty well know what will get high engagement. With Snapchat, it’s still surprising what can get the most reaction. When we first started up the only benchmarks for content we had were American universities and their key content seemed to be a lot of student ambassadors in khaki pants getting excited about handing out free parking passes, or something just as banal like people standing at a table at a recruitment event. We tried that kind of stuff and it just doesn’t go down well. We wanted the channel to be something quick and fun while showing off our university. Turns out drawing faces on campus landmarks and doing stickman tours works. The main thing we’ve learned is to have fun, mess around and don’t worry if something tanks because it’ll be gone the next day. Just like you would with your own Snapchat.
To see Newcastle University’s entertaining Snaps for yourself, follow them on Snapchat: newcastleuni.
Has your institution been using Snapchat? Or would you like to start using Snapchat to engage with your audiences? We’d be happy to help. Please contact us here at Pickle Jar.