The Social Media Blog

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Snapchat for Universities

This could have been titled, “Snapchat, are you crazy?”.

This February, the University of Melbourne became the first Australian University to open and use an official Snapchat account. We’re one of only a handful of Unis using the channel worldwide.

Since so many marketers are interested in and hesitant about Snapchat in equal measure, it seems worthwhile to share our (very positive) experience here.

When we were deciding whether to jump in, we had a hard time finding brands doing Snapchat well. Red Bull, of course, are naturals there, as are B2C businesses that thrive on ’secret' flash sales. But most brands I’ve tried to follow have snapped once or twice and then… nothing. Perhaps they didn’t have a better reason for using it than 'the kids seem to be into this stuff'? Or perhaps the addition to the workload wasn't offset by the removal of something else.

With a new team member on board and therefore some freedom to experiment, we decided to get Melbourne Uni into Snapchat for Orientation Week 2014. O-Week is a unique moment in the academic calendar, one not driven by the usual requirements of a marketing campaign. We define our success in purely social terms: helping new students to make some connections, have a good time, and stake their claim in this big and crazy place.

In the past, we've gone with the typical 'tag yourself and your mates in this huge group photo' thing. You know the campaign, and in the past you’ve probably run one too. It’s great if what you’re after is a bunch of new Facebook followers. However, we're increasingly looking outside Facebook to build our relationships with incoming students.

How it worked:

Teddy and his lovely assistant Carl snapped their location in a range of important spots on campus: libraries, recreational spots, clubs, and important student services. Each day’s snaps had a theme, so for example, in one day Teddy might visit three or four different libraries. Those who found Teddy first in each spot won a great University prize pack with one of our varsity jackets, a keep cup, and a Teddy of their own.

Teams of smart freshers figured out the theme pretty early on each day, and mapped out likely Ted-spotting sites, both learning about and exploring each location. In that sense, mission accomplished! We also gained several hundred followers in just a few days, who are now able to just enjoy the snaps or chat to us 1:1, whichever they like.

Of course, as a marketing tool Snapchat has its issues. If you have a lot of followers, it's difficult to send an instant snap to all of them (we used stories); you can only log in from one phone at a time; and there is the risk that people will send you the odd dodgy pic. That said, we've only had lovely snaps incoming so far, and the jokes and other messages we do receive, make our day here in the office. It helps that Teddy is an experienced moderator and relatively hard to shock. (That's not a challenge, by the way!)

Now that O-Week is over and we’re dealing with the hard work part of semester (agh, mid-sem assignments), Teddy’s snapping less often, but still he’s out and about like any other Uni student. You can follow his adventures and chat with us by opening up Snapchat and adding @unimelb.