With studies confirming that students use Snapchat at least once a day, it's a definite gold mine awaiting opportunity seekers to unearth. With enormous potential to reach, influence & engage prospects at any stage of the admissions process, the big question is:
Can Snapchat crack it at Higher Education Marketing?
The Science behind this ‘Social’ something
Since its launch in 2012, Snapchat users have skyrocketed in the GCC, with one study describing it as the fastest-growing platform in the region because of it’s privacy advantage.
But, let’s be honest from an edu-marketer’s point of view:
What exactly made this Social Network become popular so fast? Teenagers.
There are two things when it comes to this generation:
It’s un-cool to be at the same hangout spot as your parents.
You’d prefer your room locked.
Snapchat solves both of these, & more! And here’s proof to the pudding:
So what brings Generation Z here?
'15-19 year old’s in the UAE who undoubtedly got ‘college admissions’ on their minds as though it were a curse that needs a desperate cure' - that’s ‘Generation Z’ for your ever-expanding vocabulary base. And while they’re at it, it's prime time to reach them with your school’s authentic story, based upon their needs, which are:
Be on a platform to ‘show off’ to a selective group
Feel comfortable where other common interest groups are at
Maintain modesty, especially for the culturally conservative female populous
Find out what’s hip and happening around town
Remotely be where their ‘mates’ are at
Snapchat's typical audience demographic looks like this:
In short:Students <3 Snapchat.
The University Vibe
With Smartphone penetration at it’s highest in the UAE at 99 per cent, universities are no exception to the itchy trigger-finger folks. Gone are the days of engrossing into ‘friends’ and ‘tomb raider’ at your compadre’s place just becasue he had the largest TV screen ever!
This shift to online video has alerted universities to deck up its own ‘online savvy’ staff to penetrate student minds.
Plus, having added a gazillion pages to ones Facebook follow list, there’s no guarantee your university can ensure every organic post is viewed & engaged by a follower.
With top-notch institutions such as Canadian University Dubai leading by example, should your higher education brand be Snapchatting? ‘Duh!'
“Snapchat is the most successful means of communication we have right now. Every channel has bespoke requirements, and so does Snapchat. Despite being a business, we still rely on Snapchat more than any other channel. If I send an email, SMS, or go and tell them (students) personally, they won't listen. Put it on Snapchat. it's done! We are the 1st (UAE-based) university to have an official Snapchat account”
– Osaid Azeem, Marketing & Communications, Canadian University Dubai
What does Snapchat allow your University to do?
Create never-ending stories that keep the brand alive
Send one-to-one / one-to-many Snaps
Create live buzz to connect to other university platforms
Keep your communication limited to those who have access to your brand’s internal communication
Generate traction for other activities within the university marketing / events calendar
Management Process: Delegate orTakeover?
Once upon a time, popular student figures or groups used to open up a college-centric Snapchat account to fill the void, eventually turning things into an ‘official’ chaos.
A more controlled version is that of a ‘takeover’ - when managers of a Snapchat account gives a student or group access to the account for a certain amount of time. Here's an example from across the atlantic wherein the university has leveraged other social media channels, plus the popularity of a student figure to pull audiences to their Snapchat page:
However, the best way to go about is to have a dedicated social media executive represent the marketing team and take charge. This individual would plan ahead as per your event calendar, or simply ‘be at the right place and right time’. This could evolve further into the exec creating a network of contributors forming a solid team that would ‘strike the right chord’ i.e. turn students into ambassadors for the university itself. Eventually, you'll be overhearing: 'have you seen today's Snapchat story?' amidst your staff members themselves.
Content is the Sheikh
Digital advertising may have emerged as the next best choice. However, digital content generation is still a meager portion of the regional univeristy's total marketing spend compared to other parts of the world.
When it comes to Snapchat, It’s purely about understanding, planning and generating content across two perspectives:
What your existing students want:
Behind the scenes – Footage for audiences who don’t get access into the green rooms, offices or other university branches / streams
College / Toilet humour – Anything to rib-tickle and create talk for the walk
Announcements – Nothing does better to penetrate informal or official communication on events, updates and activities. Not even emails to parents!
Daily videos – In the age of YouTube and short attention spans, there’s no further explanation required.
Exclusive content – Something only for selected eyeballs to engage and take action
What your prospect students need:
Assess the university campus & lifestyle
Sniff out ‘the other side’ for greener pastures
Influence decision making for the right career choice
Yes folks, It’s all about driving results.
And just like TV, outdoor or any other offline media, Snapchat is a great influencer to the lead generation funnel within the Inbound Marketing online ecosystem.
Universities throughout the Arab regions have adopted social media in their business at different paces. Some can be classified as Change Embracers and others as Slow Adopters. These ‘Change Embracers’ are seen to be modern, proactive, interactive and open to the world. They use a variety of social media content to extensively influence their business mainly for the purpose of creating affinity between them and their target audience, and eventually to generate leads.
The BIG Question(s)
If you've reached this far, and you’re still wondering about Snapchat Marketing for Universities in UAE, ask yourself:
Should I kick-start Snapchat now or later?
With Instagram stories hitting the story scene, is it worth it?
Will this turn out positive for the brand image?
Will Du or Etisalat block more features in the near future?
And what about Facebook testing their own camera-like option?
Whether it be to reach out to the ‘just passed’ high school graduate, or whether it’s simply to keep your existing student base delighted to the university happenings, Snapchat has to be an integral part of your digital ecosystem.
Despite having said all the above, just ask yourself: Is my audience on it?