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The Glacier TeamOct 25, 2022 10:30:00 AM10 min read

What Actually Influences Students on Snapchat

It is no secret that Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms among millennials. In fact, according to Statista, over 42 million Gen Zers use Snapchat every day.

So, what does this mean for higher education marketers and admissions professionals who are looking to reach potential students on this platform? For one, it means that Snapchat should definitely be part of your marketing mix. But before you start creating snaps, it's important to understand what actually influences students when they are on Snapchat.

Read on for some insights about what Snapchat strategies work best for higher education marketers.  Or listen to our Signals Podcast episode on this topic!

Table Of Content 

Current State of Higher Ed Advertising on Snapchat

How to Incorporate Snapchat Into Your Existing Marketing Strategy

What Type of Content Does Not Resonate with Students?

What Type of Content is Resonating with Students? 

Advantages of Advertising on Snapchat

Why You Should Start Advertising on Snapchat

Snapchat Strategy from a Social Media Strategist From Columbia International University 

The Takeaway 



Current State of Higher Ed Advertising on Snapchat

The current state of higher ed advertising on Snapchat is pretty dismal. In fact, even though 86% of students use Snapchat on a daily basis, only 9.5% of higher ed institutions are advertising on the platform. This is a pretty big disconnect, especially considering that Snapchat has some pretty incredible features that make it ideal for higher education marketing.

Higher education is notoriously slow to adopt new media, but this is a huge mistake. With such a large portion of high school students using Snapchat on a daily basis, higher ed institutions are missing out on a big opportunity to reach potential students where they are spending their time.

Why Post-Secondary Institutions May Feel Hesitant to Start 

Hesitance and uncertainty are two of the leading reasons higher education institutions have not started to use Snapchat as part of their marketing mix.


Many higher ed marketers and admissions professionals simply don't understand how Snapchat works and what its features are. Since they don't use the platform themselves, they think it isn't worth their time to market on it, and thus, higher ed institutions are missing out on a great opportunity to reach potential students.

There is also a skills gap between Snapchat users and higher education marketers. This is due, in part, to the fact that Snapchat is a fairly new platform. Many higher ed marketers are of the Baby Boomer or Gen X generation and since Snapchat came into popularity after many of them have graduated from college, it wasn’t a platform that they would’ve used at all. 


It is natural to feel some uncertainty when venturing into new territory, but this should not stop marketers from using Snapchat as part of their marketing mix. Most higher education marketers are not sure where to start when it comes to Snapchat. They don't know what kind of content to post or how often to post it and want to be extremely careful not to make any mistakes that could damage the reputation of their school.

In addition, getting the senior leadership of an institution on board with using Snapchat can be difficult. Many higher-ups are not familiar with the platform and thus, do not see the value in investing time and resources into it. They might think of Snapchat as a basic messaging app that lacks the reach of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, similarly to how they see TikTok as a platform for silly dances and challenges and, not somewhere an institution should be marketing.

Most of them don't realize that Snapchat and TikTok are actually the most popular social media platforms among Gen Z, and to have an effective marketing campaign, you must advertise on the platforms that they use the most. 


How to Incorporate Snapchat into Your Existing Marketing Strategy

Most marketers take the same content they're using for other platforms like Facebook and Instagram and simply post it on Snapchat and TikTok. However, these platforms are more video-centric, which means that you need to start thinking about your content in a different way. And while it might seem like more work to produce video content, Snapchat and TikTok offer some great features that make creating video content easy and fun.

Here are some tips for higher education marketers who want to start using Snapchat:

1. Shift Your Content From Static Images to Video and GIFs

As mentioned earlier, Snapchat and TikTok are more video-centric platforms, which means that you need to start creating video content if you want to be successful on these platforms.

One way to do this is to take a static ad that you're using on other platforms and use Snap Publisher to add animations to it, making it more interactive and fun. This is a simple and easy way to start creating video content without having to invest a lot of time and resources into it.

2. Use Snapchat Ads to Generate Leads

If you're running a campaign, make sure to add Snapchat Ads to your roster. Snapchat Ads are a great way to generate leads and get people interested in what you're promoting. Additionally, the CTR (click-through rate) for video or animation ads is much higher on Snapchat than on other platforms.

For example, if you're running an open house, you can advertise it on Snapchat and link to a landing page where people can sign up for the event. In this case, you can use Snapchat's geofencing feature to target people near your event location. Or, if you're promoting a specific program to high ed students, you can create a quick video ad highlighting the program and its benefits. You can then link to a landing page where students can learn more about the program and sign up for it.

3. Don't Talk AT Your Audience, Talk WITH Them

Many marketers make the mistake of talking AT their audience instead of talking WITH them. Snapchat is mostly a communication platform for users to chat and share videos and images, so it would be a fantastic opportunity for higher ed institutions to do something similar.

For example, instead of creating an ad that students will probably swipe past, try creating an interactive ad that makes it seem like the university is talking to the student. This could be something like, “Hey! Want to see what it’s like coming to our school? Swipe up to sign up for a campus tour!" or "Hey! Want to know why our Engineering students love their program? Swipe up to watch a quick video!"


What Type of Content Does Not Resonate with Students?

Did you know Gen Z students have an average attention span of merely 8 seconds? This means that any content that doesn't get straight to the point is likely to be ignored. Additionally, studies have shown that Gen Zers can watch an ad for the shortest amount of time but still recall the brand and product being advertised. So, it's important to make sure that your ad is attention-grabbing and to the point.

You must capture your audience's attention within the first few seconds, and the best way to do this is to make sure your ad is entertaining, educational, or inspiring. Don't create an ad just for the sake of creating one – make sure it has a purpose and that it's interesting enough to hold your audience's attention.

Many marketers may not have the budget or experience to design and produce eye-catching video content, so they just go with the easier (and cheaper) options. However, this is a mistake because it will only result in your ads being ignored. Instead, you can use a static image that you're using on other platforms and just add animations to it. These animations can be something as simple as adding movement to the text or making the image pulse. This will make your ad more eye-catching and significantly increase your CTR.


What Type of Content is Resonating with Students?

Now that you know what type of content is not resonating with students, let's take a look at what is.

1. Ads That Don't Feel Like Ads

As we've already established, Gen Zers are extremely adept at ignoring ads. They can spot an ad from a mile away, which is why creating ads that don't feel like ads is so important. The best way to do this is to focus on creating ads that don't seem or feel like ads. Instead, the ads should look more like a "Snap" that students send one another or a "Snapstory" that they would post on their Snapchat profile.

For example, Headspace is one of the most well-known meditation apps, and it has ran very successful Snapchat campaigns in the past. One of their ads featured a brief meditation exercise that was designed to look like a "Snap." This ad was successful because it added value to the viewer and offered a quick exercise, while also promoting the app.

As a higher education marketer, you can use a similar approach to capture your audience's attention and promote your school. For example, you could create an ad that showcases a day in the life of a student at your school. This would provide value to potential students since it's giving them a glimpse into what it's like to be a student at your school. When an ad has content that prospective students actually want to see and that offers value, they are more likely to watch it until the end and even follow the CTA to your sign-up page.

2. Use Ads That Are Performing Well On Other Platforms

You don't always have to start from scratch when creating your Snapchat ads. If you have an ad that's already performing well on another platform, such as TikTok or Facebook, you can repurpose it for Snapchat.

For example, if you have a video ad on TikTok that's getting a lot of views and engagement, you can download it and upload it to Snapchat. Just make sure to add your school logo at the beginning so people know who the ad is from. You can also take a static image from Facebook or Instagram and animate it using Snapchat's tools. This will make your ad more eye-catching and likely grab people's attention.

3. Give Students What They Want

When it comes to marketing to Gen Zers, you need to give them what they want, and what they want is information that's relevant to them.

For instance, if you're running a Snapchat ad campaign to promote your school's nursing program, you should focus on the benefits of the program and how it can help students in their careers. The majority of students care about two things when it comes to choosing a school: the cost and the important dates. So, your ads should highlight this information at the forefront.

4. Make The Whole Process Easy

Simply getting potential students to swipe up on your ad won't be enough to get them to enroll. You need to make the entire process easy for them.

The best way to do this is by having an accessible sign-up page that students can easily find and navigate. Your sign-up page should be designed with mobile users in mind. This means it should be easy to use and navigate on a smaller screen. It's also important to offer students the ability to contact enrollment administrators or staff directly on Snapchat. This will make it easy for them to ask questions and get more information about your school.


Advantages of Advertising on Snapchat

There are many advantages to advertising on Snapchat. Here's a look at a few of the most notable benefits:

  • Lower CPM: Snapchat has lower CPMs than other advertising platforms, making it a more cost-effective option while also reaching a large audience.
  • Geofencing: Similar to Instagram and Facebook, Snapchat offers the ability to geofence your ads. This means you can target specific areas with your ads, which is perfect for targeting local students.
  • Higher Engagement: Snapchat users are highly engaged with the platform, which means they're more likely to see and engage with your ads.
  • Effective Lead Generation: Though used primarily for brand awareness in the past, Snapchat is now an effective platform for lead generation. Higher education marketers are finding success in generating leads through Snapchat ads.
  • Presence Where Your Audience Is: Most high school students are already on Snapchat, which means you can reach them where they're already spending their time.


Why You Should Start Advertising on Snapchat

If you're not already advertising on Snapchat, now is the time to start. With its large and engaged user base, Snapchat is an ideal platform for higher education marketers.

Here are a few reasons why you should start advertising on Snapchat:

1. Learning Opportunity

Snapchat is constantly changing and adding new features. This provides a great opportunity for marketers to learn and grow with the platform. Even if your ad campaign does not perform as well as you'd hoped, the amount you spent on the ads will be a valuable learning experience.

2. Early Adopter Advantage

By being an early adopter of Snapchat ads, you'll have a leg up on the competition. You cannot afford the time it would take to strategically think through and execute a Snapchat ad campaign because, by the time that happens, your target audience will have moved on to the next new thing. Therefore, it's imperative that you start advertising on Snapchat as soon as you find out your primary audience is using the platform.

3. Prevents Losing Out

“Where there is a certainty, there is no return.” This saying is often used in business and means that if you're certain about something, there is no need to wait because you will not get a better deal. The same can be said for advertising on Snapchat. If you're certain that your target audience is using Snapchat, you need to start advertising on the platform as soon as possible. If you wait, you'll lose out on the early advantages, and your target audience will have already thinned out, just like Facebook and Instagram.

In terms of ad spend, a small investment can often go a long way on Snapchat. Since the platform is still fairly new, there is less competition for ad space, which drives down costs. Based on our experience, we recommend spending ideally between $2,000 to $5,000 on Snapchat ads just to test the platform and see how it works for your business. If you're happy with the results, you can always increase your ad spend from there.

If you're wondering where you can start looking for content ideas, U Michigan and U Florida are great accounts to check out. Both have done an excellent job of using Snapchat to engage with their target audiences and generate leads.


Snapchat Strategy from a Social Media Strategist From Columbia International University 

How Schools Should be Using Snapchat for Student Recruitment

When starting out with Snapchat for your school's recruitment, it's important to remember that communication and interaction are at the core of the platform. Simply taking your current billboard banner and pasting it into a Snapchat story won't suffice. You'll need to cater your content to the platform and its audience.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Make Sure You Have Someone Who Is Willing to Commit to the Platform

Since Snapchat is still fairly new, you'll need someone who is willing to learn and experiment with the platform while also putting all their effort into it. This person should also be aware of the latest trends and understand how to advertise on Snapchat.

  • Make Sure Your Target Audience Is Actually Using Snapchat

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many times organizations start using a platform without first doing their research. If your target audience is not using Snapchat, then there's no point in advertising on the platform.

  • Seem Genuine and Avoid Being "Sales-y"

Many higher education marketers think that if they promote an unrealistic version of their school, students will be more likely to enroll. However, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, students are more likely to engage with content that is genuine and authentic.

Therefore, avoid "made-up" versions of your school and show students what actually happens on campus. This will help you build trust with your target audience and eventually generate leads.

  • Let Your Current Students Do The Rest

You may not even know it and you might already have current students "advertising" your school on Snapchat. Gen Zers love sharing their everyday lives on social media, be it fun moments from a school event or a simple club meeting. Showcasing this “real life” and “in the moment” content by resharing or reposting is your best strategy. After all, students are the ones who are living the campus life and experiencing what it's like to be a student at your school, so let them show it off!

What Type of a “Branding” Should Your School Go With? 

Branding is everything when it comes to marketing, and Snapchat is no exception. Your school's brand should be represented in every single story you post. This means that your school's colours, logo, and overall aesthetic should be consistent with the content you're sharing.

Your best bet is to highlight your school's features that make it unique. For example, if you have a competitive sports team, create a Snapchat account dedicated to the team. You can also post-game highlights, fun moments from practice, or anything else that would be of interest to your target audience.

Of course, your content should still be appropriate for your school and aim to promote your school in a positive light. If you're unsure of what content to post, start by taking a look at other schools' Snapchat accounts for inspiration. This is your chance to break down the “stuffy” wall separating you and your target audience. Take Brigham Young University, for example. Their use of their mascot under Cosmo_cougar has helped the school connect with students on a more engaging level, as seen by their over 1 million followers on TikTok. Leave the "salsey" content to the rest. Higher ed on Snapchat is all about being genuine, creative, and in the moment!


The Takeaway

When it comes to Snapchat marketing for higher education, it's important to remember that the platform is all about communication and interaction. While you may have to follow a different strategy than you would on other social media platforms, the key is to be genuine, creative, and at the moment.

By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a Snapchat marketing strategy that will help you reach your enrollment goals.


So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start advertising to Gen Z!

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