Snapchat is an extremely important channel for any college or university. It’s where students are. It’s where we need to be.
The social media powerhouse now has 173 million daily users. Despite that Snapchat is struggling to grow into a mainstream service like Facebook, Snapchat definitely has its place among Millennials. On average, 30% of internet-using Millennials use Snapchat regularly with active users opening Snapchat more than 18 times a day.
What does this tell us? We MUST connect with our students on Snapchat.
This fall, a record-breaking number of new students began their journey at Colorado State University, including more than 5,000 freshmen. Of course, we want them all to follow us on Snapchat from the moment they unpack their boxes. Sounds like a lofty goal, right? Well, it is. But we’re on our way. This year, we managed to increase our Snapchat follower count by 10% in one month, bringing our total Snapchat follower count up to nearly 12,500.
Here’s one way #CSUSocial gained hundreds of new followers in one day.
How We Did It
1. Get in front of them. Literally.
We reserved a booth at the Ram Welcome Street Fair, an annual open-air Expo where new students can explore CSU resources from academic departments, student organizations, student services, and of course, learn about how to stay connected to campus through CSU Social Media.
Pro tip: Plan ahead. It doesn’t hurt to request a booth space with the best foot-traffic. We did. And we got it.
2. Make your booth awesome
When there are 50 booths clamoring for the attention of your starry-eyed freshmen, you have to do something to set yourself apart from the crowd. Create an alluring booth display that creates a buzz and attracts a crowd. We hung t-shirts with #ColoradoState sunglasses from the necks, displayed our #CSUSocial banners and created clear and concise contest signage. Even though we weren’t giving the swag away on the spot, the visual drew students to our booth.
Pro tip: I constructed a simple DIY shirt display thanks to this find on Pinterest 📍
3. Create a smart contest
What’s the difference between a smart contest and a not-so-smart contest? Smart contests are fast and easy for students to enter. Smart contests require very little explanation from your staff. Smart contests make the booth-scene way more enjoyable and way less stressful. Smart contests are efficient (and if you know me, you know I have a thing about efficiency). Smart contests take advantage of technology because who has time to log hand-written contest entry slips? Besides, it’s 2017.
This year, our contest was ridiculously simple to enter:
1. Send us a message on Snapchat with your name and t-shirt size.
2. That is all.
This contest entry strategy was successful in several ways:
New followers: In order to send a Snapchat message, users had to follow us. We didn’t even need to ask.
No paperwork: By entering the contest via Snapchat messages, we didn’t have to waste time and energy (and paper) on creating, printing and logging entry forms.
No lines: Bypassing paper entry forms kept foot-traffic at our booth running smoothly without creating lines, waits or backups.
Not much explaining: By printing out giant CSU Snapcodes and simple instructions, most students figured out how to enter without asking. This freed up conversation space for our team to educate students on why they need CSU Social in their lives. “No seriously, you need us.” 😍
Pro tip: When you have booth or table space at an event, don’t worry about trying to get new students to follow you on ALL the things (like we’ve done in the past). Focus on one. Snapchat is a great choice. Then, later, you can cross-promote your other channels to your new followers in a story at a later date. Like this:
4. Give away really good prizes. Not junk.
Free pens and candy don’t do the trick anymore (honestly, did they ever?). Instead, you need something more exciting. More valuable. Spend a little money and give away something students actually want. Quality over quantity 👌
1. One student won a $100 shopping spree to the CSU Bookstore
2. 25 winners received #CSUSocial social t-shirts and #ColoradoState sunglasses
5. Announce winners quickly and creatively
Timeliness is a golden rule of social media. Millenials are an instant-gratification crew. So it’s very important to announce social media winners in a timely manner. The last thing we want students to think is that we asked them to follow us, but didn’t follow through on our promise.
How we announced winners:
1. Told students as they entered the contest to check CSU’s Snapchat story later that day to see the winners.
2. Randomly selected messages that our students messaged to us.
3. Posted the selected photos to our story.
4. Messaged winners on how to claim their prizes.
5. Coordinated live coverage of the $100 shopping spree, then covered it live on CSU’s Snapchat and Instagram stories.
During the three-hour Ram Welcome Street Fair, we received nearly 500 contest entries. Needless to say, my cell phone constantly lit up like a Christmas tree with new follower alerts:
🚨 Alert: Someone added you.
🚨 Alert: Someone else added you.
🚨 Alert: Someone’s friend added you.
🚨 Alert: Someone’s friend’s friend added you.
🚨 Alert: Alert: Alert: Alert: Alert: Alert: Alert: Alert!
Our monthly analytics show a follower increase of almost 10% for the month of August, an increase that brought our total follower count to nearly 12,500. We have also seen a 60% follower increase from this time last year. And that feels pretty good. We are on our way to connecting with the majority our new freshman class 😎