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Higher ed: It’s time to embrace Snapchat

Snapchat jumped above Twitter in daily active users, as per an announcement last week. Snapchat passed the 150 million mark, which puts it right in between Instagram and Twitter when it comes to popular social media platforms.

But, what does that mean for higher ed? More than you think.

For so long, many within higher ed have been reluctant to embrace Snapchat. It makes sense, since its reputation from the get-go was always hurt by those who thought it was only for people who wanted to send inappropriate photos back and forth. That reputation is long gone, however, and has been replaced by so many success stories from brands around the world. 

Yes, it’s finally time for higher ed to embrace Snapchat – not fear it .

At West Virginia University, we’ve more than embraced the app because of its possibilities . It’s unlike any other social media platform out there, and that’s something special. If you don't use it, listening to others talk about it sounds like a foreign language. To high school and college kids, that’s perfect. They want to be somewhere where their relatives aren’t, so while they may all still have a Facebook page, they’re actively using Snapchat daily.

Not only do we use Snapchat at WVU, we are making it our priority. Since the start of the year, we’ve really had a Snapchat-first mentality .

What does that mean exactly? Well, we plan our content with Snapchat in mind at all times. Because it’s a bit different from more traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, developing a content calendar – and content in general – is much more difficult. So, once we decide on a campaign, we first find a way to make it work on Snapchat before deciding how we’ll execute it on other platforms.

And we have so much proof that Snapchat can work in higher ed. Last fall, we had a Snapchat Q&A and received more than 300 questions – more than triple what we’d received in the past using Twitter. Around the same time, we started a “Takeover Tuesday” campaign in which students run our Snapchat account for the day. This has by far been the most successful campaign we’ve run on the platform based on the numbers of views (around 7,500 on average) and the many questions our students receive from high school students interested in coming to the University each week. You can follow us ( to check out what we’re doing on the app throughout the summer, too.

Still, higher ed continues to drag its feet with Snapchat, despite all of the examples of universities thriving in this space. Many aren’t sold yet on its merits.

The biggest downsides of Snapchat 1) no full-fledged in-platform analytics and 2) restrictions when it comes to content you can post are so small when you compare them to the upsides.

When it comes to ROI, you’ll see it by the number of conversations you have with current and prospective students. At WVU, Snapchat is the platform in which we see the most engagement with those groups – more than Instagram and Twitter combined, in fact.

Regardless of what we think of Snapchat, our students are sold on it . That’s what really matters. We need to adapt to what they’re most interested in. It should be higher ed’s primary objective to keep up with our students when it comes to technology like this.

Snapchat is adapting better to its audience than any other more-established social media platforms. It doesn’t conform to the demands of higher ed like Facebook or Twitter, so it’s a bit more difficult to do, but we have to adapt.

Before we adapt to Snapchat, though, we have to embrace it.