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Sarah Gordon, Assistant Director of Communications
Choate Rosemary Hall

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  • Independent Schools
Snapchat for Independent Schools: Everything You've Been Dying to Know
Mia Major

Snapchat: it's gotten a pretty bad rep in some cases. From bullying to inappropriate pictures, the thought of bringing Snapchat into school marketing and communications can seem pretty cringe-worthy.

And to be honest, I've only ever use Snapchat to send pictures of me and my dog making weird faces. So for a while, it was hard for me to imagine why anyone would want to use the app for anything related to marketing.

Snapchat Tips for Schools

But then, it hit me. With every photo I send to a friend (even if it is just me and my dog), I'm sharing a story, a piece of my life, a glimpse into my reality.

I'm telling a story — a story that is completely ad-free and algorithm-free; where I get to choose who the readers are; where I have a captive audience; and where I have complete control of the message.

Snapchat is actually a marketer's dream, and every independent school should be using it.


Free Report: The State of Social Media Marketing Among Schools


Okay, basics first.

What is Snapchat?

For those of you unfamiliar with the app Snapchat, it is a media messaging app that allows users to record and send 'snaps' — aka pictures or videos with captions, filters, and geofilters — that are only viewable for a set duration between one to 10 seconds after which they are automatically deleted.

Why should my school get on Snapchat?

In short, "Fish where the fish are," said Michael Hayes, Director of Marketing at Berkshire School in his recent Apply Yourself with Tim podcast with Tim McDonough.

What he means here is this: Snapchat is where your users already are. You have a captive audience. Give them content to engage with. Here are some stats that prove it:

  • Snapchat has 100m active users with 400m snaps sent every day (Source: Mashable)
  • 50% of Snapchat users are 13-17 years old; 31% are 18-24 years old; and only 19% are 25 years of age or older (Source: Statista)
  • It ranks fourth among the top social media sharing site (Source: BusinessInsider)

How do I get started?

Well, reading this blog is a great start! If you don't already have the app on your smartphone, download the app and get set-up. Be sure to make your username something simple that can be easily remember. Add a profile picture, set up your privacy settings to friends-only, and then, start adding "friends" — AKA those you'd like to "snap" with.

How do I add friends?

Since Snapchat works on a cell phone number or username basis, you will have to add students, faculty and parents who use the app. This is, of course, where things can get tricky — especially for those working in admission and advancement. Here, you have a couple of options:

  • The first option is to ask students, faculty, and parents to add you. Simply provide your username on digital displays around the school, in email, and on other social media accounts, prompting community members to add you on Snapchat. In this case, you will have to go through and manually accept each friend request on the app.
  • The second option is to add friends on your own. Export a list of phone numbers for the various groups you would like to communicate with, and import them into your smartphone. Then, everyone who has the app will show up as a friend to add in the app for you to add. With this option, you'll have to have an "opt into Snapchat communications" form completed by recipients prior to sending any snaps.

Can we advertise?

With the average cost to advertise on Snapchat in the millions, probably not.

Which precautions should we take?

Opting into communications: Since Snapchat is a way to send private communications, offer an opt-in checkbox on forms for current and prospective parents and students, as well as faculty and alumni.

Handing out Snapchat login credentials: Be sure to choose trustworthy faculty and students to run the app. Because Snapchat is based on sharing mini-stories, it's nearly impossible to have one person manage the app. Create a small team of trusted individuals that includes students, coaches, and faculty to distribute different messages.

Okay, I'm on Snapchat — now what?

Once you have the nitty-gritty details out of the way, it's time to get snapping and have fun! Here are some ideas and best practices for getting started on Snapchat.

Craft a Strategy

First, get all your departments involved: athletics, marketing, advancement, admissions and academics, and see how each department would like to use the app. From here, create a schedule with reminders using an online calendar tool to remind Snappers of their responsibility.

Once faculty have their Snapchat responsibilities, you can decide if you'd like to share the responsibility with students — this is highly recommended, as you want all Snapchat content to be genuine.

From here, decide "types of snaps" you will send, such as sports, a day-in-the-life, arts, events, etc. Then, determine how those will be shared. On Snapchat, you can send snaps 1:1, or post to your story. On your story, they live for 24 hours. When sent 1:1 they are live for a maximum of 10 seconds.

Create Geofilters

Geofilters are location based overlays that users can apply to their Snaps. This means, when someone is near or on your school's campus, there can be a special graphic overlay to apply to their snaps. Holton-Arms School in Maryland currently uses this feature, and says it's been a hit among students.

Take the time to create and submit your own fun and creative Geofilter artwork to be displayed on the app to bring in branding. Plus, when students are on campus, they can add that geofilter to their own snaps they are sharing with friends — which is basically free, authentic advertising for your school.

Want help with your Geofilter? Read this post from Buffer.

Share a Day-in-the-Life

Many schools are currently running "A Day-in-the-Life" campaigns on Snapchat to share with prospective and current families. Rather than just sending the snaps to friends, they publish the snaps to their story, which is available to view for 24 hours.

Since students already love and use Snapchat, it is a great way to produce real, meaningful content that engages and entertains a variety of users.

Berkshire School is one school that uses Snapchat to showcase a day-in-the-life of their students.

"What comes through is extremely genuine," said Michael in his podcast. "But Snapchat is just a lot of fun, too. You just need to be smart about it. We've had some great stories up there."

The one issue they ran into? That of course, like everything on Snapchat, it disappears.

Run a Contest

A cool feature on Snapchat is the screenshot notification. If someone takes a screenshot of a photo or video you've shared 1:1 or in your story, Snapchat renders a notification. This is a great tool for running a contest and getting users engaged with you as a Snapchatter.

For example, at a homecoming football game, post a snap to your story of cheering fans with the caption "first 5 screenshots win a hoodie!"

Snap Important Updates

Once you're an established Snapchatter, this can become an awesome medium to send urgent, important messages — such as an early dismissal or game cancellation. Of course Snapchat won't substitute other means of communications, but it is a fantastic addition.

Mix it up

When you are snapping, change up the filters and text. Take a mix of photos and videos. Don't always have the same person sharing the same content. Just like any form of social media, when you're repetitive, you just become noise.

For example, hand the account over to a trusted alumnus during an off-campus alumni gathering, a student attending a football game, or a faculty member at prom. These are the individuals who will capture the micro-moments that make your school unique!

Snapchat to promote upcoming events

While you should never use Snapchat to truly sell something, it is a great way to share a message or a story that does the selling for you. Use Snapchat to share hints and clues about an upcoming event or share short videos to amp up excitement. Get mascots and leadership involved when appropriate. It would be so fun to see your school mascot take over Snapchat every time there is a home game!

Tell us your Snapchat story!

Does your school use Snapchat? We want to know! Send an email to blog@finalsite.com to be featured in an upcoming social media best practices guide.


Social Media Marketing Toolkit


  • Marketing/Communications
  • Social Media
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