Building a Following on Snapchat

April 28, 2016

Due to Snapchat not providing definitive total audience numbers, this is not a definitive case study. It’s more or less, me trying something with my channel and providing conclusions.

What do I know for sure?

As of May 2015, the Division of Student Life’s Snapchat account (MIT Student Life) amassed over 1000 followers (mostly current students) and tallied around 450 views per snap.

Shortly after that, I lost count of total followers, but as of April 2016 we average around 1000 views per snap. If we take into account that before I lost count, we had about a 40-45 percent viewing rate, we should be around 2500 followers to date.

With that said…

We launched our Snapchat account a little more than one year ago, so I decided that based on the audience growth we’ve seen, now is a great time to do an experiment.
Around 4:41 pm on April 6, I put out a snap asking people to take a screenshot if they are a current MIT student.  The two main metrics Snapchat provides are view count, and screenshot count.

I did this for two reasons: 1) To see how many people in our audience would actually look at the post and 2) to count how many people would actually do what we asked despite minimal incentive.
For those unaware, the two major bits of analytics that Snapchat provides are view count, and screenshot count.

The results?

During the 24 hours that our snap existed (that is the limit for Snapchat Stories), we amassed 720 views and 90 screenshots taken by MIT students. That is a 12.5 percent engagement rate, to go along with the estimated 40 percent view rate for the snap. Keep in mind, that 12.5 percent is with no incentive at all for students to take the action. More than likely, that number would be greater if there was an incentive behind screenshooting.

What did we learn?

You may have seen that Snapchat has overtaken Instagram as the most popular social media network among teens. This means Snapchat is the most popular platform among high school and college students, as well as young alumni. Based on the fact that our Snapchat engagement/view rates are higher than all our other platforms, we can’t help but agree.

It also proves that your total follower count basically is irrelevant once the amount of people who view your snaps start hitting consistent levels. As you start monitoring views, you will notice that the same names are looking at your snaps. That is your core Snapchat audience. From there, the goal should be to engage and grow that audience.

Finally, it also shows that students are willing to interact with you on the platform. Knowing that helps counteract the fact that Snapchat doesn’t support active links. Using snaps to create call-to-actions, build awareness, and/or generating participation are great uses of the platform.

Any issues to watch for?

Your snap queue. Snaps last for about 24 hours before they disappear forever. Based off what I’ve seen, about 20 percent of your potential views see the snap in the first hour and about 50 percent in the first six hours. That number probably will change in the summer as students go back to different time zones, and would probably be completely different for an alumni base. 

You may have noticed that my test post seemed a bit lower than the estimated viewing range. That’s because I sent it before my snap queue was completely clear. If your snap queue isn’t clear, then your new snap will be placed at the end of the queue for those who haven’t previously viewed other snaps, so less people might actually get to that final snap.

What should we do now?

Get on Snapchat. At least create an account to claim a profile name. Experiment, get used to the tools, and see if it’s for you. If it is, create a content strategy and start promoting your account. The best way to promote it would be to start putting your snap code on all your print pieces. Also, let people know on your other social media channels that you are now on Snapchat. There is an audience, and if you can build engaging content, they are more than willing to listen.

Ok. Ok. Last question. What is engaging?

That is something that I can’t help you with. What I can tell you is that Snapchat works best when based off the idea of human connection. Of all your platforms, this should have the most personality. Color and enthusiasm are king on this platform, so use them. Every snap is an elevator pitch to continue to interact and to create awareness. There is an urgency weaved in the fabric Snapchat’s DNA, and that’s what makes it great. Have fun.

Short List of who to follow that can help you mold your voice:

DJ Khaled: He is basically the master of the platform. He snaps about 100 times a day, and averages about 6 million views per snap. What he does best is identity and connection to the platform. From the very first snap you see of his you know who he is, and that authenticity is what connects him to his audience. He’s a person that has become a brand, but still feels like a person. If you are going to use Snapchat, don’t forget that you are a person not an institution.

Taco Bell: Narrative structure, color, and enthusiasm. That might as well be the Holy Trinity of Snap, and they use it better than just about anyone. I haven’t spoken much about narrative structure, so basically I mean using multiple snaps to tell a story. Here’s a example: First snap saying you are walking across campus, second snap is video of your legs walking, next snap you run into someone and they join you, next snap multiple legs walking, final snap you arrive. Utilizing narrative structure is a great way to use Snapchat.

University of Michigan: There isn’t any school that utilizes snap better than them. They tend to fall short when it comes personality, but as far as having goals and following those to get your message across, no school does it better.

GeeohSnap: What makes this guy pretty interesting is his use of art on Snapchat. He uses the drawing feature (with the help of pressure sensitive pen) to make quirky content in the pictures and videos he takes.

TheVerge: The Verge is an online publication and their Snapchat strength lies in their ability to show the personality in their offices. They provide a really good behind-the-scenes for events and daily office life.