Snap-a-versary: One Year on Snapchat!

Last month, we celebrated the first anniversary of one of #UMSocial’s most successful initiatives to date- our ‘UofMichigan’ Snapchat account. At its conception in February 2014, we were just the second university on the platform and one of the first large brands to step into these uncharted waters. There were few models, little “best practices,” and no rules, leaving us with opportunity to explore. As we made the strategic decision to dip our toes in, many wondered how a university had any business leveraging the ephemeral photo sharing app. Following seasoned brands like Mashable and Taco Bell for inspiration and meticulously recording each of our followers into an excel spreadsheet, we were excited to break new ground and measure impact in the space. Since that time, we have moved from being risk takers to thought leaders in the “Snapchat-for-brands” arena. Gone are the days of being questioned about its appropriateness (or if we were receiving scandalous snaps), and here are the days of weekly requests for Snapchat strategy and best practice advice. UMSocial regularly consults with other universities, advertising agencies, and even broadcasters to help them navigate the platform, and we’ve been mentioned in Time Magazine and a Sprout Social piece. We’re very proud of our success, but more so with the thriving community we’ve created within the platform. Social media is a dynamic industry, constantly evolving to accommodate emerging platforms and user demographics. For UMSocial, Snapchat was and is an essential component of our ever evolving social media strategy.

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A Look Back

As with all social media initiatives, prior to launching our account we did our homework, and the numbers didn’t lie: 73% of college-age Snapchat users said they would open a Snap from a brand they knew, and close to 70% of students said they’d add a brand on Snapchat if they followed them on Twitter. We never join a social network for the sake of joining, so we evaluated our resources and brainstormed a series of campaigns. As early adopters, we were taking a risk, but we felt confident we would be able to move forward with a robust and engaging presence. Next we starting dropping hints about the endeavor at guest lectures and on our existing social platforms. The majority of our responses were positive and our followers expressed excitement, however some scoffed at the idea of a university launching Snapchat– after all, at this time the platform perception still held the inaccurate notoriety of being a sexting app (less than 2% use the app for this purpose).


On February 26, 2014 after planning and hyping up the account, we revealed ‘uofmichigan’ on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We were immediately welcomed to the platform with an overwhelming amount of Snaps from students, prospective students, and alumni. Within the first week, we gained over 1,100 followers on Snapchat and received nearly 800 Snaps. This high engagement was extremely encouraging and we were excited to roll out our first of 80 campaigns executed last year.

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In the pioneering of this new social frontier, we identified the platform’s purpose through experiential campaigns. Through the dedication of a sole staff member to the platform, development of our artistic skills and storytelling abilities, we were able to claim the space and work towards becoming the Leaders and Best among higher education social media.

Crowdsourcing User-Generated Content

Through our long standing UMich social channels, we’ve learned the importance and value of actively engaging with our audience. Snapchat provided us with the opportunity to experiment with new strategies and original ways to reach our target demographics. Above all else, engagement remains one of the most important factors in our social metrics, and the environment Snapchat presents has proved to be a tremendous tool to cultivate relationships and collect user generated content. In one of our first Snapchat stories, we asked our followers to “Snap to the Victors” with us. As our first truly interactive story we were unsure of what to expect, but were more than pleased with our final result of over 150 submissions and more than 100 new followers!

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Since then we’ve added multiple “doodle stories” to our repertoire as well. In these, we ask our followers to screenshot and draw on one of our Snaps. From the Cube to campus squirrels, our community loves to help us crowdsource a story and we’ve received hundreds of submissions and thousands of screenshots. Best of all, we’ve seen many tweets from our users bragging on other social platforms that they’re now “Snapfamous” after being featured on our channel.

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#AskUMich on Snapchat

Strategically leveraging our growing Snapchat community has also provided us new ways to extend existing campaigns. During summer orientation, I acted as an ambassador to execute an #AskUMich campaign on Snapchat, answering questions and addressing concerns of incoming students through Snapchat’s chat feature. It was a very useful way to humanize our brand and the students genuinely appreciated our advice. They also appreciated the free t-shirt giveaways to help them be “on brand” come fall.

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 UMich Collaboration

Most recently, we’ve been working with many student organizations, university departments, and schools to help cover their events in a new and original way. Our Snapchat account is intended to act as the sole university account, enabling us to build bridges across the university and showcase the collective rather than create more silos. It is also a catalyst to demonstrate how other platforms and presences can be streamlined to better promote a united message. All of our efforts have truly revealed the power of Snapchat as a tool to cover campus events in real-time. You can see some of our efforts below:

 Geofilter Campaign Success


Another fantastic element of our Snapchat efforts has been the opportunity to capitalize on their continued development as a platform. After seeing the launch of Community Geofilters, we were so excited to bring them to our campus. We immediately had our design team create a few options, and then decided to make the process truly social by reaching out to our talented community. The success of this campaign helped further establish a connection with Snapchat, Inc., streamlining our results and also helping us gain access to another awesome feature, “Our Campus Stories.” When students returned from winter break, they were greeted by four custom Snapchat geofilters and the ability to add their Snaps to a collaborative Our Campus Story.

It’s been amazing to see our geofilters in action in tandem with the Our Campus Story. The shared content from our students is a great way to tell the University’s story in an authentic way.

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Everyday Interactions

Outside of our campaigns and call-to-actions, we estimate that we receive about 10-20 Snaps each day. From lecture hall selfies to snaps of our beautiful campus and acceptance letters, our followers are eager to engage with us on a regular basis. We’ve had so many a-maize-ing Snaps that we’ve taken to Pinterest to showcase them.

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Looking Ahead

Our first year with Snapchat has been a wonderful success story. When we first started the account, we had no way of knowing what results it might bring, but our preparation and innovation have positioned us again as leaders in higher education social media. It has been a lot of fun seeing our strategy develop and watching how other universities and brands utilize the platform.  We hope you’ll snap with us as the “UofMichigan’ story continues!


This post was written by Alexandra Fotis, Communications & Statistics junior- #UMSocial Strategy & Analytics intern. #StaySocial with her: @sisterfotis

Editing by @NikkiSunstrum, Director of Social Media at the University of Michigan


January 2015 @ UMSocial

January brings about new beginnings: a new year, new semester, and new opportunities to engage with our Wolverines. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on the past, identify what was accomplished, and establish what our next steps should be moving forward. After looking at this month alone, I have a strong feeling that 2015 will be an exciting year for our team and for the University of Michigan. As always, we present you with January’s monthly social-in-review, which highlights notable campaigns, social content, and digital innovations.



According to QS World University Rankings, UMich is the top public university in the United States. In order to bring students into the conversation, our team headed to one of the many organization fairs on campus to receive student input and reactions. We wanted to know, what sets Michigan apart from other universities? The set-up was simple enough: we had our cameras rolling and asked Wolverines to explain why UMich is their #1. In doing so, we were able to bring this numerical ranking to life and create a more personal narrative for our followers. As an incentive, students who offered up their own stories received T-Shirts that sported the new #1 ranking. The video was shared via Facebook, receiving 7.5K likes, 1.9K shares and 140 comments. We also saw traction on other other channels, including YouTube and Vine. We look forward to producing more student-generated video content this year.



January means winter, and winter in Michigan means that it is cold. With the risk of record low temperatures, students have to be safer than normal and bundle up to avoid frostbite! Our team braved the weather and surprised lucky individuals with hats, scarves, gloves, and hand warmers to help get them to class warm…Michigan style. We hinted that we would be doing an on-campus giveaway via Twitter the day before, and followed up with live updates of our location. Spontaneous giveaways of this sort allow for us to engage with the campus community and remind them that we truly care about our Wolverines.

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Additionally, we saw success on Twitter with our third #UMichChat, bringing in 912K impressions and an estimated reach of 325K, as well as content geared towards #SquirrelAppreciationDay. Read the full blog post here.



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In the first week of the month, we reached an Instagram milestone–50K followers. Using imagery from our #UMichMoments campaign, this post brought attention to our achievement, but also incorporated many of the fans that helped us get there in the first place. Our account would not function without user-generated content, and so it was important for us to take the time to thank our following for being so excited about anything and everything Michigan!

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On January 26, the state celebrated its 178th birthday. What better way to pay homage to our hoMe, than to throw a birthday party? In collaboration with Michigan Dining, Campus Information, and the Michigan Union, UMSocial brought a Maize & Blue party to campus, cupcakes and all. We saw positive response on Twitter the night before the event, and so we were eager to see how people would engage with us during the day-of. We were worried that we would have leftover snacks, and to our surprise we ended up running out in under an hour. This simple booth in a well-populated area brought in major crowds, drew awareness to our event, and resulted in positive feedback from fans on social media:

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Fan submissions from Michigan’s birthday


This month, we brought two new boards to our profile: Michigan Squirrels & College of LSA! Squirrel Appreciation Day offered the perfect opportunity to curate all of our squirrel content and streamline it into one unified place. Although we continually pin content relevant to LS&A, our uofmichigan channel did not dedicate a board entirely to the college. Once fully populated, this board will better direct students to the resources that they need regarding Literature, Science & the Arts. Interested in seeing your department or college represented? Please email!


In January, the campus community could engage with uofmichigan on Snapchat in more diverse ways than ever before, thanks to “Our Campus” story and the introduction of Michigan GeoFilters. We implemented a crowdsourced campaign to find the best designs, which resulted in  4 new filters on the platform showcasing different elements of the UMich and greater Ann Arbor community. We are continually excited to see our fans snap us, using the filters, as well as share positive feedback about the filters on other channels.

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In the past, especially during our “Dress That Squirrel” campaign, we’ve seen great success with interactive snap stories. Typically, our own story will include a CTA, such as ‘screen-shot the next image’ and perform X challenge, followed by encouraging users to chat us the results for a chance to be featured. These types of stories rarely feature prizes or giveaways because we’ve found that our Snapchat audience doesn’t necessarily need to be incentivized to participate–it’s fun and easy.

When the Travelocity Roaming Gnome made its way to Ann Arbor for Michigan Basketball game day, Snapchat was a unique platform to not only promote his presence on campus, but tie in another interactive campaign:

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Snaps courtesy of Travelocity Roaming Gnome 

The new year typically means a fresh start. We’re taking what we learned in 2014 and plan to improve the content, increase engagement, and bring better social activations to the university in 2015. Thanks for following along, and continue to #StaySocial with us this upcoming year!

 This post was written by Katie Szymanski, Communication and Digital Studies senior; #UMSocial editorial intern 

Geofilter Wrap-Up

We have had our eye on Snapchat’s Geofilters since their introduction in July ’14.  The opportunity to allow our already extremely active community a way to brand their snaps uniquely to our University and campus was highly appealing. So, as soon as Snapchat announced Community Geofilters our team hurried to dream up a few maize & blue options. Snapchat’s Community Geofilters allow anyone to design and submit their own concept and predetermined geographical location for consideration. While in the area users can then simply swipe left to discover what is available to them. In order to make the process truly social, our team decided to also engage our Snapchat community in filter creation.  The strategy and subsequent success of our Snapchat Geofilter Campaign actually helped to further establish a connection with Snapchat, Inc. and streamline our results!


In fact, being noticed by Snapchat as an innovative and engaging brand within their community also helped us gain access to another cool feature- Our Campus Stories. So upon arrival back to campus from winter break, students were not only greeted by FOUR custom Snapchat Geofilters, but also the ability to add their snaps to those other peers in a collaborative story that showcased the excitement of being back hoMe!

In total, the campaign garnered ten submissions; we submitted our top four. Each intended to showcase a different element of campus and the city of Ann Arbor. It has been really exciting to see our followers snapping us photos with the new filters and even more exciting to see the Geofilters in action in the Our Campus Stories. With the varied location availability of each filter we have also seen excitement within our community to find the exact location where each is accessible. We are deeming the campaign another clear success for our Snapchat presence and are looking forward to seeing what other features Snapchat rolls out next!

Very special shout-out to Peter (@the_muffin_flan) and Tracey (@the_tyfun) for the lovely Geofilter designs!


This post was written by Alexandra Fotis, Communications & Statistics student- #UMSocial Strategy & Analytics intern. #StaySocial with her: @sisterfotis

Show Us Your Best #Selfie – UofMichigan Joins Snapchat!


Snapchat. Wildly popular for allowing users to take photos/videos (“snaps”),  send them to friends for a predetermined length of time, and then have them magically disappear. Utilized by 77% of college students daily, on February 26th, the University of Michigan joined the likes of brands such as Taco Bell, Wet Seal, Audi, and McDonalds by launching a presence on the budding platform (username: uofmichigan), seizing a unique opportunity to build an audience, strengthen our creativity and connect with students in a unique and fun way.

While many may question if brands or even universities have a place on Snapchat – the numbers don’t lie:

“Almost half of college-age Snapchat users said they would open a Snap from a brand they’d never heard of, and 73% said they would open one from a brand they did know.
Close to 70% of students said they’d even add a brand as a friend if they also followed them on a separate social network like Facebook or Twitter.”

As with any new business or social endeavor, prior to entering the Snapchat domain, the #UMSocial team evaluated our resources and our content, as well as researched functions for brands. What would we put on this channel? How would we manage it? Would we have time to create content for this channel, consistently? Our top priority is always to fill our channels with creative content – we never just join a network for the sake of joining.

With a plan at hand, we began dropping hints to our students that our Snapchat was coming. The excitement was building, and we couldn’t wait to reveal the secret!

On the day of the launch, we posted the snapchat logo so students who were active on the network would know the rumors were true, and the excitement would continue to build…

An hour later, we officially revealed our new Snapchat account on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The results were overwhelming! Immediately, we were bombarded with follows and Snaps from our students, prospective students, and alumni.






In just one week, we’ve gained over 1100 followers on Snapchat, and received nearly 800 snaps. We’ve love seeing how our students are using the platform, and are excited to bring new and creative content to our channel. In addition to our students, we’ve also had a few interactions with the University of Houston, one of the first universities to join Snapchat.

While we are navigating uncharted waters, the fact that our primary audience is actively embracing our presence is tremendously encouraging. We are working on developing new campaigns both as the central uofmichigan account, and in partnership with our schools and organizations. This weekend, we will use Snapchat to connect with students, fans and alumni while on location at SXSW, and in the near future we intend to reveal creative opportunities to use Snapchat stories (multiple snaps added together to create a collective narrative that can be viewed for 24 hours). Further building brand awareness, advocates, and transparency.

Have an idea for how we could use Snapchat? Contact us