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In 2014, UMSocial’s Snapchat channel launched. We recognized the platform’s potential early on, and have been busy discovering its value and advocating for it ever since. Now, in 2016, it’s clear that brands that don’t have a Snapchat presence are doing themselves a great disservice. A quick look at the data shows why. Even in 2014, fully 77 percent of college students used Snapchat every day. A few more numbers: there are an estimated 200 million daily active users; 8,796 photos are shared every second; and 7+ billion videos are viewed every day. The app grew 57 percent in 2014, and is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms, if not the fastest. Snapchat is now more popular among American teens than Facebook, with 19 percent of 13-to-18-year-olds saying it’s the most important social network.

Staying out of Twitter and Facebook’s battle for the Second Screen, Snapchat is on its way to becoming the first screen. The app’s “Discover” tab enables users to keep up on the news by swiping left to access exclusive content from publications such as CNN, Vox, ESPN, Buzzfeed, and the Wall Street Journal. Cosmopolitan reported an average of 3 million views a day for their Discover tab content. And in the 13-to-34 demographic, about eight times as many people are viewing “Live Stories” instead of TV for similar events. Like any social media app, Snapchat is now taking advantage of the audience it worked so hard to cultivate, with money-making features like sponsored content and paid on-demand Geofilters. Snapchat owned 2015: in less than a year, it went from fun teen app to a media sensation that demands our attention.

Every digital marketer knows that millennials are spending increasingly more time on their phones and consuming more content on mobile media. But Snapchat is alone in the space it now occupies: a space that is purely mobile, shareable, ephemeral, quick to consume, and just plain fun. And its influence is apparent. Vertical content is becoming increasingly preferred, and other social media platforms are starting to catch up. Just recently, for example, Facebook launched a new full-screen, vertical advertising experience, which looks curiously similar to Snapchat Discover content.

At this point, it is impracticable to ignore Snapchat’s importance.

UMSocial’s Year with Snapchat

UMSocial saw the value of Snapchat from the beginning, and we understood that the platform could be one of the best ways to reach our most important demographic—our students. In the first year with Snapchat, we used our resources to experiment with different types of content to enhance engagement and build an audience with interactive stories. This year, with our audience growing steadily we can take a more strategic approach, supporting larger University of Michigan initiatives and communication plans.

In order to increase our team’s bandwidth and create more stories, we established a partnership with the College of Literature, Science, & the Arts (LSA) that highlights various academic departments and U-M’s impressive research activities. We also established Arts & Culture Thursdays, where we showcase everything from student performances to art fairs.

We understand the importance of putting our content where our people are. Information can only be salient if people see it. So instead of emailing students about tailgating safely during the MSU football game, we used a Snapchat Story that featured campus influencers, which garnered more than 90,000 thousand views. We partnered with U-M’s Division of Public Safety and Security to create a Story with similar messaging for the OSU game.

We also celebrated International Women’s Day, broke the silence about depression, welcomed our new athletic director hoMe, had a conversation about Islamophobia, and went behind the scenes with rapper and activist Common—just a few examples of the 75+ Snapchat stories we created since celebrating our first Snap-a-versary.

Looking ahead with UMSocial

A large part of our Snapchat strategy is leveraging its storytelling power. Reimagining content that could easily be a tweet and presenting it in a more dynamic, visual way can increase both viewership and ROI. Show, don’t tell, students about the art installation on campus. The 900-word email on how to stay safe won’t get nearly as much attention as the engaging Snapchat Story featuring fellow students. It’s a strategy can that be applied to any brand: Start with the message, then present it in a more visually engaging way. The media we consume is becoming increasingly visual, and Snapchat is aggressively filling this type of mobile gap.

As Snapchat continues to roll out functionality that is conducive to advertising, storytelling is still at the core of what makes their content work. As Snapchat develops into the media giant it promises to become, this core will continue to drive the app’s success. Follow ‘UofMichigan’ to see what our next year with Snapchat brings and enter today (March 21, 2016) for a chance to WIN the ultimate snap-cessory prize pack!

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