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#HigherEd Snapchat Case Study: How To Use Geofilters On Campus

Here at Social Media Strategies Summit we believe that social media is a necessary piece of any organization’s marketing and/or communication strategy. Whether you are Fortune 500 company, a non-profit organization or a institution of higher education.

In addition to our three annual #SMSSummit events in SF, Chicago and NYC we also put on an event aimed specifically at marketing/communication/admission professionals within the world of higher education.  

Last year we were joined by Jason Boucher (@PortsmouthJay) who is the Social Media Manager at University of New Hampshire. He presented a couple case studies about how University of New Hampshire has integrated Snapchat into their social media strategy, including how they successfully used “geo filters” to run a contest that had a line out the door at a fundraising event not typically well attended by students.

Chances are if you work in the marketing or communication departments at a university, you have heard about Snapchat. If your university has yet to develop a strategy for how to get on Snapchat, now is the time. According to a 2014 Business Insider survey 77% of college students use snapchat daily.



A more recent survey conducted by LendEdu estimates that 58% of college students are checking Snapchat before they are checking any other social media platform. In fact, if they were to open up their phone and see notifications from Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat & LinkedIn, they would choose to check Snapchat first.

As Jason Boucher said in his presentation at last year’s #SMSSummit, the team at University of New Hampshire has set up accounts on all major social media platforms, but have really focused on Snapchat because they “want to fish where the fish are”.

What are Geo-Filters?

Geo-filters are a Snapchat platform feature that works based on the location of a user’s mobile phone and has contributed to it’s popularity because it provides a fun way for users to show off where they are in the world with a customized filter.

The case studies that we are going to focus on today are based on using geo-filters in order to drive engagement from students, but before we get into how the University of New Hampshire used geofilters, it is important to know that there are a couple different types of geo-filters.

Community Geo-Filters: Free

These type of filters are meant for public consumption rather than marketing or sales purposes, therefore Snapchat doesn’t allow for businesses to submit community geo-filters. It also does not allow the use of hashtags or logos, with the only exception being logos submitted by authorized officials at a college or university. Meaning that universities could still submit community geo-filters with their logo attached, but of course there is no guarantee that it would be selected. 

On-Demand Geo-Filters: Paid

The geo-filters can be bought by anyone for any occasion, anywhere in the world, at a remarkably cheap price (as little as $5 per hour, depending on the location). These can be used by universities to promote special events like commencement, big sporting events, new student week, admission fairs, etc.

The importance of this underpriced asset needs to be underlined. Below you will see a screenshot that will demonstrate just how cheap it is to run a geo-filter on campus. I was able to draw a geo-fence around the main buildings on the University of New Hampshire’s campus (over 6 million square feet) and the total still only came out to $18.99 for one hour.

If you want to get an estimate of what it would cost to run a geo-filter around a particularly popular place on campus all you’ve gotta do is go to the Snapchat geo-filter page, select any pre-made geo-filter (just for testing purposes), select a date, and then choose the area you are interested in running a customized filter.



Democratic Debate:

One of the great things about being in New Hampshire is that every four years the state becomes the center of attention due to it’s “First-In-The-Nation-Primary”. In 2016 UNH hosted a Democratic primary debate between Bernie Sanders & Hillary Clinton.

Prior to the debate the UNH social media team were given some pointers by one of Snapchat’s political reporters about how to send snaps with appropriate geofilters so that they could be included in the national Snapchat debate story. Those pointers definitely paid off when one of the UNH snaps was put into the national debate story and received 1.21 million views on one of the Snaps.


150 Year Celebration:

Last year marked the 150th anniversary since the founding of UNH in 1866. In celebration of 150 years and as a kickoff to homecoming week, the administration decided to throw the first fundraising event of a two-year long campaign at Whittemore Arena (UNH’s hockey arena).

The challenge was figuring out how to engage students and incentivize them to show up to a fundraiser. The UNH team quickly decided that Snapchat was going to be the platform and geo-filters was going to be the catalyst to participation.

So in order to incentivize students to show up to the fundraising event, the UNH social media team came up with an idea to run a contest where they would create an on-demand geo-filter that students could interact with for a chance to win tickets to a popular hockey event at Fenway Park.

In order to keep the geo-filters relevant and affordable, the UNH team drew a geo-fence around the Wildcat statue that sits in front of Whittemore Arena. This statue is already a popular spot for students to take photos, but once the campaign kicked off and word spread around campus, it became a destination spot that students went out of their way to visit during their daily schedule.

One of the important things about running social campaigns is making sure that the barrier to entry is low enough for students to participate and that the incentive is of equal (perceived) value to the time & commitment you are asking of the students.

For example, this particular contest only required that students take a picture of themselves using the geo-filter and then Snap it to the UofNH snapchat account. There were two other things that the UNH team did that was crucial to keeping engagement throughout a week long campaign: giving away daily prizes (UNH sweatshirts) and announcing the grand prize winner (4 tickets to Frozen Fenway) live at the event on Friday night.

Giving away daily prizes keeps the contest relevant on a daily basis and plays into the native culture of Snapchat, where students are constantly checking back in for updates from their favorite accounts. Waiting to announce the grand prize winner exclusively at the fundraising event and requiring attendance proved to be successful because before the doors opened, there was a line down the street of students waiting to get in. 

Not to mention that the UofNH Snapchat account was seeing 1,000+ views on each snap during the week of the contest, when it was regularly receiving 400-600 views per Snap. All told the campaign only cost $600, including the 4 tickets to Frozen Fenway, plus the round trip Amtrak tickets and the cost of the geo-filter! 

Another reason that setting up contests where you are asking for student submissions is a good idea is that the photos and videos they Snap your team can then be turned into fun content to share with your network. Here is a handful of the Snaps the UNH social media team received from students. 



If you weren't able to make it out to last year's #SMSSummit for Higher Education, this presentation was jam-packed with more information about how universities can be using Snapchat to communicate with their current student body, as well as how it can be used as a recruitment tool for future students.

You can find out how the UNH team drew attention to the Frozen Fenway contest as well as learn about some other creative contests that UNH has ran on Snapchat by downloading the PDF version of the presentation as well as the MP3 version from our #SMSSummit Content Library.

We'll also be back in Boston November 2nd & 3rd for our annual social media event dedicated to higher education professionals. If you're interested in learning more about the event, including our speaker line-up and agenda, click this link!

Kaliko Castille photo

Kaliko Castille (@WizKaliko) manages partnerships for GSMI’s conference portfolio, including #SMSSummit & #SRSC. He is a self-taught digital marketer, brand strategist, and entrepreneur who is endlessly fascinated by how the internet is constantly creating new ways for both humans and brands to connect.

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