Yesterday while browsing the #IS6621 feed, a headline from @BobbyGooch3 caught my attention:
“Snapchat Opens Geofilters So Anyone Can Submit Location-Based Artwork”
As most of you know, the office I work in here at Boston College is in charge of all of the official social media accounts for the university. And while I work closely in helping with campaigns and ideas, and consult as a consumer here and there, there are other staff members who take on the brunt of the social media work. One person manages the Twitter feed and it’s persona. Another monitors Facebook and Instagram. And along with the help of our great #BC360 student interns the BC Social pages can thrive without much assistance.
But what you might not know, is that Snapchat is a completely different animal. This has been my pet project since Day 1. I pitched the idea of creating a university account to engage with students after I saw brands had begun to do so successfully. I thought it would be fun, and a creative way to interact in an informal way that other platforms couldn’t. But I had to sell the idea of this inherently silly platform to people who had never even used it, and create a full launch campaign for the first day before it was even approved. But it was, and it became my responsibility, my personal phone became BCSnap HQ, and I immediately started brainstorming ideas to help it take off.
Since the launch, we’ve done a couple successful campaigns and giveaways, and gotten plenty of positive feedback. But the analytics are still dicey, and worse yet people were still occasionally asking, “Whats the point?” Admittedly, the adoption rate for Snapchat was still yet to be seen. That is, until yesterday, when Snapchat evolved the platform, and so did we.
After I saw Bobby’s tweet and the TechCrunch article, I knew that this was a unique opportunity for the university. For those of you who don’t know, Geofilters are filters that Snapchat offers only within a certain geographic area. So if you were at College GameDay at South Carolina and took a Snap, you could scroll to the right for a unique filter only available to you and the other people in the stadium. They were cool, exclusive, and were being used primarily for huge (paid) events like GameDay and New York Fashion Week.
But by opening them up to the public to submit, Snapchat has created an entirely new way for businesses to use Snapchat, and I wanted BC to be at the front of the universities utilizing it.
Their instructions were simple, and they provided a template users could use to create their design. I opened Illustrator, and went to work putting everything else to the side. I eventually came up with a filter we liked enough, uploaded it to the Snapchat website, chose the geographic location to make it available, and waited for their approval. I didn’t know if it would take days, weeks, or get approved at all.
But just thirty minutes later, we began getting Snaps from excited students that their school had its own unique, filter. They send them to friends at other schools, and add them to their Story for everyone to see. Prospective students and jealous alums were snapping as well, all in awe of the fact that BC has something that no other university did. As of the time of positing this blog, the WeAreBC Story featuring the new filter had been viewed over 900 times. And then it crept onto other platforms, even getting a RT from the official Snapchat account to it’s 434,000+ followers.
So that was exciting (and self promotional), but all of this made me wonder about the future of Snapchat for business. It’s been discussed in the class through posts and presentations, but this is a new wrinkle where Snapchat can begin create revenue. Imagine if Gillette Stadium had it’s own filter for every Patriots game. Or if Taylor Swift could have one for each city on her worldwide tour. These are huge businesses, huge events, and would all be willing to pay to give their fans a unique experience, and one they could hand design.
But on a smaller scale, consumer businesses that have created their own cultures could use this to promote their brand, and get people talking on social about their stores. Like a Starbucks filter, for example, that promoted new lattes or gave special discounts. Or companies like SoulCycle and DisneyLand, who have apparently already gotten on board with the Geofilter craze. Consumers support businesses who understand them and speak their language. And so if the consumers are on Snapchat, it makes sense for businesses to be there too.
Professor Kane has discussed how just having one little feature can propel a business to the front of the pack. At the beginning, all Snapchat had was the fact that the photos disappeared after a few seconds, but that proved to be a huge differentiator. They turned down a rumored $3-4 billion offer from Facebook, which many people thought was simply crazy or arrogant or both. But if they keep evolving on the fly with ideas as good as the newly minted Snapcash and branded geofilters, they’re going to become harder and harder for brands to ignore. They already have a massive active user base and a ridiculous amount of data on a highly sought after demographic. Once the money starts coming in from other brands, the possibilities for Snapchat are endless, and that valuation may not be as crazy as most people originally thought.