For the past few years, social networking has been a core component of the way organizations get news to their current and potential participants. Companies interested in connecting with their audience will typically have Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as other networks like Tumblr, Instagram, and LinkedIn, specifically for their brand.
In an attempt to reach a broader audience and keep in better contact, some student organizations on Main Campus have turned to a different social network: Snapchat.
Students can now add Temple Student Government and the Main Campus Program Board as their “friends” on Snapchat and receive periodic updates. While this seems like a good call, automatically leaping on board the current bandwagon without determining if it’s a good fit might not be the best course of action for an organization. Successful use of social media depends on correct use.
For student organizations, a strong social media presence is already a necessity. TSG currently has a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Foursquare account, a Youtube account and an Instagram account. Of these, their most popular accounts are Twitter and Instagram, with 3,412 and 1,198 followers, respectively. However, at a university of more than 30,000 students, these numbers could definitely be better.
To increase outreach and participation, it makes sense that the organization would delve into a new and widespread platform like Snapchat. This begs the question though, why is Snapchat popular? Is it the kind of service that TSG and other student organizations need, or is it just another unnecessary fad that’s used by people who just want to share doodles and pictures of their friends doing funny things?
Snapchat seems, to me, like it isn’t even a social networking service. It’s more closely related to a texting service. It allows interaction between generally two people: the sender and receiver of the “snap.” At most, the sender can send a photo to multiple friends, or add it to his or her “story” so anyone that they are friends with on Snapchat can see it. While this is great for amusing distractions or individual moments, it doesn’t seem ideal for sharing actual information.
Like Twitter, Snapchat is limiting. However, while Twitter’s 140 characters are enough for a brief explanation and a link or a photo, Snapchat is even more restrictive with 10 seconds of maximum viewing time and at most 31 characters. So far, the extent of TSG’s activity does seem to be posting snippets of activity to the story feed. Their snaps feature images of sponsored events like TSGLive and images of members of the organization. While it’s a good way to show what they’re doing, it’s hard to imagine that a series of brief images will help tremendously with spreading the word about campus events.
Many students, it seems, share this confusion.
“Why do they even need one?” said sophomore Science and Technology student Dana Russell. “I guess they can send out Snapchats to everyone, but that would require people manually adding them.”
Russell raises an interesting point – being friends with TSG on Snapchat already shows a level of involvement that indicates a student would likely be aware of events, whether or not Snapchat reminds them.
TSG shared a picture of one of the fliers for an on-campus event at Morgan Hall. The picture stayed on-screen for about five seconds, which wasn’t nearly enough time to read the details of the event, such as what it’s about and what groups will be there. To see the image again, you need to wade through half a minute of other images. While that doesn’t seem like a significant amount of time, it’s not nearly as efficient as checking just TSG’s Twitter or just looking at one of the fliers in person.
Another snap features a Temple News article about the Snapchat account’s launch. While this informs students that there is an article to be read, it really doesn’t help convey information beyond that.
One of the reasons for the account is also communication between students and the group, not just for the group to broadcast out information about campus events. This seems like a good idea in theory, but is again limited by Snapchat’s restrictions. In the brief 10 seconds an image is shown, a student trying to raise awareness about something would need to convey a lot of information in a simple way, which is difficult enough without trying to do it on a cell phone.
“I think having a social media presence can make it easier to spread information,” said Aaron Gross, a sophomore engineering major. “But I don’t know that Snapchat makes sense as a medium for what they’re doing.”
Social media platforms are excellent ways to get messages out to a lot of people. In some areas, the TSG Snapchat succeeds by showing what happens at campus events and what students are doing. In other areas, like spreading the word about events and increasing communication, the plan is a little bit flawed.
While there is a possibility that this could change, it seems that organizations trying to reach out to more students may have misstepped here. While there’s nothing wrong with Snapchat as a service or a medium, it’s not exactly what these organizations should be looking for in a social media outlet.
Jason Peppercan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @pepperjasona