Stephens College tries Snapchat to reach students

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:02 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2014

This video shows Stephens College's latest Snapchat story. In a Snapchat story, images and videos play in succession.

COLUMBIA — Some people use it to send quick pictures of the dog. Others, for racy or potentially embarrassing images. Still others, unflattering selfies and silly videos. But Stephens College is using the mobile app Snapchat to communicate with its students.

Last week, the school started an account under the username stephenscollege and received 50 followers in its first day. The goal in these early days is to reach incoming freshmen, said Janese Silvey, story specialist at Stephens who runs the account.

Snapchat allows users to send "snaps" or photos with added messages or doodles to friends for up to 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the image permanently disappears. Users can also create "stories," in which multiple images and videos play in succession. Stories can be replayed for up to 24 hours.

A February survey by Sumpto, a network of college students that promote brands on social media, showed that 77 percent of college students use Snapchat daily.

Silvey said the suggestion to use Snapchat came from Stephens College President Dianne Lynch. Silvey said she was initially skeptical about sending something that would disappear in such a short amount of time. But after asking incoming freshmen about it on the freshmen 2014 Facebook group, she decided to give it a try.

"The response (on Facebook) was really overwhelming," she said. "Yes, they're using it. Yes, they wanted to see Stephens using it. They wanted to see pictures of campus, pictures of dorm rooms and pictures of hot spots in Columbia to get to know Columbia before they move to town."

Silvey did just that. Since its creation last week, she has posted photos daily from around campus and Columbia. She said she has received a few responses from the nearly 200 contacts who follow the account.

"I've even had a few send the Stephens account direct snaps," Silvey said. "One sent me a photo that said, 'Yay Stephens is on Snapchat,' and another sent a picture of her high school graduation tassel."

Silvey said a lot of students set their "stories" to show things they are packing for college, such as Stephens T-shirts.

According to a recent article in Time magazine, at least six other universities are using Snapchat around the nation. But uses vary. At Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., the focus is athletics. Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tenn., uses Snapchat for recruiting.

Kyle Bruce, assistant sports information director and social media coordinator at Eastern Washington University, said the ewuathletics account is primarily used to alert students to promotions and giveaways at athletics events.

Bruce also asks students to send in their sports snaps. He said Eastern Washington started using Snapchat in November 2013 at home football playoff games.

"It’s unique in that the way of communicating is different than Twitter or Facebook," Bruce said. "We try to have fun with it. Students respond well when we use emojis because that’s how they talk." Emojis are small digital images that express emotions or ideas through  texting. 

Silvey said Stephens' goal in using Snapchat is to better reach the student target audience. She said sees a lot of uses for it when school starts.

"I'm easing into it this summer, but I think by the time that school rolls around we'll be more interactive with it — a scavenger hunt being one activity," she said. "I'm definitely going to publicize campus events and promote when we have our informational sessions."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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