So many organisations are still trying to get their heads around using Snapachat and understanding where it might fit into the comms mix. This new case study is a very useful place to begin.
by Albert Freeman
The Takeover Challenge is an annual event when young people take over adult roles for a day to gain experience of a working environment. At Bradford Council we experimented with Snapchat to engage young people taking part in the Takeover Challenge locally.
We used Snapchat in two ways:
1. We created a geofilter for young people to use in their own Snaps during the day
2. we used our own Snapchat Story to show what some of the participants were doing
A Snapchat geofilter is an overlay, available at a given location, that users can put on top of their photos or videos before sharing their Snaps. Creating a geofilter is a good way to engage people and encourages user-generated content.
We made a Takeover Challenge geofilter that was available at eight locations across the Bradford district on 18 November. We worked with people from Barnardos to consult young people on the idea and the design to check it was something they wanted and were likely to use.
Submitting our geofilter to Snapchat was fairly straightforward. One thing I learnt this time is that if a geofilter is wanted at several discreet buildings, it can be cheaper to upload it multiple times with geofences drawn round individual buildings, rather than trying to draw one large geofence covering several buildings.
On the day, we had posters up encouraging people to use the geofilter, and we promoted the geofilter on Twitter and Instagram.
The metrics for an on-demand geofilter are useful, but quite basic. You get to find out how many times your geofilter has been shared on Snaps, and how many times those Snaps have been seen on Snapchat. This meant that splitting our geofilter into smaller areas also meant that we would be able to see which buildings it was used in most.
So far so good. We felt we had a good plan and had involved the right people. However, our Snapchat metrics showed that across all eight locations, our geofilters were only used in 13 Snaps and were seen a total of 820 times. On the face of it, these are low figures.
There are several reasons for these metrics being so low. One is that Snapchat’s metrics only count a geofilter that is shared in a Snap within the app. If somebody uses the geofilter and saves it to their Snapchat Memories without sharing it, that doesn’t get counted. We know that several young people used our geofilter in this way, just saving their image straight to their Memories. In fact, that’s how most of the content for our own Story, created by roving reporters out during the day, was generated. So we know the true number of uses was higher than 13. We also found there was some inconsistency with which devices picked up the geofilter in some locations. We never found out why that was.
Another issue that I didn’t anticipate was whether young people on the Takeover Challenge felt they should be using Snapchat during the day. Because it was a school day, and these young people were “at work”, we’ve since heard that some of them felt they shouldn’t be using Snapchat during the day. We should have made it clearer to them that normal rules did not apply on this day.
For our own Snapchat Story, we had two workers from Barnardos travelling around the district with young people as roving reporters. They carried iPads to get photos and short video clips of young people on the Takeover Challenge. We used a Slack team for us to keep in touch during the day and for them to share their content with me back at base. I then added their best photos and videos to our Snapchat Story throughout the day.
Each item in our Story got 70 to 80 views before it expired 24 hours later, and I have since archived the whole Story to YouTube for people to look back at. As well as the advantage of being permanently visible, the YouTube story also benefits from being more accessible than the original Snapchat Story. It’s easy to add subtitles to a YouTube video, but Snapchat doesn’t yet support subtitles.
So, was this Snapchat experiment a success? Looking at the numbers alone, it would be hard to paint this as anything other than a disappointing level of engagement considering the work involved. However, there are a number of positives from our experience.
As mentioned above, we know that the true number of uses of our geofilter was higher than the official stats. If Snapchat can improve upon their very basic metrics (for instance, to include uses of a geofilter that are shared straight to a user’s Memories) this would help creators measure usage more accurately.
Consulting with young people on the design and encouraging user-generated content worked well. The people we worked with were enthusiastic about it, and this shows the value of considering the end users. And as Young Scot demonstrated with their Bad Romance project, Snapchat can be a highly effective way for the public sector to engage young people.
I don’t feel obliged to contrive ways to use Snapchat just because we have it. If we can learn from the barriers we faced, it would be worth doing something similar again when working with young people in the future.
At the moment, unlike Twitter, Snapchat doesn’t feel like something we have to use for every campaign and at every event, and it doesn’t have an algorithm that punishes inactivity. So we will just wait for the right occasion to use it again.
If you have had any other public sector experience of effectively engaging young people using Snapchat, I’d like to hear about it. I’m @albfreeman on Twitter.
Albert Freeman is corporate communications and marketing officer at the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council
image via National Library of Ireland