It’s time to stop using Snapchat

October 17, 2014 Kevin DeShazo Social Media Education, Social Media Strategy 0 Comments

I’ve sat staring at this screen, typing and deleting, for about 30 minutes. I’ve written probably 20 paragraphs and end up starting over again. And I keep simply coming back to this:

For my friends in higher education and college athletics, it’s time to stop using Snapchat as a marketing tool to reach students. We must be educators (and parents and coaches) first, marketers last.

Snapchat is, of course, the sexy new tool (if we can still call it new). In the last year, brands/teams/schools have been rushing to the platform to reach the coveted teenage crowd. They throw stats at you like 77% of college students use it every day. 85% of their users are under 24. 700 million snaps are shared per day.

Enough numbers to make a marketer start salivating. Enough numbers to cause us to get no less than 3–5 calls each week from athletic departments wanting help with a Snapchat strategy. Calls that we’ve had to repeatedly end with, “Sorry, we won’t help you. Good luck.”

Enough numbers to make this opinion an unpopular one.

I’ve written enough about Snapchat from a marketing perspective (you can read all of those posts here). This isn’t about marketing, though. It’s not about trying new platforms to see if you can better reach an audience. It’s about setting an example, holding ourselves as educators to a higher standard about the message we send to students.

Because what we’re telling them when we use Snapchat to market to them is this:

  • We want you to use a service that promised your pictures disappeared when in fact that was a lie from day one. A lie that resulted in Snapchat settling with the federal government, agreeing to be monitored for 30 years. That’s not just growing pains, as some have called it. That’s fraud.
  • We want you to use a service that had the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million users leaked and responded with nothing more than, “hackers are bad.” This could’ve been prevented, they were even warned about it, but they weren’t concerned
  • We want you to use a service that plants the lie in your mind that, “Hey, this is private and it’s gone in 10 seconds.” That train of thought encourages poor decisions.
  • We want you to use an app that, with their new Our Story feature, sits and looks at every picture and video submitted, choosing which ones get to appear in the public story. And, in fact, is looking at and analyzing every picture and video you post, period. (update October 2015: Snapchat’s updated privacy policy/terms of service lets is store and reuse your photos/videos)
  • We want you to use a service where you have absolutely no control over the images and videos you send, as we yet again found out with #TheSnappening — the release of over 100,000 pictures and videos originally posted to Snapchat. An act where Snapchat yet again deflected blame, and has done little to actually protect users. 

Would you say those statements to your kids? Of course not. Most of these, when viewed through the lens of a parent, would make you angry. Your response wouldn’t simply be, “They’re going to use it regardless of my feelings about it.”

I’m in no way suggesting that everything on Snapchat is bad. Of course it isn’t. Some experts will tell you that only 2% of college kids sext on Snapchat (except the real stat is that 2% of college students said they primarily use Snapchat for sexting — that’s significantly different). At every campus I visit, when I ask students if they use Snapchat, almost every hand goes up and there is always, always a ton of nervous giggling. In our survey, 41% of college athletes say they’ve posted something inappropriate on Snapchat – twice as many as have posted something inappropriate on another platform.

I’ve been on 3 college campuses this week, speaking with over 1200 students and student-athletes. At every stop, I asked them if they were area of #TheSnappening. A total of 12 raised their hands — not 12 at each school, 12 total. This is a problem. They had no idea that their pictures had been compromised by users who were using 3rd party Snapchat apps (apps that some people actually encourage students to use, which is a blatant invasion of privacy). At each program there was a collective gasp. This didn’t surprise me, but it is a problem.

Meanwhile, in the past week I’ve seen a number of colleges and athletic departments start using Snapchat to market to and reach students (many others, as said earlier, were already on it).

We are thinking like marketers, not educators. We are too busy rushing to the platform “because the kids are on it” and not taking the time to actually talk to them about what the app really is (and isn’t) and thinking about what our actions say. We are not Taco Bell, MTV, McDonald’s or other corporations chasing dollars. We are responsible for molding a generation to be responsible, successful leaders. We can’t expect them to make good, mature decisions when we are telling them to be in places that encourage them to make poor, inappropriate decisions. We should set different standards for how we operate, meaning we should look different than for-profit organizations. We shouldn’t lower those standards for the sake of “engagement” or any other marketing buzzword.

We can throw out all of the fancy stats and supposed “success” that brands are having on Snapchat all we want. At some point we have to take a hard look at ourselves and ask what we’re doing.

In the world of education, we have to be more than just marketers.

Fieldhouse Media is an award-winning firm dedicated to helping athletics departments get the most out of their social media efforts, from educating student-athletes and staff to providing an overall strategy. To find out more about us or to join the more than 60 schools utilizing our services for their athletics department, contact us today.

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