Meet the Snapchat marketing superstar in UAE’s higher education scene: Osaid Azeem. A pivotal figure at Canadian University Dubai’s marketing & communications team. Originally taken from our interview notes on blog.Ubrik.com , here’s how Osaid has turned an informal app such as Snapchat into a Generation Z (the demographic cohort after the Millennials) crowd puller.
How did the Snapchat ‘story’ begin for CUD?
To be honest, when Snapchat began gaining popularity, it did not appeal to me at first sight. I immediately compared it to Instagram and found the poorer image quality and limited text off-putting. I first really experienced Snapchat through ‘CUDSnaps’. It all started when I was covering our graduation event; I noticed all the students with their phones out snapchatting the event live! It became obvious to me this was a gold mine. If Snapchat is what our target demographic wanted, Snapchat is what they would get!
Did you run any activity to announce the launch?
Although we did announce the launch of CUDSnaps on most of our mainstream communication platforms, I found we never had to market it aggressively. Our following grew quickly and soon doubled; making CUDSnaps the most popular communication channel among students within the university.
What was your first experience on Snapchat like?
First time I ever used Snapchat, I didn’t know where exactly to go, to be honest. Visually, it didn’t appeal to me. Once I started using it a little bit more I came to appreciate that while it was very different from Instagram, it had it’s own quirky appeal. CUDSnaps started with me literally walking around campus and posting about campus life. Since most students don’t know who handles the social media posts for the university, I could hide in plain sight! The hype caught on quickly, and soon all the students had their eyes peeled for the CUD snaps guy!
Tell us more about the creative genius behind the CUD Snapchat account
As the buzz around CUD’s Snapchat grew, so did student curiosity! I remember tons of students replying to our snaps saying “Who are you?”. I think the fact that I never featured on any of the snaps added to the mystery. Snapchat always had me where the action was, so there were rumors it was being run by a student! Today Snapchat is by far our most effective means of communication, emails and SMSs in my experience are far less effective with the students. Most of them make sure they check snaps at least once a day because if you don’t- Poof! The story is gone.
How has Snapchat affected the management & business communications?
I’m proud of the fact that we were the first university in UAE to have an official Snapchat account. I noticed other universities in Canada launch their Snapchat accounts roughly 10 months after CUD snaps was launched.
Is there a best way to manage an official Snapchat account?
At first, I ran the Snapchat account all on my own. As it gained popularity and the variety of events featured on the platform grew, I knew I couldn’t be in two places at once so I developed a team of students that I could count on, and had them ‘take over’ CUD Snapchat for a day. Having students run the account intermittently helped me manage my workload, switched it up and kept things fresh as well.
Snapchat is probably one of the more challenging social media platforms in terms of management since it involves a lot of “winging it”. I come up with most of the Snapchat content on the spot. If there are multiple events at the same time, it can also get tricky for one person to juggle coverage since multiple people cannot log in to the account at the same time.
What do you say is the best feature of Snapchat?
Geo filters. It took me 6 months to get a geo filter for CUD and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be! First, you create a geofence. This designates the area where you want the filter to be available. Next, Snapchat’s map tool is used to create the fence and finally, a PNG file is uploaded. If you go to CUD right now, turn on the filters, you will be able to swipe and see the Canadian University Dubai geo filter.
How have other universities in the UAE reacted from this?
There are only a few other universities that have started using Snapchat since we launched CUD snaps. Their snaps, however, are more information oriented and in my opinion, that is not what Snapchat works best for. Like I said, it is a time-consuming platform to manage well, I think that may be why most universities may shy away from using it too much.
Do you see any threat coming in from Instagram & Facebook stories?
Not actually. As long as the youth get their privacy unlike other apps, Snapchat is here to stay.
Is there any secret formula to Snapchat success?
Right place, Right time. Snapchat was developed for a generation with a tiny attention span – that’s why it is so dynamic, visual and each snap only lasts 10 seconds. I would recommend keeping stories short and posting six snaps or less per story. Since you can skip snaps with the touch of a thumb, posts have to stay creative and stay relevant. The last thing you want is followers skipping through after 3 seconds because you couldn’t grab their attention in time.
Can you mention the various content-types featured so far?
Even if it’s a formal open house event, there’s always a need to come up with something interesting. Our posts vary from announcements to humour, competition, and informative stuff.
– We’ve shown lecturers to events to even our cats on campus.
– We had the ex-president of Canada visit us. Such posts let our students know what’s happening elsewhere.
– We announce registration deadlines for internal & external programs.
– We’ve promoted giveaway of tickets for competitions. This would always attract a lot of attention. I would walk around campus, mention on Snapchat that I’m walking around such and such place. Whoever comes over to find me first gets a free concert ticket. I could actually see students racing towards me. In case there’s a tie or a problem, we would take the competition further. We would ask audiences to take screenshots and whoever gets the highest number wins. These generate a lot of buzz.
– I may want a student to drop a line of Drake, just a single line. And whoever would get the most number of screenshots wins.
– Use filters. Recently Snapchat had a tomato filter on. I had one of the students become the CUD tomato, and she would announce today’s events in the university. That’s another way to build characters.
– Use emoji’s. For example the balloon emoji. I got a student to act like they’re holding it. Then they leave it, and I would move the camera upwards as though the balloon is flying up. Here’s another one: I got three students who were standing in line to bow down when a plane emoji went over them. That grabbed attention, after which we mentioned that we were going for the Dubai air show.
– I would plan a dance video. Next, we would Interconnect Snapchat to other platforms. Beyond 10 seconds, viewers need to visit our Instagram channel or YouTube page to watch the whole gig. Our Ju Ju challenge generated 2500 Instagram views at no extra paid promotion.
– We’ve currently got the mannequin challenge underway. Find what’s trending and get the university into the same.
What next? Get-started and let us know how things work out for you.
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