Using Snapchat To Gather User Generated Content From Around The World

Working in social media at a university, part of my job is to celebrate our diverse community and welcome new arrivals from across the globe to their friendly new home. There are a few tried and tested ways of doing this:

  1. Glossy photos of ethnically diverse happy smiley people all having fun together on campus
  2. Fancy videos of ethnically diverse happy smiley people all having fun together on campus
  3. Sharing user generated content from international students having fun on campus and experience life in a different country

But how do you do it if the people aren’t already on campus? How do you show all the different places around the world your students come from in an authentic way? How do you capture the excitement of new students who can’t wait to get to your campus? All while not having much spare time or budget? Simple:


If you didn’t already know, Snapchat lets people add geo-location information to their content in a fun visual style.

The Camden geofilter on snapchat at an Underground station

Camden is well punk

The designs can be user submitted or provided by Snapchat. They’re an easy way to boast where you currently are in your snaps in a fun visual way. Most filters also celebrate an aspect of the location’s culture or heritage and can be a point of pride for the people that live there. Basically, they’re something people like to share.

Having seen some filters on my travels, I was wondering what some of the filters around the world looked like. So I thought, why not get our new students to share their current location to see what filters are like where they are? Would also be cool to see how far people were coming to campus from around world.

So I put the request out on the university’s Snapchat account.

3 snaps from a story requesting people send their snaps from around the world featuring their geofilters

The response was incredible.

Different snapchat geofilters from Canada, Bahrain and Estonia

We received nearly 90 different geofilters from across the globe and shared the majority to our story, helping people see where their future classmates were coming from. Which for two guys, wasn’t that far at all.

Two snaps from Harpenden

Giving Instagram Stories a try

After putting the shout out on Snapchat, I wanted to see how our other story based channel would perform. So I put out a call on Instagram stories with the same request.

The response was nuts. We received nearly 120 replies with locations. Out doing Snapchat, but the audience is larger so that would be expected.

Sharing outside the channels

Getting the content on Snapchat and Instagram Stories was great, but we wanted as many people to see the stories as possible. So I shared the content to two of our key networks, Facebook and Twitter

Love seeing all the geo-filters from around the world being sent in by our new and returning students over on Snapchat….

Opslået af Newcastle University på 29. august 2017

This not only provided engaging content for these channels, it also drove new traffic to Snapchat helping gain new followers for the account.

Mapping the filters

We now had a load of cool pictures from our students around the UK and the world, and we’d added them to our stories for our audience to see. We’d also shared some on Twitter and Facebook to help drive more people to the full stories. But those stories would disappear after 24 hours. How could we keep the content alive?

It would be great if we could put a pin in these snaps to save them for later in a place people could see outside of Snapchat and Instagram. And that’s exactly what we did. We pinned them to the map and pinned the map to a blog post.

We were then able to share the blog post far and wide, or embed the map on other channels where needed.

Reusing the content from Snapchat and Instagram Stories this way helped us do a few things:

  1. Visualise the main point we were trying to make – our students come from all over the world
  2. Reuse content from some fairly closed channels
  3. Drive traffic to a key website for recruitment

All without spending too much time on the whole project.


But what does it all mean? What did doing this actually achieve? Well, other than me getting to see loads of cool geofilters here are some numbers:

  • Our most replied to Snapchat story of the year
  • A retention rate on Snapchat of 56% – which considering the story was 65 snaps long is huge
  • Content for Facebook with 21% organic reach (100% the monthly average at the time) and engagement levels 51% higher than the monthly average
  • Tweets with engagement rates 362% higher than the monthly average

And that’s just on social media. We don’t currently have any sentiment analysis but attaching the content to the #weareinternational hashtag (ran to help promote UK universities as open to international students) we extended our reach through key stake holders.

Considering the tough environment for international recruitment and retention for UK universities at the moment, we had healthy numbers this year. If this content helped just slightly towards that, then that’s only a good thing.

About Matt Horne

I'm a broadcaster and social media guy who makes digital content and spends too much time on the internet so you don't have to.

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