Park and recreation departments depend on generation after generation of park visitors to ensure their sustainability in the community. This reality means that Generation Z (individuals born from 2000 to the present) and millennials (those born from 1981 to 1999) are the future of your park and recreation strategy, and the customers of the immediate future, who you should start engaging with now. By increasing the awareness of younger citizens about their local park and recreation offerings, park departments can not only help them stay active and value natural resources, but also build relationships that can last for decades.
Snapchat is one social media platform, park and recreation leaders must use to reach the digitally tethered members of Gen Z and millennials. If what you know about Snapchat is limited to the social media photos of individuals sporting digital bunny ears, then it’s time you learned everything a park and reaction leader needs to know about this wildly successful communication platform, and how it can become a critical component of your quest to engage the two groups.
Snapchat is a free mobile messaging application used to share photos, videos, drawings and text messages. Originally intended to encourage a more natural flow of interaction, what sets it apart from other social platforms is that its messages disappear from the recipient’s smartphone after only a few seconds. This feature is why Snapchat’s branding includes the now-iconic ghost symbol. This disappearing act is also what initially made the app so popular among young social users. Snapchat is also entirely mobile, which means its users can only access the platform from a mobile device.
How Snapchat Works
Snapchat, which evolved from a public entity and camera company, called Snap, offers the following functionality:
- Live one-to-one video chats
- The ability to create personalized caricature-like avatars
- Sharing of chronological “stories” comprised of videos, photos and captions with followers
- The ability to discover custom content from major publishers and brands
- Private media storage
- The ability to add augmented reality (AR) filters to photos and videos (those bunny ears you’ve been seeing)
- The ability to showcase a user’s live location on a world map
Who Is Snapping?
According to Omnicore, Snapchat currently boasts more than 300 million users, 188 million of which use the app daily. Seventy-one percent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old, and its user base spends an average of more than 30 minutes a day with the platform and opens the app 25 times per day. These statistics indicate that young members of your community are heavily engaged with Snapchat and that this social platform offers an affordable (read: free) platform on which to promote your events, activities, classes and the natural resources of your parks and trail systems to its users.
Snapchat Connection Strategies
Gen Z and millennial Snapchat users share a common personality trait: FOMO (fear of missing out). It is a social perspective that motivates young social media users to attend events because they are afraid of being the only person from their social sphere not in attendance (and not posting photos and videos to social networks). By promoting your local events, upcoming classes and park systems to an interconnected body of FOMO-motivated young people, you can make your offerings relevant to a broader audience, adopt new customers and build lifelong relationships with new members of your community.
Following are six easy-to-implement strategies for adding Snapchat to your marketing plan to reach these young citizens:
Start by Building Your Audience.
The first step toward leveraging Snapchat to promote your park and rec offerings is to build an audience. Once you create your Snapchat account, advertise it everywhere, including on your other social channels, your park and recreation website, in your digital course catalog, on registration materials, inside your recreation facilities and everywhere Snapchat users are sure to see your message.
Create Promotional Snaps to Send to Followers.
Once you have a dedicated list of followers, reach out to them regularly. Snapchat is an ideal social platform for social influencers and is perfect for beautiful nature and sports photos. It allows you to capture your audience’s attention with photos, videos, drawings and corresponding clever captions. Be as creative as possible and use Snapchat’s integrated tools and filters to spread the word about seasonal classes, local community events and open sports league registrations.
Create a Contest.
Use Snapchat as a platform for a digital competition. Ask followers to submit snaps that showcase how your local parks help them stay fit for the chance to win a prize or create a geocache or treasure hunt activity and ask participants to submit snaps of their progress along the way.
Build Excitement for Your Event with the Story Feature.
For once-a-year community events, update followers with a series of promotional snaps that showcase event details, photos from previous years and other intriguing messages by creating and sending a series of Snapchat “stories.” Stories allow you to create a chronological series of images and videos that are perfect for showing progress toward the preparation of an event, the availability of attractions and other attendee benefits.
Create Stories During Your Event.
Don’t let those who missed this year’s event make the same mistake next year. Use Snapchat throughout the event to broadcast images and videos of all the most fun and exciting moments to ensure your FOMO-influenced followers know what they are missing. By building engagement and a sense of excitement and community using Snapchat, you can start working on promotions for next year before this year’s event even ends.
Encourage Attendees to Contribute to Your Story.
Snapchat offers valuable social influencing functionality. Not only do followers benefit from hearing from you about your event, but they also benefit from hearing about it, and seeing images and videos from all its attendees. Snapchat’s “Our Story” functionality allows users at your event to contribute to an ongoing, shared, collaborative story. It leverages geofencing technology to ensure contributions are coming from users who are physically located at your event, adding an element of authenticity that is extremely important to the Snapchat community of users.
As seasons change and technology evolves, park and recreation departments need to refresh their marketing and engagement strategies to ensure their communication channels and messages are relevant for the evolving generations of park and rec users. Social media is more than a trend, and Snapchat is more than a fad with young people. Its popularity is growing, and those brands and entities that have learned to strategically leverage this social tool to increase awareness among younger generations have benefited from the positive return on investment in the snap. By incorporating Snapchat into your marketing toolbox, you take one more step toward future-proofing your marketing efforts and your customer base.
Jennifer Elliott is a Product Marketing Manager for CivicRec®.