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USF joins Snapchat to share ‘USF story’

Whether it be a selfie showing off your outfit for the first day of class or a snapshot of the balloons dropping on the crowd of students in the Marshall Student Center at the Week of Welcome (WOW) kickoff event last week, sharing experiences on social media is a trend almost everyone is following. 

Many students and organizations on campus have been sharing these experiences on Facebook and Twitter for a few years, but now there is an official USF Snapchat that students can follow to get more of the “USF story.” 

For those following “USouthFlorida” on Snapchat and wondering who it is sending the pictures and video clips, meet marketing intern Grace Beck.

Beck, with the aid of her iPhone and a few other photographers, is one of the lead contributors behind the latest university initiative to “make the digital experience for students more interactive.”

“It shows we care and we’re not just some computer,” she said. “We care about what (students are) doing and we want them to interact with us, as well as share their content.”

Beck was one of the original members of the university to help conceive the idea for a USF Snapchat, including USF’s new Chief Marketing Officer, Tom Hoof. Hoof and the others at University Communications and Marketing received advice from Hoof’s daughter, McKenna, an operations specialist at Snapchat’s headquarters in California.

According to Beck, McKenna told USF’s marketing team that Snapchat can be most effective not through individual snapshots sent out to followers, but through Snapchat’s story feature which anyone can see for up to 24 hours — a strategy creatively used by several big brand companies.

Since the launch last week at the WOW kickoff, Beck said USouthFlorida has gained several hundred followers on Snapchat and has been receiving photos of everything from students throwing up the Bulls sign to one student’s dinner at Chipotle.

“It’s been their USF experience, however random that experience might be,” said USF Director of Digital Media Steve Dapcic.

Dapcic, new this year to USF after previously working for the Tampa Bay Rays’ marketing, said the USF Snapchat account was created with the intention of “telling the USF story.”

“It’s a reflection of the university’s commitment to embrace new technology that effectively reaches students,” he said.

Though Snapchat is used by millions of people around the country, Dapcic said very few universities have connected to students on the social media platform. He said the only schools to have Snapchat accounts to his knowledge are the University of Michigan and the University of Houston.

By regularly communicating through Snapchat, Dapcic said he hopes USF can “turn interactions into relationships” and “surprise and delight” its audience.

Specifically, Dapcic and Beck have been posting snaps about WOW events and even had a scavenger hunt for students Wednesday, in which Beck sent out a snapshot of herself at an unspecified location on campus, and followers would have to determine where she would be, based on the background in the photo. The first five students who found Beck received a “#LiveGreenandGold” shirt to promote this weekend’s football season opener.

“We wanted to use Week of Welcome as our launching platform,” Beck said. “Week of Welcome was a great way to introduce it to all new incoming students and all returning students and we definitely don’t have a lack of content for this week because there is so much going on.”

While Dapcic said he and his interns are still testing the waters with the new platform, he said there is no shortage of possibilities and the university will continue using Snapchat throughout the year.

“We may have some different personalities around campus to be surprise snappers, so stay tuned for that,” he said.