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If you’ve ever used Snapchat, you probably know that it doesn’t work like most social media platforms. Instead of making public posts that last indefinitely on the internet, “snaps” are sent directly to friends and last for only a few seconds after they are opened.

Five colleges participated in Nordstrom's Snapchat challenge.
Five colleges participated in Nordstrom’s Snapchat challenge.

Some brands may view the lack of permanent visibility on Snapchat as a roadblock to connect to consumers, but Nordstrom found otherwise.

Over the past month, the Seattle-based retail giant has been quietly cracking the Snapchat egg with its campaign to engage with college-aged users through a good old-fashioned spirit contest.

The Nordstrom social media team engaged with students at the University of South Carolina, University of Oregon, University of Arizona, UCLA and Florida State through the localized Live Stories, or collections of Snaps that community members can watch and add to.

After marketing the competition through Live Stories, the Nordstrom Snapchat account posted a video for the challenge.

To vote for their school, participants took a screenshot when the name of their school appeared in the video, which saves a copy of the image to their phone. The Nordstrom team then used Snapchat’s metrics to tally the votes for each college.

Nordstrom's video displayed the names of the participating schools for just a few seconds each. Snappers took a screenshot of the video when their school's name appeared to cast their vote.
Nordstrom’s video displayed the names of the participating schools for just a few seconds each. Snappers took a screenshot of the video when their school’s name appeared to cast their vote.

University of South Carolina rose to the occasion, winning the challenge with just under 2,000 screenshots, said Nordstrom spokesperson Dan Evans.

The prize was an on-campus shoe party on April 12. The event featured a guest appearance by supermodel and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss and a giveaway of $200,000 worth of Nordstrom shoe vouchers. The $100 vouchers were given to seniors at the school, to help them start their post-college job hunt in style, Evans said.

Evans added that each of Nordstrom’s “Snaps” during the event garnered about 1,700 views, and Nordstrom’s Snapchat follower count increased by 60 percent following the contest.

For brands attempting to reach a younger customer base — 60 percent of U.S. smartphone users aged 13-to-34 use Snapchat — that don’t necessarily want to pay for advertising, clever Snapchat campaigns like this one may be the way forward.

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