Student on social media

Why is Social media marketing to college students so important?

With research finding that college-aged students in the US spend an average of between 8-10 hours a day on their smart phones, the benefits of social media marketing to college students have never been greater.

To help you capitalize on this, we’ve already crafted a detailed post broadly outlining marketing to college students.

But as we all know, social media marketing is a huge topic in its self, as it remains unique in its ability to help businesses engage with target audiences.

This is especially the case with students as research shows that college students spend half of their time online on social media. Another study found that 16-24 year olds spend a median of 3 hours a day on various social media platforms – highlighting the unmissable benefits of social media marketing to prospective students as well as current college attendees.

This – in addition to a rising number of annual college attendees – means there are an endless variety of ways to advertise to college students online. This has made it easy to be overwhelmed with the countless different ways to engage with students online.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever before for marketers to thoroughly understand how to reach college students on social media.

So, in this blog post we’ll dive into all the best ways to engage college students on social media.

What social media are college students using?

As the next generation of college students, Gen Z ‘s value to marketers can’t be overstated. This makes it tempting to throw money at various college student targeted ads in hope that some will stick.

But ever-evolving technologies, chaotic politics and now an unprecedented pandemic are resulting in the generation being more financially risk-averse. Gen Z are also much more price sensitive and much less brand loyal when compared with previous generations.

This means that is it vital for you to thoroughly research the interests, expectations and priorities of your targeted college students.

Because of this, before jumping into the best social media strategy for engaging college students, it’s important to understand what social media college students use and how they use them.

Social media most used by college students

Social media icons

College students are amongst the most active demographic on social media, as there are over 46 million students or recent graduates on LinkedIn alone.

Despite this, according to Omnicore only 51% of students and recent graduates use LinkedIn. A separate Omnicore study found that 32% of Twitter users have college degrees, while 38% are aged between 18 and 29 – indicating twitter is a beloved platform amongst college students.

However, a recent survey by Legal reader found that Facebook – once a college-only site – is by far the most used social media by college students – with 96% of students being active on the platform.

Following in Facebook’s footsteps, Tik Tok is amassing a ginormous following from college students as 41% of users are aged between 16 and 24. This 2020 sensation has taken the world by storm and is currently the most downloaded app of the year.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Instagram is one of the most favored social medias on campus as 85% of college students use Instagram. Instagram images also get 23% more engagement than Facebook images, making it a vital platform when social media marketing to college students.

How do College students use social media?

With almost every college student being active on at least one social media platform, there are myriad ways in which students choose to utilize social media platforms.

Despite unfortunately being associated with contributing to mental health issues, social media can facilitate otherwise difficult connections between individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Going to college can be a daunting journey for many, and building new friendships with people can be difficult even to the most social students. This social struggle sadly leads to some college students feeling isolated throughout their student experience.

Because of this, many college students use social media to aid and ease the process of adjusting to college. This was concluded by a recent academic study that found that frequently students utilize social media to engage in local and global communities as a means to connect and socialize with other college students.

This research also found that young adults are used to using social media to develop digital skills and to build their general social development.

As digital natives, current college students are more comfortable communicating online and are quicker at adopting new social media platforms and tools than their digital immigrant counterparts.

This highlights the opportunities to foster college student online communities around your brand and the importance of implementing an agile strategy that engages college students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

How to reach to college students on social media

College students on social media

When pursuing social media marketing to target college students, it’s crucial to have an agile strategy that engages with your target audience and constantly adapts to the latest trends and demands of your industry.

This is paramount as college students are among the most engaged and aware of social networks, meaning they are confident in communicating feedback via social media. This can be invaluable as social media algorithms favor content that receives engagement, meaning your posts are more likely to be seen if they are liked, commented on, and shared.

However, their confidence to provide feedback can be unpredictable as college students are just as comfortable to openly critique your social media marketing as they are to praise it. This has resulted in some spectacularly embarrassing failed social media marketing campaigns even from some of the largest brands in the world.

To get the most out of your digital marketing efforts, here’s a list of the most effective social media marketing strategies to engage college students:

  1. Influencer marketing. College students crave authenticity when making purchasing decisions. Influencer marketing provides one of the most direct ways to capitalize on this as 44% of generation Z have made purchasing decisions based on a recommendation from a social influencer. With 70% of generation Z following a least one influencer on social media, influencer marketing is a great tactic to implement to engage college students on social media.
  2. User generated content. Gen z’s attention is most effectively attracted by brand influencers who post authentic UGC. Considering consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands, UGC provides a great way to add fruitful authenticity when marketing to college and university students.
  3. Multi-channel approach. Gen Z students are multi-device multi-tasking individuals that likely have more social media channels than any other demographic. One study found that 39% of Gen Zer’s have four of more social media accounts, in contrast, only 15% of the general population have this many. This means it is paramount for your social media strategy to stretch out across a variety of social media channels.
  4. Build an engaging community. With 70% of consumers trusting online peer reviews and recommendations more than professional content and copy, it’s not surprising that millennials and gen z favor products recommended by friends and family. With 68% of young millennials willing to refer brands to friends, building and nurturing an engaging community with college students will vastly expand your brand awareness to consumers of all demographics, backgrounds and interests.

Marketing to college student Ideas

Totaling around 20 million, the number of college students in the US has grown significantly, providing marketers with a humongous cohort of youthful energetic individuals that earn up to 160% more than those without degrees in some states.

However, the number of students isn’t the only thing that’s changing, as there are now more female students than male students in higher education for the first time in over 40 years.

In addition to more female students, there has also been a 441% increase in Hispanic and Latino students since 1976, as they now make up almost 20% of students.

As appealing as it is to pursue a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy, the increasing diversity of students means that marketers must be more diligent than ever when dealing with sensitive subjects.

This is highlighted in a study by the centre for Generational Kinetics as it found that 68% of Gen Z read at least three reviews before making a purchase – showing their brand skepticism.

This study comes as no surprise to many marketers as an increasing number of business analysts are emphasizing that Gen Z won’t hesitate to call out manufactured transparency and authenticity.

Best University social media campaigns

College student on youtube

To help give you some marketing to college student ideas, below we’ve a detailed some of the best university social media campaigns that have effectively engaged college students.

As the top preferred platform for consuming video content, YouTube provides an excellent base from which to build enticing visual content.

Amassing a subscriber base of over 8 million, Red Bull’s exhilarating video content highlights the engagement benefits when leveraging younger consumers’ affection for video.

Another study by Generation Kinetics found that 85% of Gen Z watched at least one online video in the past week to learn a new skill, and 40% watch between 3-10 videos per week. As 61% of 18-24 energy drink users drink red bull over any other energy drink, Red Bull have highlighted the unmissable benefits of targeting students via video.

As Gen Z consider endorsements by influencers to be more trustworthy and authentic than those from celebrities and sports starts, YouTube offers endless opportunities to engage with college students on social media. Endorsing an influencer, sponsoring a video series or conducting a competition are just a few of the ways to effectively leverage YouTube when marketing to college students.

Involved in social activism at a younger age when compared with other generations, Generation Z are much more sensitive to environmental concerns. One great example of a social media campaign that capitalized on this is Burger King’s vegan whopper social media campaign.

Rolling the campaign out on April 1st the announcement of their vegan burger received mass speculation that it was an April fool’s joke. This received huge engagement rates from Gen Z and millennials.

While it can be difficult to accommodate college students demand for authenticity, there are ample opportunities to engage students through social media by communicating your brands story and values transparently across a variety of platforms.

Bryan Carbone has over 20 years experience in college media, advertising and Out-of-Home media. Having established one of the country’s most innovative college marketing agencies in the U.S., working with more than 4,000 universities, Bryan has developed college targeted campaigns for Fortune 500 companies such as Clinique, P&G, Bare Minerals, Luxottica, as well as The USMC and Peace Corps and many more.