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Take us back to college – please! There’s something magical about those Saturday tailgates, cramped dorms, and deliciously versatile pre-paid meal plans. We’re not the only ones who think that either: college enrollment has increased by 27% since 2001, and it doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Brands looking to tap into the spending power of the student demographic should grab a seat and check out the syllabus, because we’re starting this master class on best practices for marketing to college students.

5 Best Practices For Marketing to College Students

1) Get On Campus

Hundreds of brands are vying for the attention of the same students your company is targeting. So, how do you stand out? You go where the students are – on campus. How? By creating a college student ambassador program. Student ambassadors can be your on-the-ground brand army helping to promote your business to their fellow college students. 

Not only does this help build the visibility (and credibility) of your brand, it’s also a way for you to provide interested students with invaluable marketing and PR experience. 

2) Don’t Be Stingy With the Freebies & Perks

We all know someone that signed up for a credit card in exchange for some pizza and a t-shirt. After all, while mighty in numbers, the stereotype of the “broke” college student is one that’s mired in truth. A free water bottle, koozie, shirt, or other give-away can go along way towards winning over a new audience. Even better, that free branded promo item is itself a form of advertising and can help increase your visibility on campus. 

Not a big fan of the free gift? That’s fine! Consider offering special student pricing or perks to set yourself apart from your competitors. Everyone likes to save a bit of money. Providing college students with a small discount (10% or 15%) or free shipping on their purchase can help your brand win those students spending dollars. 

Get creative with your perks! There’s bound to be something you can offer to make local students’ lives easier and develop your relationship with them.

3) Lean on Influencers 

Instagram, Snapchat, even TikTok; students in 2020 are experts in engaging in these platforms, and they respect (and expect) brands they support to have a presence on these platforms as well. While your brand can (and should) be maintaining their own social accounts, one way to get your brand in your student audience’s social feeds is to lean on online influencers. 

Who are the social media users that your student demographic engages with the most? Who do they look for advice, trend-setting, or entertainment? 

These are your audience’s influencers. 

Influencers can be a powerful channel for promoting your brand because they’ve already earned the trust and respect of your audience. 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations to feel confident in their purchase. 

Influencers can be massive in scale (think Kardashians), or they can be smaller (micro-influencers with 10,000+ followers). They can be nationwide or local. Who you choose to work with depends on your outreach strategy and your budget. 

4) Leverage User-Generated Content

User-Generated Content (UGC) is one of the most powerful forms of content marketing available to brands and deserves a regular place of honor in your brand’s content marketing mix. 

UGC provides a host of benefits for brands that understand how to use it and has an opportunity to engage on a deeper level with your student audience than your typical content piece. 

In case you aren’t aware, UGC is any content that’s created by your users and can include:

  • Instagram pictures taken by your fans on their own accord
  • Snapchat videos that show off your product or service
  • Even solicited online posts, testimonials, comments

All of the above are examples of UGC, and they all benefit from the perks of being user-generated content. 

Those perks? UGC is considered more trustworthy than standard content (51% of consumers trust UGC of other brand messages. They also earn more engagement (UGC earns 28% more engagement and 50% more shares than standard content). 

5) Combine All of The Above and Empower Your Student Fans

If only there were a single marketing tactic that combined all four of the above best practices. We’re saying a digital marketing tactic that: 

  • Takes your brand on-campus through student ambassadors
  • Includes opportunities to earn freebies
  • Integrates with your influencer marketing efforts
  • Allows you to leverage user-generated content

Sounds too good to be true? Then you’ve never heard of an advocacy marketing program

An advocacy marketing program is a digital marketing tactic that leverages the social sharing power of your fans to amplify your content across the social media landscape. 

Your fans sign up to join your program by linking their preferred social media account. Then as you have new content to share, they have the opportunity to post that content directly to their social media channels. And, even better, they can earn points and rewards while they help build awareness of your brand among their peers. 

Go For Your Masters

The student population isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. If your brand wants to tap into the buying power of a 20 million-strong demographic, remember that the students of today aren’t the same as those 30 years ago. Today’s college student population is more discerning with their dollars. Be true to your brand, honest about your intentions, and, most importantly, try to put yourself back in their shoes. Connect with your audience by creating and sharing content that resonates with where they are in life and where they want to be after graduation. 

Have questions about growing your brand’s presence among college students? We can help. Schedule a free demo today, and we can help take you to school on how to leverage advocacy marketing to build awareness, increase engagement, and drive sales among students nationwide.