Why Only Using Digital Marketing to Target College Students is a Mistake

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This article explores the reasons why only using digital marketing to target college students is a mistake. Other forms of marketing, such as peer-to-peer, event marketing, and sampling promotions, resonate with students. Don’t miss out on these opportunities to connect and engage the college crowd!

Digital Media Plays a Prominent Role in the Lives of Youths

The digital world continually changes the way people communicate and interact with each other, and similarly changes brand-consumer engagement; it plays an integral role in the day-to-day lives of youths. College students and teenagers use the Internet and social media sites as a means of self-expression and self-promotion. It provides them with unprecedented opportunities to showcase their work, thoughts, ideas, passions, and talents, and gives them a chance to connect and engage with people who share the same interests. More and more young people are turning to niche venues and online communities for inspiration, camaraderie, and the hopes of achieving success.

98% of the core college consumers (18-24 year olds) already use social media[1]. This is not surprising given that Facebook has been around a little over a decade now—about half their lifetimes—and that new social media sites are continually being introduced and gaining in popularity. Also, to stay up to date with current events, personal or mainstream, a social media presence is no longer an option for people in this demographic, but a necessity. The lack of a social media presence would be considered an oddity among their peers and would raise a red flag to employers.

Due to the prevalence of digital media consumption by college students, many companies choose to focus the majority of their marketing efforts, if not solely, on digital media when targeting this demographic; and though college students are constantly connected to their mobile devices and the Internet, this tunnel vision is a mistake for multiple reasons.

Exclusively Using Digital Marketing to Target College Students is a Mistake

Firstly, college students dislike intrusive online ads and “when asked the types of ads they try to avoid, students pointed to pop-up ads or banners ads (55%) first, followed by non opt-in text message ads (49%), pre-rolls (38%), opt-in text message ads (36%) and ads on social media sites (32%).”[2] Students go online for relaxation, socialization, entertainment, and school. They do not want this time interrupted with impersonal ads.

Secondly, as additional niche social networks pop up and expand, the social media sphere will become more and more fragmented and this will make social media marketing a challenge—especially reaching college students in particular. Facebook used to be strictly for college students, but that’s a thing of the past and the youth are already losing interest and exploring new forms of social media. This will only continue to develop as the number of niche interest sites increase.

Thirdly, by focusing only on digital marketing, other effective strategies and opportunities are lost. The college market is a very unique demographic in so far as they are highly concentrated in a given place. This enables marketing campaigns to be very targeted and relevant, which helps reduce the waste of advertising dollars. By advertising on college campuses, you know your intended target is being reached.

Lastly, college students value authenticity and face-to-face marketing. Brands that advertise on campus have the chance to introduce a human element to the campaign. By human element, I mean a person who represents your brand that interacts with students and helps to convey your brand’s story in a meaningful way. Part of the reason people buy products or services is to experience a connection with others. Student brand ambassadors bridge the gap between brand and consumer, and make the products easily relatable and the experience memorable. This form of peer-to-peer marketing leaves impressions worth remembering.

There’s no doubt that digital marketing remains important when advertising to students. However, it is all too easy to think of 18-24 year olds as a tech obsessed, plugged-in generation, when in reality they care strongly about people and in-person connections, and often use the Internet as a way to enhance their relationships.  The best method of reaching college students is by combining peer-to-peer marketing with digital marketing, and delivering a unified message that resonates with students. Make it real, keep it personal; this will lead to success.

Do you believe exclusively using digital marketing to target college students is a mistake? Let me know in the comments.

[1]Social Networking Statistics”. Statistic Brain.

[2]Multi-Screening Popular Among College Students.” Marketing Charts Staff. 

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3 Responses to Why Only Using Digital Marketing to Target College Students is a Mistake

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