Social Media is Not the Answer to Engaging College Students

Let’s face it, college students run the world. Whether your company has already realized this or not, you should be making them an integral part of your marketing mix as soon as possible. “But Bryan, how do college students run the world if they don’t have any money?” First, yes, they do — they’re just very conscientious of how they spend it. Second, it’s not always about sales.Brand awareness and perception drive sales, so make them your goals.

Now, let’s discuss the question at hand — how do you reach college students in a way that is impactful, relevant, and cost-effective? The easy answer is, of course, social media. But is this the best technique? And if so, should you be using ad buys, influencers, hashtags, or something else? What about experiential and peer-to-peer engagement? According to AdWeek —

“Consumers can easily skip, mute or block TV and digital ads, but attending an event or absorbing an experience is a decision. In many cases, it also constitutes a purchase — even if the currency is time or the sort of behavioral and demographic data marketers crave.”

Doesn’t this sound like something worth your time and marketing dollars?

I’m going to assume that at some point in the not-so-distant past, your marketing team had a meeting about social media strategy and how you’ll use it to engage Millennials and Gen Z customers. You’re going to post memes, use hip slang like “Netflix & Chill,” and all those other things the youngsters love. That should be a one-way trip into their wallets…right? Wrong! The biggest mistake marketers make regarding social media, is assuming college students (and all other people in the 18–24 demo) are gullible. Not only will using these techniques be egregiously lame, but we see right through them! This is what you look like:


The Solution

Social Media should be a means of cultivating relationships with your existing customers. Once you’ve captured a student as a fan give them something interesting to find when they search for you online. Instead of customer acquisition, social media should be viewed as customer retention.

Now, I’m not here to bash on you without providing a solution. Over the last 4+ years of being in existence and the 100+ years of combined experience as Millennials, the UBeyond team has learned something that you should know, believe, and implement into your daily routine. College students are relationship-driven humans. We don’t care that your ad pops up every time we scroll through Instagram or that your new gluten-free, vegan snack is the perfect accompaniment to our #netflixandchill sessions. We want to know why YOU stand out. And we want to hear it from someone we already trust.

So, how do we accomplish this? Allow me to answer that question with another question.

Who knows college students better than anyone else? I’ll wait…

Bingo! Other college students!


At University Beyond, we eat, sleep, and breathe this concept every day. Identifying young people that are fans of your brand and shaping them into true brand advocates is the way to every college student’s heart (and ultimately, wallets). They are your storytellers, field marketers, and troops fighting the good fight on college campuses and beyond. The beautiful thing about my generation, is we’re incredibly loyal to the brands we feel resonate with us personally. Once you have us, you have us forever.

“But Bryan, we don’t know how to identify our fans within that demographic. And once we do, how do we organize them for world domination?” Enter, University Beyond. The reason we exist is to take your brand and create a relevant and impactful offering for the younger demographics through on-campus activations and student-to-student engagement. Simultaneously, we utilize our social influencer partners to give your new fans something interesting to check out when they find you online. Through our years of industry experience (both professionally and personally) and network of students on thousands of campuses across the country, we’ll enhance your awareness and perception within the college community — while you sit back and reap the benefits.

Tl;dr — College students are important and they aren’t interested in your faint attempts at relating to them. Social media is a powerful tool for retaining us as customers but give us a WHY face-to-face.

You can read the AdWeek article mentioned above here.

Written by Bryan Simmons, Sales Director for University Beyond.


Ready to get started? Get in touch with University Beyond here.


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