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5 College Student Marketing Trends to Know in 2019

By collegemktgrp | March 22, 2019 | Brands/Advertisers

Any marketer worth their salt knows it: the college student demographic isn’t one your brand can afford to ignore.

Thanks to college students’ love for spending cash (pocketed from part-time jobs and parents), they’re a popular demographic for national brands.

And college students aren’t just buying a narrow niche of school-related stuff. From notebooks and calculators to clothes, video games and snacks, any brand selling what college students are routinely buying needs to capture and keep the attention of this demographic.

This level of competition drives innovation, making the challenge of effectively reaching college students an ever-changing competition.

Sticking to your same marketing strategies might keep your brand afloat. But if you give a lick about ROI, then staying on top of current trends is key to getting the biggest bang for your advertising buck.

Digital marketing is key to reaching college students. Most students are binging on their favorite shows via online streaming, so targeting them with traditional television ads is a dead-end. And students are spending time on social media in greater numbers than any other age group.

Your brand needs to show up effectively where college students are spending their time — in the digital landscape. But in 2019, weekly organic posts on Facebook or throwing some SEM cash at Google every once in a while isn’t going to cut it.

The digital landscape changes fast. From the increasing effectiveness of video to more college students getting info from social media “stories”, here are 5 higher-education marketing trends you should follow as we head into another year on campus.

1. Video is Becoming Increasingly More Effective

Users watch 5 billion videos on YouTube every day. And on Facebook, users watch 100 million hours of video every day. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much time users spend watching videos on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.

4.6 billion of these videos are used to market brands and products. And they work: recent studies show video is more successful at generating leads and boosting conversions than text or images across social platforms.

Whether you’re retargeting students with videos after they visit your site or are serving them videos on your product page, videos are an effective way to market to college students — 40% of people who watch a video take action by sharing or clicking on a link associated with it.

And a lot of those people are college-age students. For example, in 2018, 96% of internet users ages 18-24 used YouTube — more than any other age group.

But success with using video for the higher education market depends on a lot more than the popularity of the medium. What’s in the video is what really matters.

2. Content is King

Whether it’s an image, blog post, or a video, the content within your media is more important than the choice of medium itself.

In 2019, you need to be extra thoughtful with your content. The modern college demographic isn’t interested in “traditional” ads with hard sells.

Aim for your content to speak to college students’ specific pain points by offering to fulfill a specific need. Prove that you can help the viewer of your video solve a problem, and they’ll trust you with their money.

If you’re selling conditioner, your video ad shouldn’t be beautiful models with messaging that promises lift and shine. Instead, consider a how-to video (with more casual production quality to make it accessible) for getting the perfect look for a fun night out with friends.

Helping the viewer should always be the ultimate focus of the video, while your product should be a means to an end.

Pro-tip: If you can tap college influencers to appear in your videos as brand ambassadors, you could see increased engagement.

3. Social Media Stories Are Where You Need to Be

Snapchat was one of the first social platforms to recognize that young people are looking for raw and authentic experiences online. The temporal nature of the platform is a huge success, and not just for your 12-year-old niece — 77% of college students are also using Snapchat.

So what’s the secret? Snapchat allows users to be themselves and share stories with no pressure that what they post will live on the internet forever — or even for longer than a few minutes.

Snapchat is just the tip of the iceberg. On Instagram, “stories” are becoming the main attraction. Over 400 million users post and view them every day, and 71% of those are college-age students.

The stories of the accounts you follow show up before anything else when you open the app, making them the most enticing way to engage with those you follow. Facebook integrated the same type of feature into its platform in 2017 to try and keep pace, too.

In 2019, your brand’s feed isn’t your bread and butter — it’s a highlights reel that’s perfect for new announcements, product launches and celebrity endorsements.

But your story is where you should be posting on a consistent basis. And in apps like Instagram, fresh new content keeps your story front and center for your followers.

4. Your Online Presence Needs to Be Mobile-Friendly

In 2019, over 67% of all e-commerce will be done on mobile devices. And in just the next year or two, that number will increase to over 70%.

The Pew Research Center reports that 100% of college-age adults have a cellphone, and 94% of those are smartphones. Students use those their phones to access video and social media platforms in huge numbers: 94% of them use YouTube, 80% are on Facebook, 77% on Snapchat, and 71% are on Instagram.

When you drive students to your brand’s site from a social ad or post, they’ll more than likely be visiting your site on their mobile phone. That’s why your website needs to be mobile-friendly.

A mobile-friendly website should run fast, automatically format to look good on any browser, be easily navigable on all devices, and be touch-friendly.

5. SEO & SEM Continue to Drive Purchases

The search engine is still a vital conduit to your brand’s online reach. Google is the world’s most popular website (and by far the most popular search engine with younger users).

Google and other search engines are the starting point for 93% of all experiences online. That’s why search engine optimization and marketing should continue to be a cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy in 2019.

A strong SEO & SEM strategy will help keep your brand visible when college students search relevant keywords.

Pro tip: Did you know you can optimize videos for SEO? Nailing the title, description, tags, and captions can help ensure your videos show up in first in search engine results.

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