Have questions about marketing to students? Call (866) 721-1357

Let's Talk!
« Back to Our Blog

How to Boost Digital Marketing for Your Off-Campus Properties

By collegemktgrp | December 12, 2020 | Brands/Advertisers

Since the start of the pandemic, many college campuses have closed their doors, with two-thirds of universities shifting to remote or hybrid learning.

Many universities and colleges have maintained or strengthened restrictions on how many students can live on campus this year — while many have shut down completely. This has inspired some students to take a gap year or to live at home with their parents to save money until it’s safe to attend classes and live on campus again.

Despite these challenges, off-campus housing isn’t totally off the table for college students. Some are still living away from home, in off-campus houses and apartments, to experience more independence.

Although you can’t use typical in-person strategies like tabling at campus events or locations, college students are still spending a ton of time online. That’s why promoting your rental property through digital marketing is pivotal this year.

Here are the digital marketing strategies your leasing company needs to stay in front of college students during COVID and get people into your leasing office.

Refine Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

College students use social media more than any other generation, averaging 3 hours a day across all platforms.

Here’s how to use social media as a housing company to stay in front of college students and keep your sales up during COVID:

Get to Know Your Target Audience

Set Meaningful Goals

  • It’s important to establish an endgame with your social media marketing efforts.
  • Setting meaningful goals can help keep you on budget and learn more about your audience.

Research Your Competition

  • This is less about stealing ideas from competitors, and more about figuring out what’s working for them and how your brand can follow suit.
  • If your competitors have high engagement on social media, they’re probably good at attracting prospective renters.
  • Browse through social media posts for nearby housing properties with the most engagement from residents. Maybe they’re doing things you can try out, like a social media contest or offering leasing discounts.
  • You can take a more in-depth approach with online competitor analysis tools.

Other tools, like Hootsuite and Sprout Social, can show how your organic (as well as paid) social media campaigns are performing. And bringing analytics into the mix can give you a better picture of how traffic from your social channels is performing on your website, too.

Step Up Your Email Marketing Game

With how often college students on social media, you may think of email as a thing of the past. But Gen Z and Millennials are still checking their emails frequently.

Reaching college students through their social media accounts isn’t the only way to get their attention. Here are a few email marketing tips you can use to bring attention to your current listings:

Develop Student Personas

  • An audience persona describes who you’re marketing to — down to their characteristics, desires, needs, demographics, and more.
  • While student marketing emails may also be read by their parents, focusing on the challenges students are facing in the age of COVID can make students feel heard and not like they’re being marketed to.
  • Email marketing is a great way to reach your target audience, and studies show that emails that focus on a persona increase click-through rates by 16%!

Timing Is Key

  • College students spend a lot of time with their phones and are good at sifting through important emails and notifications.
  • Sending a marketing email at the right place and time can make a big difference in open rates and conversions.
  • Familiarize yourself with the academic calendar of your target audience — are nearby campuses on a quarter or semester schedule? Are they closed during the summer? If not, how many students are usually in summer classes and programs?
  • Anticipating when students are most likely to search for housing is critical in your selling cycle and should guide your email marketing strategy.

Take the Mobile-Friendly Route

  • Prospective students are most likely reading emails from their mobile devices.
  • Cell phone screens are smaller than computer screens, so brevity works best.
  • You can achieve this by crafting a shorter subject line that highlights your property and the content of the email.
  • It’s tempting to showcase how your property looks through email, but an image blast could slow down the user’s phone and leave a potential student frustrated.
  • To make sure folks aren’t quickly scanning and deleting your emails, focus on smaller high-quality images.

Tap into Retargeting

97% of people who visit a website for the first time don’t make a purchase. So even if students are visiting your website, chances are they’re not immediately calling the leasing office to schedule an appointment.

Retargeting can help you increase rental property awareness by reminding prospective students to come back to your site.

A student visiting your website for the first time could have a general interest in your apartment, but will need a reminder about your brand and listing once they’ve left the site. That’s where retargeting comes in.

Once a student leaves your website, they’ll be served relevant ads when they visit other websites. These subtle hints are designed to eventually lead that student back to your site and your listing.

Ready to implement your retargeting campaign? One of the most popular options is Google retargeting — which gives advertisers the chance to re-engage their website visitors by showing them ads as they browse other websites.

Another option is Facebook retargeting — which is similar to Google but keeps all ads within Facebook and their 2 billion active user network.

Utilize Display Advertising

Display ads are video and image ads that show up on websites and social media platforms like TikTok and Facebook. Unlike retargeting ads, display ads show up before you visit a website, and no cookies are used for tracking.

Display ads bring in over $40 million a year. Research shows that the average internet user sees an average of 63 display ads per day.

Display ads can help you drive traffic to your website, and hopefully into your leasing office.

There are 3 main types of display ads:

Site Placement

  • Site placement ads involve choosing a specific website to display your ad.


  • Contextual ads involve placing ads on relevant websites — like showing a leasing ad on a website for moving services.


  • Remarketing ads are shown to users who have been on a website but have left without completing a conversion goal — like when someone fills their cart with items but leaves the page without completing the purchase.

Display advertising is a powerful way to showcase your housing community and target prospective renters through banner, video, and interactive ads.

Display ads also offer your brand the opportunity to reach users around the globe through high-traffic websites like Google and YouTube.

Create a Facebook Lookalike Audience

Using a lookalike audience lets you target ads to users with similar traits and interests to your current followers.

A lookalike audience can help you find prospects you wouldn’t have been able to reach before, like a friend or classmate of a current resident.

Facebook lets you do this by identifying common features and interests of your current followers with those who are similar to (or “look like”) them.

You can create over 500 different lookalike audiences from information like city, state, age, and gender. This can help expand your advertising reach by measuring the target groups that are likely to visit your website and sign up for housing.

College Marketing Group Is Here to Help

There’s a lot of moving pieces in perfecting your marketing strategy. Putting together a plan that works for you can take time, but there are things you can do in the meantime.

You don’t have to wait to attract your next group of tenants. Check out our blog to see how you and your apartment housing property can help students now >

Subscribe Today