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How to Convert More College Students and Build a Loyal Base with Your Social Media Strategy

By collegemktgrp | January 31, 2022 | Brands/Advertisers

The college market is unlike any other today. Whether they realize it or not, Gen Z is the economic force of the future.

College students are educated and always on the move. They’re highly connected to their communities. They’re also passionate about their beliefs and loyal to brands that share their values.

The core of college consumers are 18-24 years old. During 2021, 12.8 million Americans in this age group were enrolled in college or graduate school.

Students in this age group also have an increased amount of spending power. Many aren’t obligated to pay for commitments like children, a home, or pets. This, coupled with their newfound independence, makes them an ideal group to market to.

Generation Z college students are tech-natives. They dominate online searches in comparison to other age groups. They’ve taken hold of popular culture and journalism — influencing how information is discussed and shared.

As a marketer, just reaching this core group isn’t enough. You must have a strong social media strategy plan in order to turn impressions into conversions. This comes down to understanding where your audience is on the buyer funnel and how to speak directly to what they need.

Let’s take a look at how impressions differ from conversions through social media and how you can build a social media strategy that’ll keep students coming back to your business.

What’s the Difference Between Impressions vs. Conversions on Social Media?

Every time you post content or an ad on social media, people see it. When looking at your analytics you’ll notice this metric — impressions — is always higher than your reach or conversions.

But just because your content was seen doesn’t mean the viewer visited your website or read your content. Impressions don’t necessarily count towards the number of people who clicked to learn more.

But they do help build awareness and eventual conversions.

Let’s say you’ve published content on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. You can track how many screens your content is appearing on by opening up each platform’s analytics. From here you can see how many people saw your post, interacted, or made comments.

Analytics also help you decide when to post. Timing matters — people engage with different platforms at certain times of the day.

Conversions, on the other hand, often come from posts that feature a call to action (CTA). One in four quality social media posts should have a CTA — you don’t want to push conversions constantly.

After a viewer clicks on your CTA, they’ll be taken to your landing page. Whether it’s a sale, newsletter, or a free eBook, getting your viewer to take the final step is what it’s all about.

Calculating Your Content’s Success Rate

Now it’s time to calculate your social media conversion rate to see how successful your post was.

This is found by taking the number of conversions and dividing it by the total number of ad interactions (tracked during the same time period). For example, if you had 50 conversions from 1,000 interactions, your conversion rate is 5%.

It’s important to take into account both metrics. Together they give you a bigger picture of your marketing efforts and position you to make wiser choices in your social media marketing plan.

Utilizing the Buyer’s Journey to Reach Conversions

Each potential customer has their own journey from getting to know you to making a purchase or signing up for your service. It takes time, but creating and posting content that addresses each stage of the buyer’s journey is important. These include: 

  1. The Awareness Stage: The buyer recognizes they have a need for a specific product or service.  
  2. The Consideration Stage: The buyer begins to do research on brands and companies that offer what they need.  
  3. The Decision Stage: The buyer now has a few brands in mind and is ready to pull the trigger.  
  4. The Loyalty Stage: The buyer has received their product and intends to purchase more in the future.  
  5. The Brand Advocacy Stage: The buyer is telling others about your product, creating more opportunities for loyal customers. 

Placing social media marketing at the core of your advertising efforts, you can organically guide your customers through each stage.

Content for Each Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

Now that you better understand your buyers, you need to consider the content you’ll be sharing. Each stage should showcase your values and the “why” behind your brand.   

The Awareness Stage 

At this stage, establish yourself as an expert in your field. This is where you’re educating your audience on your mission, not pushing them to make a purchase.  

Educational materials are best for this stage. Think infographics, blogs, tutorials, or toolkits. Videos demonstrating your values are also useful. 

When it comes to examples of excellent Gen Z marketing, Instagram’s “We Make Today” campaign built strong awareness for the brand. This 1-minute video shows a diverse group of influencers and their visually appealing content.  

The emotional, clever copy paired with creative editing speaks to those in the awareness stage. Instagram isn’t trying to sell themselves — they’re sharing their values, which are in line with their users’.  

In sharing a position of support for causes like sustainability and equal rights, Instagram succeeded in captivating its audience.  

The Consideration Stage 

At this stage, you’ve caught the buyer’s attention, but they’re still looking around. You want to point out how you stand out among your competition.  

As a consumer, you’ve been in this stage too. You’ve likely sought out testimonials, customer photos or videos, or product comparison guides. This is exactly what you should provide to your audience.  

Let’s say you run a solar energy business. Your potential customers have a lot of questions.  

You can answer those questions through a pros and cons list, much like SunPower does in this article. By providing this information, they’ll attract serious customers while still intriguing others for a later purchase. 

In order to acknowledge your competition (without naming them), utilize a comparison guide or article. You may save the buyer time in their research and guide them towards the next stage.  

A case study can also be used during this stage. This type of information speaks to the logic of your audience, while also tapping into their emotions. You can also save these for the decision stage.  

The Decision Stage 

It’s the big moment. You’ve built trust and nurtured the relationship through the awareness and consideration stages. The buyer is ready to make their move — they just need a final push in the right direction.   

(At this point it’s a good idea to look into your social media analytics to see if you need to make any changes.)  

Nudge your customers to take the leap by offering incentives. New 6 discounts, BOGO deals, or free shipping will entice them to make a purchase. 80% of shoppers are encouraged to buy a new brand if there’s an offer or discount. 

There’s no time to waste at this stage. Be sure to provide a call to action — include a link or button that sends customers directly to your website to finalize their purchase.   

The Loyalty Stage 

It’s important to remember your customers after they’ve made their purchase. Your customers should feel that they’re a part of a brand community. 

Through your community, you can get targeted feedback and create more customer-driven decisions. Use polls, forums, or social media posts to gather this information.  

You can also build a brand community through the use of hashtags. Make sure they’re succinct and include your brand’s name.  

GoPro has a strong focus on its brand community. They utilize their customers’ footage to create an ongoing feed of jaw-dropping content. Thanks to their hashtag #mygopro they have a cost-effective social media strategy that keeps their customers engaged and loyal.  

Some brands also create groups on Facebook. These allow customers to connect, share stories, or ask questions about the products.  

The Brand Advocacy Stage 

The advocacy stage is the ultimate goal. In this stage, Gen Z customers spread the word about your brand for you.  

Utilize your brand community and partner with influencers to showcase what you offer. Run contests and sweepstakes, and incentivize your customers to share their experiences.  

Lululemon has a very successful ambassador program that targets local influencers and elite yoga practitioners. These ambassadors network with like-minded people and help establish them as a lead brand in the yogi industry.  

Brands Who Do This Right  

There’s no one right way to market to college students. But there are tactics and strategies that work. Among them, word-of-mouth is one of the most successful. 

In order to better understand these tactics, it’s best to see how successful companies put them into action.  


From Sneakerhead culture to international reach, Nike has maintained its position as a top athletic shoe among young people for generations. But it isn’t their celebrity endorsements that keep them relevant.  

Up until 2019, Nike ran a successful student ambassador program. Young people showcased the fashionable lifestyle of fitness, passion, and achievement. Ambassadors appeared online, and the message spread like wildfire that Nike is still a young person’s brand.  

However, it was their partnership with 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kapernick that set them apart. Many brands steered clear of the topic of racial inequality and police brutality. Nike instead took a stand with the man who helped start a movement to “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”  


Visit any college campus and you’ll find Apple products. Through their heavy presence in schools and effective marketing, college students continue to flock to the tech giant.  

According to a 2019 survey, 71% of students in higher education today use or prefer a Mac computer due to reliability, durability, and synchronization with other devices. 

Their lowered prices for students help lock in potential life-long users, too.  

Apple’s advertising remains minimalist but impactful in terms of design, sound, and tone. When they launch a new product, Apple pulls back on ads, allowing the public to spread the word for them, especially through social media.  


Since bursting onto the scene in 2018, TikTok has had exponential growth. In early 2020 the social media platform boasted 800 million active users — as of October 2021, they’re at 1 billion. Among college students, it was the most downloaded app of 2020.  

Universities are now partnering with influencers, alumni, and student ambassadors to showcase the unique cultures and identities on campus. All content is used to build awareness of their schools and persuade potential students to enroll.  

As TikTok continues to grow, it’s worth looking into as part of your social media marketing plan. We’ve already put together a comprehensive list of how you can launch your own influencer marketing campaign 

Reach More College Students and Improve Your Brand Awareness 

Effectively marketing to college students and Gen Z can be tedious. Each stage must be considered if you want to reach and convert as many customers as possible.  

But harnessing the power of social media is one of the best tactics you can use. 

Social media marketing strategies engage your customers, build trust, and create a genuine relationship between you and your audience. Implementing each stage of the buyer’s journey into your social media marketing plan will take you beyond customer conversion. You’ll begin building a loyal fan base. 

Still, there are always ways to improve your marketing approach. You can enhance your customer experience and build brand awareness. Social media platforms offer the tools necessary to take things to the next level.

Check out our guide on how you can amplify your sales through connecting Shopify to Facebook >

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