Student Micro Influencers Are the New Celebrity Endorsement

As buzzworthy as the word “influencer” has become, influencer marketing is nothing new. Celebrities have long served as poster children for the influencer model. But with the rise of social media, it’s now possible for an average person to become an influencer. Instead of being discovered by a talent scout or moving to NYC or LA, social media has democratized who gets to be famous and serve as an influencer. All you really need nowadays is an Instagram handle and iPhone Portrait Mode.

Over the past several years, there has been a rise in influencers (AKA Instagram celebrities with millions of followers and a perfectly curated online persona), replacing the long standing reliance on celebrities for endorsements and marketing campaigns. We are beginning to see another shift that is set to rock the evolving industry.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Instagram celebrities are becoming increasingly expensive and are often personally disconnected from their audiences, causing brands to question ROI and look for alternate avenues to maximize it. As authenticity dictates what breaks through the social media marketing clutter, brands are turning to the support and clout of micro influencers to not only help further their marketing endeavors, but also to help build a brand story, raise awareness, and connect with consumers in an engaging, relevant way.

Unlike “Instagram celebrities,” who may have millions of followers, micro influencers typically reach an extremely targeted group of followers. While they tend to have fewer followers than Instagram celebrities (anywhere from 1,000 – 100,000 followers), they normally enjoy a higher level of engagement, likely because they are perceived as being more relatable. Since they’re able to create and cultivate a kind of relationship that isn’t likely for individuals with millions of followers, they’re 4x more likely to get a comment on a post.

The Student Sweet Spot

Student micro influencer sips tea

The student demographic is where micro influencers flourish because students are particularly interconnected and social. As a group of digital natives, Millennials and Gen-Z are used to sharing their lives on social media. They’re constantly creating their own content and building their following while managing to make it to class and pass exams.

And long gone are the days of the “broke” student stereotype. In fact, college students spent $523 billion dollars in 2015, 39% of which was discretionary spending (food, entertainment, clothes, transportation). Research shows that students are more than willing to spend their money on the brands they love and are looking to their friends for honest recommendations. Brands would be wise to embrace the “less is more approach,” and fully lean into the power of student micro influencers.

Higher Engagement

Students tend to have higher engagement rates than celebrities due to their ability to be more interactive, responsive, and build stronger relationships with their followers. They aren’t strangers—they’re your sorority sister, your lab partner, your class president. According to a HelloSociety study, these campaigns can deliver a 60% higher engagement rate than the average campaign powered by a celebrity or Instagram celebrity.

While celebrities definitely have a larger reach (potential number of people who could see the content organically), the demographic makeup of their followers can result in a lost message, as many people may not care about that they are trying to promote or it may not be relevant to their lives.


84% of Millennials don’t trust traditional advertising and Gen-Z places the most trust on messages from their peers. These demographics have refined B.S. meters that allow them to spot when promotions are solely based on a contract. When students feel like they are being sold to or that the content doesn’t directly relate to them, their built-in adblock is activated.

Instead of a brand reaching out to desired customers directly, brands can use student micro influencers to accomplish this task in a more natural way as a peer. They can give more authentic endorsements because they like a product, not because of a contract or compensation (although typically both are involved). When it comes to celebrity accounts with millions of followers, no one actually believes that they are a real fan of the product…they’re just trying to get paid.

To incorporate this level of authenticity and accessibility, it’s important to do your research. Recruiting and selecting student micro influencers on college campuses can be tricky business. It doesn’t matter how much strategy and thought went into the campaign—if you select the wrong students, it can be detrimental. Showcase students who reflect the lives of the target consumer and you’ll connect your brand to that target consumer in a meaningful way.

Content Creation & Ownership Rights

Millennials and Gen-Z respond best to content that looks like them, so there’s no better way than going straight to the source for content. Student micro influencers are content generators for a brand. Student content can outperform celebrity content while maintaining authenticity (and it comes with a smaller price tag).

Brands can also repurpose student content to generate additional revenue from a campaign. Repurposed content increases the value you get from your campaign and has been proven to drive further sales. Depending on the contract, your brand may be able to secure unlimited, royalty-free rights to content, instead of having to pay usage fees.

Offline Conversion/Word-of-Mouth

Student micro influencers have a unique power to take their online conversations offline and power them through word-of-mouth, striking up conversations with their networks on campus (hello thousands of college students) and directly influencing their networks face-to-face/peer-to-peer. According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers value referrals from friends or family members.


According to HelloSociety, micro influencers are 6.7x more efficient per engagement than influencers with larger followings. You can generate the same (or larger reach) by assembling a team of student micro influencers on varying campuses for a fraction of the cost, while adding a more diverse, yet still targeted audience.

While celebrities and mega-influencers hone their monetization strategies to make their social media presence a sustainable business with well-developed pricing structures, the average college student will be more than happy with free product or services and a small stipend.

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How can YMC help?

Want to recruit student micro influencers for your brand? Finding the right partner is key to your success. Here at YMC, we’ve been helping brands connect with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

7 Ways Online Sweepstakes Grow Your Youth Customer Base

While contests and online sweepstakes are nothing new, they’ve taken on a new life with the continual growth of social media. Now more than ever, online sweepstakes are easy, affordable, and effective. As the marketing landscape continues to evolve, sweepstakes will serve as a helpful strategy to increase the number of people who interact with your brand and deepen existing connections.

When executed correctly, online sweepstakes create a win-win situation for brands and entrants alike. Most often, they are used for the following reasons:

  • Increase brand awareness and generate word-of-mouth “buzz”
  • Deepen engagement
  • Nurture prospective customers through email capture or text opt-in
  • Drive customer conversion and sales

If your brand is trying to engage with Millennials and Gen-Z, you must execute in a way that feels authentic and relevant. Below are eight tips for capturing the attention of these demographics, while also creating a lasting impression that will keep your brand top-of-mind.

1. Make It Easy

Don’t ask for too much from entrants. When utilizing an online entry form, minimize the number of form fields to increase completion rates. Only ask for the information that is absolutely necessary. The more questions you ask, the less likely your participants are to complete the form. When entering an online sweepstakes, your entrants will weigh the amount of effort against the value of the reward, and you want to balance that scale in your favor. Whenever possible, integrate a social sign-in option to further ease the process.

2. Ensure the Prize Feels Attainable

Wondering what factors influence participation? According to a report from HelloWorld, 72% of people will enter an online sweepstakes if the odds of winning are high. Sixty-seven percent of people will enter based on the size and price value of the reward. As you can see, it’s important to structure your sweepstakes in a way that makes the prize seem both attainable and valuable. Consider offering a higher volume of a mid-range prizes to increase the likelihood of participation (as opposed to offering one top-tier prize).

3. Bigger Isn’t Always Better

While second to the odds of winning, the actual prize is important. When choosing between gift cards, physical products, or experiences, it’s important to know who you’re targeting in order to align the prize with potential interest from the desired audience. To help inform your decision, you can simply survey a subset of customers on what types of prizes and incentives would motivate them to participate. And don’t worry if your budget is tight, the prize is not the sole driver of participation—a quality and meaningful prize is key.

4. Bring the Prize to Life

If Millennials and Gen-Z are able to physically see what they might win, it becomes more tangible. Consider announcing or promoting the online sweepstakes at physical events.

5. Lean into the Power of Social

In addition to utilizing your brand-owned channels to promote the online sweepstakes, you should also encourage entrants to share the sweepstakes with their social networks. If your budget allows, utilize relevant, brand-right social influencers to increase awareness within your target audience. Newer or small brands will especially benefit from the automatic validation of being associated with a well-known peer or public figure.

6. Optimize Your Entry Page for Mobile

Millennials and Gen-Z use their phones more frequently than their laptops, so having your sweepstakes’ entry page be mobile-optimized is critical. Don’t make the assumption that participants will be entering the sweepstakes on their laptop, especially if you’re collecting entries at a physical event. Make the entry experience both smooth and intuitive. If your website is confusing, people will likely drop off and participation will decrease.

7. or URL

On the topic of mobile, if collecting entries at a physical activation or extending the reach through social, ensure that the website is easy to access and remember. URL shorteners like allow you to shorten and customize the link, which also makes it easier to share.

Like other tactics, online sweepstakes can be extremely effective when used as a part of your overall marketing strategy. Consumer facing brands, as well as many business-to-business enterprises, can take advantage of sweepstakes by using the seven tips highlighted above.



Want to engage the coveted Millennial and Gen-Z demographics? Finding the right partner is key to your success. Here at YMC, we’ve been helping brands connect with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

3 Ways Campus Rep Programs Pay for Themselves

Brands interested in reaching Millennials and Gen-Z shouldn’t rely on the trappings of traditional marketing. With this demographic, peer-to-peer is king. Simply put, peer-driven, word-of-mouth interactions have become the most effective method of moving the needle for brands on college campuses and online. What’s the best way to do this? Campus rep programs.

By recruiting a team of micro influencers who are genuinely passionate about your brand and training them to be campus reps, you’ll have legions of true believers who are ready to talk to their friends about your brand on campus. These campus rep programs pay for themselves by reaching new consumers, driving awareness, and increasing sales. In addition, brands are consistently seeing added ROI through an uptick in followers and engagement on their owned social channels, as well as spikes in user-generated content.

Below are three reasons why campus rep programs may be the best use of your marketing budget.

1. Reach New Consumers

Despite the small number of campus reps needed to maintain a presence on campus, their diligent work pays off in a big way. Through on-campus events during the school year, campus rep teams are able to directly interact with approximately 15% of the student population, while exposing 20-30% of the student population to the brand’s messaging. To put that in perspective, let’s take your average state school with about 30,000 undergraduate students. Campus rep teams usually interact with—and we’re talking face-to-face communication—about 4,500 students, while exposing over 7,500 students to the brand.

Those aren’t just numbers. Those are college students who are open to new products and services and are willing to engage. The key is having your brand introduced by an authentic, trusted source—their peer. By choosing your campus reps wisely, well-connected, passionate college students will be representing your brand, allowing you to tap into their vast networks.

Soap & Glory is a great example. After years of success building itself into a dominant beauty and personal care brand in the UK, Soap & Glory wanted to establish a strong presence in the US. Their team of “fearlessly female” campus reps increased brand awareness, encouraged product trial, and supported major national retailers Walgreens, Target, and Ulta. Their presence on campus was so impactful that they became local celebrities, with students spotting them on campus and enthusiastically identifying them as “the Soap & Glory girls.” Their celebrity status consistently secured them lines of 50+ students at each event.

Soap and Glory campus rep wearing branded jacket

2. Drive Awareness

In addition to exposing new consumers to your brand through on-campus events, activations allow students to interact with your brand in unexpected ways, building familiarity and trust. Once this relationship has been established, students are more willing to allow you access to their personal information (name, email, school year, etc.), which leads to higher open and click-through rates on your digital marketing efforts.

Students who have opted-in to a brand’s digital and social channels not only become customers, but also brand advocates, sharing what they love on their personal social channels and through word-of-mouth. This snowball effect creates exponential reach, which often extends beyond the borders of one campus as students are connected to family members, high school friends (who are now spread out nationally), and new friends made through internships, jobs, volunteerism, and study abroad programs.

3. Leverage Program-Generated Content

In a typical campus rep program, campus reps are happily sharing branded messaging on their social channels, often competing with each other to post the best shot. These campus reps are micro influencers on their respective campus, having amassed large followings and influence. Combine their social media activity with content created by students during brand events, and the brand’s reach skyrockets.  

campus reps for Express with branded materials


The #ExpressU campus rep program is a great example. A network of hand-selected influential campus reps generated buzz around EXPRESS by executing on-campus events and creating original and unique social content. With events ranging from free yoga classes and juice bars to pool parties, the brand has enjoyed impressive results:

  • 30M+ total program impressions generated across all physical, digital, and social channels with zero paid media
  • 12.3K+ social content pieces created by campus reps utilizing #ExpressU
  • 60+ pieces of program-generated social content leveraged on EXPRESS-owned channels, which received higher engagement than non-collegiate content
  • Campus reps contributed multiple long-form articles to the brand’s blog
  • EXPRESS utilized campus rep content to launch Instagram Stories, which generated over 27,000 views and higher engagement than non-collegiate stories

Additionally, because campus reps are students, they are able to reserve space in the most coveted and high-traffic interaction points on and around campus. Whether your brand belongs in the student rec center, quad, cafeteria, dorms, Greek houses, or on the intramural fields, campus reps are able to cultivate authentic conversations and interactions in areas of campus that are relevant to their lifestyles, allowing students to naturally experience your brand.

When you couple the authentic interactions during on-campus events with the relevant social media content created by a program, you get authentic experiences that changes a brand’s perception from “seems cool” to “can’t imagine life without it.”

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How Can YMC Help?

Looking to launch a campus rep program for your brand? Finding the right partner is key to your success (and ROI). Here at YMC, we’ve been helping brands connect with 15- to 29-year-old consumers for two decades—we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!