In every culture and each generation, influencers have shaped the perceptions and preferences of their peers, affecting everything from fashion trends to political opinions. Influencers decide what is or will become cool. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever for influencers to digitally share what they’re excited about—and savvy marketers have taken notice. Instead of focusing on their target market as a whole, brands are identifying “micro influencers.”

Micro influencers, or individuals who have influence over potential consumers, and building campaigns around those individuals. Unlike “Instagram celebrities,” who may have millions of followers, micro influencers typically reach an extremely targeted group of other students. While they tend to have fewer followers than Instagram celebrities, they normally enjoy a higher level of engagement, likely because they are more relatable. They aren’t strangers—they’re your sorority sister, your lab partner, your class president.

It’s no surprise that influencer marketing has exploded on college campuses as micro influencers have emerged. Here are three reasons why smart brands are including this tactic in their marketing strategies.

Distrust of Traditional Advertising

The college demographic consumes media differently than its older counterparts. Today’s college students grew up with social media and they’re accustomed to receiving messages through social platforms. In fact, research shows that students today are more likely to notice ads within mobile apps and pay less attention to traditional advertising.

micro influencer taking pictures  for social media

Students Trust Other Students

Students don’t want to feel like they’re being “sold to.” In fact, a report found that 83% of people trust the recommendations of peers over traditional advertising. Influencer marketing is a powerful tool for reaching Millennial and Gen-Z consumers. With this marketing strategy, brands are harnessing the innate social capital that micro influencers have online. These micro influencers have already built trust with their social followers; when they create content about brands they believe in on their social channels, they’re speaking directly to the their loyal community of peers.

Students Are Authentic

Having an influential student posting about a product they’ve used and loved resonates much more with their peers than a polished piece of marketing—it’s authentic. And authenticity is a huge part of a brand’s image on social media. By partnering with micro influencers, your brand can deliver content during key lifestyle moments. Additionally, each student is different, allowing them to put their own personal mark on the brand and show how they incorporate the brand into their lives.

College campuses are where influencers thrive because students are extremely interconnected. By bringing your brand to campus and leveraging micro influencers, your potential reach goes well beyond an event or an ad. Micro influencers have the status and the personality to affect their peers’ behavior—which ultimately drives brand growth and sales.

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HOW CAN YMC HELP?

Want to leverage micro influencers on campus but aren’t sure how to get started? 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!

It’s not uncommon for companies to take a DIY approach to college marketing—they rely on their younger employees, interns, and “gut” to put together a strategy and piecemeal the execution; that type of approach rarely leaves them in a position of strength. Finding an agency partner that is a college marketing expert should be step one.

The right college marketing agency partner has the necessary experience to avoid common pitfalls of campus marketing and the expertise to successfully reach valuable Millennial and Gen-Z consumers. Luckily for you, we’ve broken down the most important steps to hiring the right partner:

1. Do Your Due Diligence

Plenty of agencies throw buzzwords on their websites: youth, college, campus, Millennial, and Gen-Z. Unless they have a proven track record of working on youth-focused campaigns in the medium that you’re pursuing (creative, digital, peer-to-peer, social, mobile, experiential), they’re probably not right for you. Research the campaigns they’ve executed, ask to speak to past clients, try to talk with students who have worked with them in the past, and understand what percentage of their business is focused on youth.

2. Hire an Expert Directly

Generalist agencies abound, but you need an expert. A lot of the big-box shops will sell everything under the sun, but when they land a campaign, they immediately outsource the execution. College marketing agencies are the secret tool in the toolbox for AoRs across the country. By working with the expert agency directly, you’ll save money, get better service, and cut down on communication delays, resulting in a better campaign.

3. Analyze Student Networks

Check out the Craigslist job or gigs section around any college town, or the campus job boards, and you’ll see countless postings for campus rep positions. The types of students that you want working for your brand—the true influencers—won’t be found there. They know which agencies offer the best experiences, work with the most interesting brands, and have students’ best interest at heart. Like everything in business, relationships and reputation are everything. Challenge potential agency partners to tell you how they’ve developed their student and campus network, how they keep it active, and what quality control they put on the types of students allowed to join.

college marketing agency employees talking

4. Inquire About Campus Relationships

An active college marketing agency will have relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers on campuses across the country. When executing any kind of event (experiential, mobile, pop-up), you want them talking to the right people. College campuses are like cities—talking to the right person will get you access for $1,000/day, while talking to the wrong person could get you outright denied or result in fees of upwards of $20,000/day. College administrators are conservative by nature, so your relationship, reputation, and experience will precede you in the decision-making process.

5. Understand Recruitment

For campus rep programs, it’s imperative to understand how potential partner agencies recruit students. Many agencies engage “full-time” reps or influencers who hop to different brands almost every day of the week. The most successful agencies anchor their strategies in authenticity, which means their campus reps are recruited for a specific brand partner and campaign, only work for that brand during the campaign, and embody the very detailed criteria and DNA outlined by you and your agency partner.

6. Seek Substance Over Style

Unless you’re working with a bottomless budget for awareness-generating stunts, ROI will be part of the conversation. It’s important to find a results-oriented partner that works collaboratively with you and your team to integrate tracking, analytics, and reporting into their strategy from day one. Be wary if they start recommending campaign concepts and tactics that are incredibly cool but don’t have a solid tie-back to your KPIs. A good agency will combine creativity with results, relying on data, best practices, and past experiences to drive success.

Finally, choose a genuine partner. When you hire a college marketing agency, you’re also hiring people—beyond being incredible at their jobs, you want those people to be likeable, kind, supportive, fun, and invested. Your agency should adapt to your workflows, internal processes, and dynamic needs. They should be friendly and easy to work with, which will translate directly into how they manage your campaign.

WANT MORE? CHECK OUT THESE BLOGS

HOW CAN YMC HELP?

If you’re looking to engage students on campus, we’re here to help. At YMC, we’ve been connecting brands 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!

College marketing is a huge opportunity. While big brands like Google and American Eagle have taken notice and launched multifaceted campaigns targeting this demographic, many brands have yet to step foot on campus. And if your brand isn’t trying to authentically connect with students, you’re leaving money on the table.

Not only do college students fall into the coveted Millennial and Gen-Z demographics, they’re also individuals who haven’t yet formed brand loyalties. For many, going to college is the first stage of their independent lives away from their parents. This is their first time making buying decisions for themselves. Maybe a student’s mom always did the laundry with Tide, but when the student stands in front of dozen of laundry detergents at the grocery store, which one will she buy?

Without formed brand loyalties, college students are highly susceptible to new products and services—especially if those products and services are well received by their peers. According to a Nielsen report, the most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. The same report found that 83% of people trust the recommendation of a peer over traditional advertising. Reaching consumers during their college years is an opportunity to win their loyalty by authentically inserting your brand into their lives. By being on campus and building college marketing campaigns around the lives of students, your brand becomes a part of their story and something they want to share with their peers.

students that are targeted via college marketing

Luckily for brands, college campuses are the perfect environment for peer-to-peer communications. Because students are concentrated in one place and every semester offers fresh opportunities to meet new people, the awareness of popular brands and services quickly spreads. Word-of-mouth takes on new power in the college environment.

Additionally, college students are digital natives. They never knew a world without smartphones and social media. They have the desire to share their lives and promote the brands and experiences that excite them. This gives your brand the potential to reach a national, and even global, audience.

But wait—aren’t college students poor? Don’t they survive on ramen? Some are—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t buying things. With money from parents, jobs, and student loans, their purchasing power isn’t something to scoff at. In fact, college students spent $523 billion dollars in 2015, 39% of which was discretionary spending (food, entertainment, clothes, transportation).

If brands can successfully connect with students and capture their loyalty during these key years, they will be able to retain their loyalty as they transition into new life phases. And trust us, the students who weren’t rolling in disposable cash will have the potential to spend a lot more after they graduate and enter the workforce.

WANT MORE? CHECK OUT THESE BLOGS

HOW CAN YMC HELP?

You know you want your brand on campus but aren’t sure how to get started—what next? 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 about college marketing today!