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 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 endeavours, 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.

Authenticity

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 incorporating 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.

Cost

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!

 

User generated content (UGC) is a constant player in the marketing world. By definition, UGC is any type of content that has been created and put out there by unpaid contributors or fans. To put it simply, it’s when someone promotes your product or service on their own social media channels. Their content could come in the form of an Instagram post, YouTube video, tweet, blog, online review, or many other mediums. 

UGC is authentic, organic, and trusted by Millennials. In a recent study, it was stated that 47% of Millennials trust UGC over content created by brands. As you can see, UGC is effective, but how can your brand encourage its customers and fans to create more content on the brand’s behalf? The answer is a user generated content marketing campaign. Below are six examples of campaigns that worked well for brands in the past.

Highlight a Lifestyle

There are multiple lifestyle brands that encourage customers to feature products on their personal social media channels. This encourages individuals to showcase how the brand is incorporated into their active lifestyles. For example, if you check out the L.L. Bean Instagram account, you’ll notice that they frequently regram customers who have featured L.L. Bean product in their Instagram posts. Customers are encouraged to post on their social channels using the hashtag #beanoutsider, which has generated 60k+ posts to date.   

User generated content

Host a Contest

Hosting a contest on social media is a popular way to generate UGC—that’s what the athletic apparel company, Outdoor Voices, did last year. Referencing their “doing things is better than not doing things” moto, they created an Instagram contest around #DoingThings. Outdoor Voices gave a lucky someone a year of leggings (one pair each month) in exchange for them posting a photo with the hashtag #DoingThings and following @outdoorvoices on Instagram. Even after the contest concluded, fans of the brand still use the hashtag #DoingThings when including the brand in their posts (91K+ posts to date).

Have an Evergreen Hashtag

Many brands generate content by promising to share UGC on their websites or owned social media channels, eliciting a competition among their followers. Madewell is a good example of this, “Share your Madewell denim love with us. Submit a photo here or on Instagram with #denimmadewell—we’re showcasing our favorite snaps.” Not sure if the denim will fit you correctly? Take a look at the hashtag and you’ll be able to see it on 23k+ girls with your size or style. Seeing denim on a variety of “regular” people is especially useful in encouraging purchase consideration.

User generated content

Have Seasonal Hashtags

MeUndies also features UGC on their account if a follower posts with their hashtag. The difference between their campaign and the Madewell example? MeUndies switches up the ask, and the hashtag, based on the season or product feature. For example, prior to Valentine’s Day, MeUndies posted, “Tag photos of you, your boo, and maybe your pooch too with #MatchMeUndies for a chance to be featured during V-Day Season.” Switching up the hashtag keeps the contests new and exciting, and allows the brand to generate seasonally relevant content.

Support a Movement

In a groundbreaking move, Aerie decided to discontinue the use of Photoshop in 2014 and has been a champion of body-positivity ever since. Their campaign #AerieREAL is about encouraging others to embrace their real bodies, be inclusive, and of course, no retouching. Aerie asks their users to “let the real you shine” and share how they are #AerieREAL through unretouched photos on social media. Aerie often utilizes this content on their own social pages, website, and even on images printed in stores. Also incorporating a charity aspect, Aerie recently donated $1 (up to $25K) to the National Eating Disorders Association for every unretouched swim photo shared on social media with #AerieREAL. 

Hire Brand Ambassadors

While many UGC campaigns are done organically, hiring brand ambassadors guarantees high-quality content and allows you more control over the narrative. Aerie taps into the social media savvy college demographic through their brand ambassador program. These brand ambassadors embody the #AerieREAL mindset, and promote Aerie on their social accounts to peers. They also encourage friends to post with the hashtag, which spreads the #AerieREAL message across college campuses. Express is another brand that has capitalized on student brand ambassador content and activations. Express finds that the content created by their brand ambassadors often generates higher engagement than content created by the brand itself. Hiring and training brand ambassadors often pays for itself by reaching new consumers, driving awareness, and increasing sales.

UGC is effective, relevant, and authentic. Each of the above examples show how UGC can be achieved in a variety of ways. It’s important to assess your brand and figure out what type of campaign works for your specific needs; whether that is a seasonal promotion, a charity component, or a contest. Figure out what resonates with your fans and let them bring your brand to life.

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How Can YMC Help?

Want to reach the coveted Millennial and Gen-Z demographics by creating a user generated content campaign? 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!

Sampling is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your product gets into the hands of potential consumers. Although sampling can be a great way to gain product exposure, it must be done strategically. Through a brand ambassador program, brands can leverage their ambassadors to host product sampling events on campus, specifically targeting key potential consumers within the collegiate market.

Here are five tips to running a successful sampling event on campus:

1) Relevance & Theme

Sampling events are typically straightforward—you distribute samples, students sample the product, and students (hopefully) convert. What turns sampling into conversion within the collegiate market, is relevance. Relevance can be created by activating and creating a theme for your product sampling event around key collegiate moments, including back-to-school, Spring Break, or graduation.

For example, a cosmetics company with a wide range of bronzing and body products may want to host a sampling event pre-Spring Break. By hosting the event pre-Spring Break, students will have the opportunity to sample the brand’s relevant warm-weather products such as bronzers, self-tanners, and moisturizers. The event’s proximity to Spring Break will help keep the brand top-of-mind while students are making their travel skincare and makeup purchasing decisions.

2) Product Selection & Size

This may sound obvious, but sampling events should always distribute sample size products. Some brands opt to distribute full-sized products in the hopes of building deeper brand loyalty, however this strategy can ultimately hurt sales. By distributing full-sized product, students are are less likely to head in-store and purchase—and why would they? They already own it!

In addition, selecting sample size products that fit into your event’s theme increases brand relevance and purchase consideration. Going back to the Spring Break example, distributing TSA-approved samples indicates to students that your travel-sized line is perfect for Spring Break.

3) Track Your Success

Through the use of various digital platforms, brands are able to track the success of their sampling events. Coupons are a great way to incentivize students to purchase full-sized product. When creating a coupon, it’s important to make redemptions trackable and unique to your specific program or event. In addition, you’ll want to make sure that the coupon is incentivizing enough—at least a 20% discount—and that it doesn’t compete with any better online or in-store promotions.

Most often, the best indicator of event success will be the sales generated. If you had an event at American University, check to see if there was a sales lift at nearby stores. By tracking the sales of your event, you will be able to determine if your sampling strategy was successful, or if not, how you can change you strategy to ensure future success.

4) Include an Acquisition Element

Students love samples and are typically willing to give personal information in exchange! If your goal is to collect more emails for future email marketing campaigns, an online sweepstakes is an easy way to organically collect those emails. Simply encourage students to sign-up for the sweepstakes in order to gain a sample. Alternately, if your brand is looking to increase their following on social media, implement a “Follow for a Sample” exchange. Both acquisitional tactics have proven successful at sampling events and will provide your brand added value.

5) Location, Location, Location & Time

Keep in mind that each campus you activate on is different! The best way to ensure that your event location and timing works for each unique campus is to ask students or have your brand ambassadors inform your decision. The ambassadors know what days and times are busiest on campus and which locations harbor the most student traffic. Work with your ambassadors to secure the event location and time at least two weeks prior to the event.

The last piece to consider? Hire passionate brand ambassadors and your sampling event will practically run itself!

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HOW CAN YMC HELP?

Want to get your product into the hands of Millennials and Gen-Z? 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!