People, especially influencers, present their best selves on social media. Their pictures are photoshopped, their captions are thoughtfully crafted, and their aesthetics are carefully developed. But, things aren’t always as they seem! The recent college admission scandal, known as “Operation Varsity Blues,” is proof that what collegiate influencers put out on social media does not always translate to real life.

Each year, more brands are turning to Gen-Z collegiate influencers—like Olivia Jade, who we followed in the “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal—to promote their products through social media marketing and partnerships. And, given the current industry climate, it’s extremely important to thoroughly vet your collegiate influencers.

The following are five ways to evaluate future collegiate influencers to ensure that they’re a great fit for your brand and can effectively engage with your targeted audiences on campus.

1. Seek out on-campus involvement

In order to promote a brand on campus, a collegiate influencer needs to be plugged into their campus community. So, it’s a good idea to look for students who have a variety of involvement across different campus groups.

Ask each student about the leadership roles they hold and what their responsibilities are as a member or leader in each group. Meaningful involvement in on-campus groups can be leveraged for the brand, so make sure you delve deeper into their connections.

2. Look into secondary social media channels

While your brand might only be searching for collegiate influencers to assist with campaigns on a single platform, it’s important not to forget about other social media sites. Your brand should evaluate potential student influencers’ online personas as a whole.

Many students use different channels to express different sides of themselves (ex: Twitter = politics, Instagram = lifestyle, YouTube = beauty). Evaluating each of these channels in close detail is a simple way to ensure that each of your future influencers embodies the values of your brand—on each and every platform. Not to mention, it will help your company to avoid any not-so-happy surprises down the line!

3. Ask them about their studies and career aspirations

Evaluating influencers is much more than exploring their online personas. It’s important to have thoughtful conversations with potential collegiate partners to get to know their personalities.

The best influencers are those who are passionate about what they do. We encourage brands to ask students about their studies and career aspirations. Often times, students interested in social media, marketing, and public relations turn out to be fantastic collegiate influencers.

It’s always a great idea to seek out highly-ambitious students, but be sure to ask them about their course load and schedule. Students with too much on their plates may not be able to devote the necessary amounts of time and energy to your brand’s campaign.

4. Make sure their brand is aligned with yours

Collegiate influencers use their personal brands to promote products and services. Gen-Z has grown up surrounded by influencer marketing, and they can tell when posts feel forced or inauthentic.

To ensure a successful campaign, evaluate potential college influencers’ social media content thoroughly—this includes reading through captions and looking at Instagram stories. Also, look for diversity in your influencers’ content. Great student influencers are well-rounded (i.e. they post a variety of photos that show different aspects of their lives).

Lastly, if you have very specific content requirements for your campaign, make sure your potential student influencers already meet those requirements. It’s unlikely that influencers will change content or posting style drastically for your brand.

5. Take cues from your interactions

If potential influencers don’t sound interested in an interview, then it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to convey authentic enthusiasm for your brand when it’s time for them to begin posting. So, don’t let content quality blind you. Trust your gut in initial conversations and interactions. You can help someone craft better posts, but you can’t craft excitement.

The takeaways

As brand managers, there are two very important lessons to take away from the “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal. First, social media reality doesn’t always equate to a potential influencer’s real life. And second, it’s important to thoroughly vet each and every individual that represents your brand— including any collegiate influencers.

At YMC, we work with a network of thousands of thoroughly-vetted collegiate influencers across the country, so you can feel confident knowing that we have the right college connections for your brand. Our team carefully reviews each potential hire to ensure they are right for the brand, motivated about the job, and are involved in campus life.

If you’re tackling collegiate influencer recruitment internally, we hope these tips serve as a great starting point for properly evaluating your future collegiate representatives. If you’re still feeling nervous about where to start, YMC can help!

Want to learn more?

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You know you want to bring your brand to college campuses but you don’t know where to start. Research is key—especially when it comes to selecting the right college campuses for your campus rep programs. Smaller universities will garner different reach than larger universities, and social campuses are likely to be more receptive to certain brands than hyper academic campuses. Consider the five following tips to ensure that your campus rep programs successfully increase awareness and engagement with your brand.

Exposure to key markets for your brand

The college campuses involved should be strategically located near key markets and audiences. Campus rep programs influence shopping behavior and can greatly increase in-store foot traffic for product-focused brands or trial for service-focused brands. Having a nearby store in a well-known location, ideally less than 10 miles away from campus, will ensure that students can easily walk, drive, or take advantage of public transportation to further engage with your brand.

If your brand is digitally oriented with a focus on trial or e-comm sales, campus reps can also strategize tactics to influence their peers on campus to shop online. Further, campaigns that are digitally focused can be easily scaled, as your brand can greatly expand the number of college campuses taken into consideration.

Geographic region

Location is key when considering not only the campus’ proximity to key markets, but also the potential influence a campus’ geographic region can have on the relevance and need for your product or service. For example, a swimwear brand may be better received by students attending southern campuses like the University of Miami, rather than northern campuses like Syracuse University. Similarly, an urban campus such as NYU may be more receptive to a high profile fashion brand than a rural campus like the University of Idaho.

School size

Ideal campus reps will embody your brand persona and be enthusiastic about your brand’s mission. Universities with a larger population size will allow you to recruit a larger number of potential campus reps, while smaller universities will oftentimes allow you to select from a more niche group of students. Whether the school is small or large, you’ll want to identify precise selection criteria to ensure that your campus reps are outgoing influencers and passionate about extending the reach of your brand.

School size is important to keep in mind when considering the potential reach of your campus rep programs. Universities with larger population sizes will allow campus reps to easily and more efficiently target a large number of students. However, if strategic, selecting colleges with smaller populations can increase the chances that you engage students with a pre-developed interest in your field of service.

School culture

School spirit, academic rigor, and sports culture all influence which campuses should be involved in your campus rep programs. Students on social campuses tend to prioritize leading balanced collegiate lives and enjoy attending sporting events, parties, and school-specific festivities. For this reason, social and lifestyle brands may be more inclined to have a presence on these campuses.

Students attending hyper academic institutions, on the other hand, tend to prioritize their studies and may be more inclined to take advantage of practical services and study tools.

Number and quality of organizations present on campus

College students tend to be highly involved in on-campus organizations. While there are typically hundreds of active clubs on college campuses, it’s most important to have a presence in organizations that are relevant to your brand. For example, retail brands will want to establish a presence on college campuses with a high number of on-campus fashion organizations (e.g. Retail Studies Organization, etc.), as students within these clubs will more than likely have a pre-developed interest in your brand or field. You’ll also want to consider whether a university has other active large organizations such as Dance Marathon, PRSSA (Public Relations Society of America), or AMA (American Marketing Association), as these clubs tends to have large numbers of students involved.

Presidents, Social Chairs, and PR Chairs of these organizations can easily spread brand-related information to many students at once and directly influence brand sentiment and perception. For this reason, you’ll want to consider these students first to serve as your campus reps, or for your campus reps to reach out to them for a potential partnership.

Your program’s reach can be further amplified (and more efficient) on campuses that offer a plethora of Greek organizations, as sororities and fraternities tend to have between 50-250 students involved. Leaders of these organizations have major connections, which can gain you access to impactful partnerships, popular venues on campus, and well-attended events.

Now that you’re equipped with school selection criteria, you’ll want to begin researching the college campuses that fit the mold. While strategy is involved, it’s also a game of trial and error. Start small, and your campus rep programs are bound to expand and achieve profitable results!

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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!

Greek life is on the rise in the United States with membership increasing by 45% over the past decade, according to the North-American Interfraternity Conference, the organization that governs all active chapters nationwide. In order for brands to successfully infiltrate this group, they must focus on three key areas: developing authentic points of contact within the organization, finding unique ways to relate their brand to the group, and providing personalized touch points tailored towards their audience.

Develop Authentic Points of Contact

The Greek community on campus acts as a network. It takes a large 50,000 student body population, and condenses it into a tight knit community of 100-300 students. Because Greek life communities are tight knit, trends spread quickly by key micro influencers within the organization. The best way for brands to infiltrate these communities is to hire someone on the inside—campus reps.

Campus reps are the most effective and authentic way to infiltrate Greek life. Authenticity continues to be very important to students within the collegiate market, due to the magnitude of brands promoting their products within the space. The first step to identifying strong influencers in Greek life, which begins with the recruitment process. While developing the campus rep criteria, brands should look for students who are not only in sororities or fraternities, but who are also leaders within their respective organizations. Greek life leaders not only have authority over their peers, but also have on-campus connections such as on-campus location booking privileges and admin permissions on collegiate Facebook pages.

In addition to hiring campus reps who are leaders in their own Greek organizations, brands should identify leaders in governing Greek councils to help extend the reach of their brand. The two most influential governing councils to keep an eye out for are the Interfraternity Council as well as the National Panhellenic Council, the two organizations that govern all major fraternities and sororities in North America. They are able to infiltrate not just their own organization, but any Greek organization on-campus, making them incredibly valuable in terms of extending the reach of your brand on-campus. The campus rep will be allowed to attend typically closed chapter meetings and will have access to the executive board of all chapters for event announcements.

Ultimately, hiring campus reps in Greek organizations allows for trusted infiltration into Greek life on-campus. Because these individuals are trusted by their peers, students are more receptive to hearing what they have to say about new brands and products. Through hiring a micro influencer within the organizing, your brand can ensure that your message and products are being positively received on-campus.

Campus reps in Greek life

Relate Your Brand Personality to the Group

Now that your brand is ready to hire campus reps within Greek life, it’s important to confirm that your brand personality fits the personality of the Greek life community. Every organization is different on every campus. This also plays into school selection. Selecting schools within in your brand’s key market is the perfect starting point for ensuring that your brand will resonate on campus. After you pull together your initial school list, you will be able to determine if the school is actually a good fit during the recruitment process. Conduct interviews to vet the campus reps—you’ll be able to gather more information about not only the personality of the campus as whole, but also the personality of each various Greek organization. Once you gather this information, determine which schools and which organizations you want, and then make your hires!

Personalized Touchpoints

After you’ve hired your campus reps, programming is next. In order to truly infiltrate Greek life, brands must provide personalized touch points to promote engagement and interaction with the community. A great way to authentically integrate your brand into Greek life is to frame your promotions around key Greek moments. For example, fraternity and sorority formals are a staple in Greek life. If your brand sells formal attire, makeup, and/or hair products, formals and semi-formals are a great time to execute on-campus tactics. Campus reps can host events such as makeovers, fashion shows, or tabling events to promote your brand’s products or services before this key moment.

Outside of promoting your brand in conjunction to key Greek life moments, it’s important to make your brand’s promotions personal. A great example of personalizing your brand promotions is through surprise product drop-offs. Asking campus reps to coordinate a surprise at a sorority/fraternity that is not their own helps expand your reach. In feedback received from similar events, students felt appreciated and were more likely to shop the brand after the surprise.

Through developing authentic points of contact with campus reps in Greek life, relating your brand to the organization members, and providing personalized touch points that encourage interaction and engagement, your brand can ensure that it will successfully infiltrate Greek life.

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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!