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Social Media Tips for Marketing to College Students

Joshua Stowers
Joshua Stowers
Staff Writer
Business News Daily Staff
Updated Nov 12, 2021

Social media is a great digital marketing tool for business owners looking to build their brands. Find out how to engage with young adults using these marketing tactics.

  • Social media can be a very useful tool for marketing to college students, especially Gen Z and millennials, as they are so active on social networks.
  • Influencer marketing is one of the many effective ways a business can advertise to college students on social media. Many college students view influencers as trustworthy content creators who share their genuine experiences with brands they believe in and support.
  • It’s important to recognize the effectiveness of brand ambassadors and influencers. They can create a hashtag that’s unique to your business, promote a scholarship you’re offering, or even publish ads and campaigns highlighting student discounts. 

Social media sites have become important marketing tools for almost all small businesses, but for those going after the higher-education demographic, a presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks is critical to engage customers. College-age consumers can be easy to reach and represent an extremely profitable market if you’re using social media the right way, but many business owners are still intimidated by the world of hashtags and likes. 

According to Buffer’s State of Social 2019 Report, social media marketers need to be aware of four trends in 2020: stories ads, messaging apps, influencer marketing and video content. The research shows that more than 60% of businesses plan to invest more in stories ads, while nearly 90% plan to continue investing in influencer marketing. Surprisingly, close to 70% of businesses have not used any messaging apps for marketing, and roughly 66% attribute the lack of video content to not having enough time. 

What are three key strategies for small businesses to employ in their social media strategy?

Entertainment media company Study Breaks has successfully captured the sought-after college market with its online magazine geared toward college students. The company notes that, considering the limited content marketing budgets of many small businesses, the potential growth they can achieve with free social media accounts justifies the time and effort of maintaining effective social media campaigns. 

Study Breaks offers three key social media tactics for small businesses to employ when marketing to college students: 

  1. Share photos. Social media users love to share their experiences, and using your company’s Facebook page as a platform for that will boost interaction. Study Breaks recommends hiring event photographers to take and upload photos of your customers, who can then tag themselves and share the picture from your page. If you have a product-based business, offering a gift or incentive to customers for snapping photos of themselves with their purchases is an easy way to build both content and loyalty.
  2. Be everywhere. As sites like Snapchat and Instagram continue to gain popularity among college students, it’s hard to predict what the next big thing in social media will be. A presence on multiple platforms will give your business an edge with customers who prefer using social networks other than Facebook and Twitter. You’ll have to work a little harder to consistently update each platform, but your brand will reach the maximum audience.
  3. Promote groups. Many college students are looking for fun things to do near their campus. If you own a business in or near a college town, you can take advantage of Facebook groups to highlight local activities like concerts or fraternity and sorority events. Share the event details on your company’s page to attract an audience that is genuinely interested in the content. They might just check out your products while they’re there. 

Once you’ve used these strategies to build up your brand and gain a significant following within the college demographic, Study Breaks suggests offering coupons, sponsorships and giveaways through your company’s social networks. These incentive tools will promote audience growth and shared links back to your website and/or social media accounts. [Read related article: How to Develop a Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Business]


What are the best ways to advertise to college students on social media?

Influencer marketing is one effective way a business can advertise to college students on social media. Many college students view influencers as trustworthy content creators who share their genuine experiences with brands they believe in and support. This type of engagement marketing, or experiential marketing, can have a memorable impact on the audience. 

According to Nate Masterson, chief marketing officer for Maple Holistics, there are three common ways for business owners to advertise to college students on social media: videos, ambassadors and perks. 


The short attention span of the younger generations makes videos a great way to capture their attention. Photos speak louder than words, but a video can send a message at the same time. If you keep them short, you can use videos to your advantage when advertising to college students. 

The rise of mobile devices means that we’re constantly bombarded with multimodal mental imagery. In other words, videos have the potential to not only capture your visual senses, but to create an immersive experience when done right. 


Social media influencers are a great way to promote your brand to a wider audience. Instead of turning to established influencers, you could create an ambassador program in which students become your advertisers. Give them incentives and perks, and in return, they will loyally advertise your brand as the best option in its niche. 


Given the financial situation of many college students, this demographic is always looking for a good deal. Offering special perks for students, besides your usual freebies and promos, gives them a sense of loyalty to your brand. Use social media to advertise your student perks – and offer them frequently. 

The potential benefits of using brand ambassadors and influencers in your college marketing campaigns are huge. They can create a hashtag that’s unique to your business, promote a scholarship you’re offering, or even publish ads and campaigns highlighting student discounts. You can learn more about recruitment marketing or on-campus recruiting to develop a relationship between your business and local colleges or universities. 

Which types of ads do college students pay attention to?

If you personalize your digital marketing campaigns to your target audience, you can get insights on what they want to see more of. College students tend to pay the most attention to ads that align with their interests or beliefs, rather than those that highlight a product or service that brands think students like, according to Polly Kay, senior marketing manager at English Blinds

“This means that the more narrowly you can identify such a factor for the students in question and align your product with it, the more effective this will be,” Kay told Business News Daily. “Done correctly, social media marketing can be hugely effective for targeting college students, because virtually all college students use several social media platforms. This does, of course, hinge on getting the message and approach right for the students and platform in question, however.” 

Focusing on the more popular social ad types can boost your business’s social media marketing strategy. Here are three social media trends to help your business market to college students: 

  1. Personalized content: It’s best to start with content that offers high value for free. You can conduct polls and surveys to gain insight into what your audience wants more of so you can market to them effectively.
  2. Livestreaming: Livestreaming video is increasingly popular on social media platforms and can spike user engagement and interaction. Allowing college students to connect with your business in real time gives them a behind-the-scenes glance of their favorite brands or new businesses they may be interested in.
  3. Quality content: About 80% of internet users have at least one social media account. If your content provides value or entertainment, it will draw in viewers and potential customers. 

How effective is social media marketing to college students?

Social media marketing is beneficial for many businesses, especially when marketing to college students who are Gen Z or millennials, as social networks are a big part of their lives. 

Social media marketing can be an extremely effective way to connect with college students if you can attach your brand’s purpose with the self-identity ecosystem of the student, according to Tye Price, chief strategist at Chernoff Newman

“This audience is curating their life through social media in creative ways every day,” he said. “Often, the content they are creating and sharing is better than a brand’s content – it’s seen as real and authentic.” 

Price says that your business must have a story that connects with the audience, and then you can build social engagement as an extension of your target user’s personal brand. If you can get your audience to care, especially young adults, you can establish an emotional connection with them. 

Which social media platforms are the best for marketing to college students?

You should consider several factors to determine your best social media platform for marketing to college students, as it varies by business. Some of the most popular social media platforms are Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, but it’s important to pinpoint your target audience and determine your short-term and long-term goals so you know where to focus your efforts. 

Also think in terms of your specific audience when designing ads. For instance, college students tend to be thrifty, so any ad, regardless of platform, that promotes a discount will attract eyeballs, according to Daniel Cheung, SEO consultant for Prosperity Media

“Social media platforms are effective – they continue to drive conversions for brands and businesses of all sizes,” Cheung said. “Advertising on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube is relatively easy. The secret comes from understanding who you are as a brand and what pain point your audience has.” 

Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Image Credit:

ViewApart / Getty Images

Joshua Stowers
Joshua Stowers
Business News Daily Staff
Joshua Stowers is a and Business News Daily writer who knows firsthand the ups and downs of running a small business. An entrepreneur himself, Joshua founded the fashion and art publication Elusive Magazine. He writes about the strategic operations entrepreneurs need to launch and grow their small businesses. Joshua writes about choosing the choosing and building business legal structures, implementing human-resources services, and recruiting and managing talent.