Marketing to College Students Online: 5 Tips

Jan 4, 2012   //   by Kaila Strong   //   internet marketing, SEO Blog  //  16 Comments

Today’s students are online more than ever, which makes online marketing a prime medium for advertising dollars. Marketing to the much sought after 18-30 year old demographic can be tricky and requires a bit of creativity. Also keeping up on popular trends is important too. If you’re just getting started in this space be sure to do your research.

Thankfully resources abound in this industry, with top higher education marketing blogs sharing case studies, blog posts, video and more on a regular basis. To add to the list, here are my 5 quick tips to help in your efforts to market to college students online.

Optimize for Mobile
Mobile phones with Internet access aren’t uncommon anymore. Just about every 18-30 year old has one (91% of Americans do, according to this survey). So don’t you think your website should be easily accessible and user friendly on a mobile device?

Consider mobile developing a mobile app, simplified navigation, reduced content or text, mobile only version of your site and mobile only features. If at this point you haven’t looked at your site on a mobile device or thought about mobile optimization – you should! (Just found this Google webinar about mobile optimization – check it out!).

Short and Concise
Getting right to the point within the context of your web copy is important if you’re marketing to college students. They don’t want to read flowery sales copy or cheesy testimonials. Get right to the point, be short and concise with your copy. Not only is long copy hard to read on a cell phone, it’s also often unnecessary to get your point across. Keep this in mind as you develop content not only on your website but offsite as well.

Think About Parents Too
Most students cannot afford college, it’s a fact of life. Parents often contribute to children’s education and should be in your thoughts as a marketer. Do you have sections on your site that cater to the parents of college students? Help answer their questions and give them the information they want to see. They’re the ones holding the purse strings.

Don’t limit your efforts to just Facebook because you now that’s where a lot of people spend their time. Diversify your marketing efforts to include other social networking and offsite content marketing practices. Guest blogging can be big in this space too, so don’t count it out. Develop relationships with higher education bloggers and start writing content. Perform keyword research to find long tail phrases students and parents might be searching for, and develop content around those phrases.

Let Them Speak
A recent study found that college students want to hear from other students and that is can play a large role in their decision to attend. Similarly so, if you are marketing a product to this demographic you need to let them see what others are saying about you. Allow comments on your brands Facebook wall, monitor review websites and encourage engagement through social channels. When the need to respond to a comment arises be sure to use your best judgement. A negative review very well could turn into something worse if you don’t respond in the right way. Reviews can be a necessary evil in some cases.

These are just a few quick tips. Have some additional to add? I’d love to hear!

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Kaila Strong

Kaila Strong is an avid tweeter (@cliquekaila), and marketer in the Phoenix area.

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  • Anthony

    Your first point about mobile optimization is important not only for marketing to college students, but to everyone. More people are purchasing smartphones everyday, just look at the activation numbers, and the future of SEO/SEM is going to be heavily dependent on mobile. It’s a good idea to optimize for mobile now so that you can stay relatively ahead of the curve.

    • i totally agree with you, but the conversion are i have seen are made mostly on computers , people hardly use mobile phones to pay something, unless the website has Paypal or something because paying by email is like 1 minute work.

      they use mobile to get information fast and on the go , so taking out the credit card and adding billing address n all is lot of work

      • Kaila Strong says:

        I certainly understand what you mean regarding conversions coming from computers, but couldn’t that initial visit have been on a cell phone? Casual research on a mobile device, normal browsing, etc… could have helped assist in that final conversion.

  • Kaila Strong says:

    Yup so true Anthony. Mobile optimization is super important, regardless of who you’re marketing to. I wrote about it a few weeks ago here on the blog. Check it out, and thanks for your comment!

  • Lily says:

    With tablets and smart phones, soon enough, blogging and reading blogs from our PCs will become redundant. Especially for college students that are particularly focused on these types of gadgets.

  • Sarah says:

    Internet Marketing and advertising I think the going on so fast every day, and I think this markets will control the world next years , and the college students are the most marketers online right now , and for the part about Facebook , am 100% agree with you , because it’s not only the secret of online marketing , but it’s an dot of whole circle

  • Ray says:

    I would imagine it would be better to keep it short and to the point for mobile. I know a lot of posts and people even suggest that a 500-1000 word article is what they want. I don’t do too much online reading or work via a mobile device, but I don’t know that I would read very many that were in 500+ word range. Also, I know cell phone use has grown substantially in a short amount of time. I wouldn’t have guessed we are up to 91% in the young adult range here in the US. That is a huge percentage or number.

  • Dell says:

    Great views Kaila! Articles must be more concise in order for students to surf through their mobile what they searching. There are schools and universities who are now requiring to use iPad during classes and they are using it as their research book. I hope writers would realize how hard for the students to cope up with those long articles.

  • Ileane

    Hi Kaila, I love that your often talking about topics related to highered! One of my tasks on my day job is to do outreach to engineering students at colleges and universities around the world. Facebook is a good starting point but I agree with you, we definitely need to expand into other social networks. Twitter has been very challenging because I’m finding that most engineering students have protected their tweets and those that don’t rarely seek information about their studies. They use twitter to chat with friends or follow celebrities. Do you have any tips that might help in this area?
    I guess my next target will be LinkedIn, but I’m not very familiar with how to get the most out of that platform and I’m not sure it’s worth the time investment.

    • Kaila says:

      Thanks for the comment Ilene and the compliment. I love writing about higher ed. There’s so much fun stuff to do in the space and I’ve had a chance to work on some great projects.

      On LinkedIn I’d suggest utilizing Groups to network with prospective or existing students in the engineering field. With regards to Twitter – that’s a tough one. If their tweets are protected you won’t be able to use to find mentions of engineering related keywords. Twitter might just not be the right avenue if you aren’t find many students who unprotect their status messages.

      Something in this space that I’ve found to work really well is guest blogging. You’ll find that the posts will naturally get tweeted and shared on social sites (if they are really good and topical of courses – the hard part). Then utilize that opportunity to reach out to the students who tweet or share the post. Monitor this by using or any other programs that search for mentions, and reply to those who help share your information.

      Hope my advice helps. 🙂

  • Tim Ryan says:

    Optimizing for Mobile is the perfect idea in marketing to college students. There’s an app or a widget or even a QRcode for almost everything now as almost every college student has a mobile phone that is wifi enabled or can connect via 3g.

  • james says:

    very helpful info, and yes, the demographs are changing everyday and so is the way to target the best return results
    thanks heaps

  • marieljackson says:

    These gonna be great thing for our college student’s to know about these, Every tips can really help them to had a advance idea’s in dealing with social business.

  • thanks for posting this, this is very rare site. I need some information on how to market student online; techniques, pros and cons. I wonder why some young age people doesn’t want to go in college when they have enough resources for the studying. I also encourage to use social networking like g+.

  • Jasmin says:

    This post is certainly based on current context and as said more people are now days on internet.. With the help of mobile device people often like to use it for internet and optimization for the mobile is certainly needed..