“I think that students continue to consume media at a very rapid pace, television of course being one of their top choices. They continue to be influenced by what they’re seeing,” says Lisa Malat, Barnes & Noble College’s VP of marketing and operations. “They’re changing all the time and the channels that they prefer change all the time.”
Malat says that Barnes & Noble College Marketing endeavors to keep its proverbial “finger on the pulse of student behaviors and preferences.”
“How can we make sure that we’re putting together messaging and programs that are really going to connect with them, and feel relevant to them, and continue to do it in a meaningful way?” Malat asks.
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The study shows that college students save time for social media in between studies, with 65% of young scholars engaging with brands via social media weekly; 33% do so at least three times a day, particularly with Facebook. Yet, casual engagement is where the friendship ends–55% of students say Facebook is not the best targeting platform.
“What students are also telling us is that they’re not looking for any kind of blatant brand advertising on Facebook. So brands have to be really careful with how they engage with students on this channel,” Malat says. “What works is really being able to offer something of value. It could be coupons, it could be special promotions, it could be a VIP ticket to an event—it could also be using Facebook or social media as a way to gain insight into additional research with this demographic.”
Malat says brand loyalty increases social engagement for students by 26%, and that coupons and contests promote engagement by 26% and 19%, respectively. “Offering value to students is probably one of the key drivers of brand loyalty,” Malat says. “When brands can offer promotions and coupons and reasons to engage…that’s always a home run.”
It’s also a win, Malat says, when brand look to educate consumers about the value of their products and services.
However, not all marketing channels are favored equally. Sixty-one percent of respondents say that receiving messages through SMS is a poor way to connect; 58% often turn to their laptops to read emails.
“Almost 80% [of college students] own smartphones, but they’re all really looking and reviewing their emails on their laptops,” Malat says. “They told us: Don’t market to me through mobile. Don’t kind of get into my personal space. Don’t send me text messages.”
The also study revealed that college students are a humanitarian demographic, with 70% of students claiming they’d be more inclined to buy from charity-supporting brands and 63% saying they’re willing to spend more on products that benefit a philanthropic organization.
“They’re just very socially conscious, and they really have a desire to give back as much as they can,” says Malat, who works with her team to facilitate this by working to determine which charities are most meaningful to students and which organizations are the most integrated into the college campuses Barnes & Noble College serves. From there, Barnes & Noble College aims “to try to support those causes and those missions along with the students so it’s really more of a partnership,” she says.
Nevertheless, Matal acknowledges that a college budget consists mostly of ramen noodles and Easy Mac. She says Barnes & Noble College tries to accommodate students’ budgets through promotions, discounts, store samplings, and buy-one-get-one-free sales.
“Students are looking for ways to save money, and…we’re there to support them,” Malat says. “We’re always looking to provide additional value to the students.”
Barnes & Noble College conducted this study independently through the distribution of a survey to its opt-in email subscribers. The bookstore chain received more than 7,500 responses and compiled the research in approximately three months.