Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Growing Chemistry between Social Media and Students

Over the last 15 months, I have been studying branding solutions and digital communications as a graduate student at Northwestern University. I have become increasingly interested in the ‘chemistry’ between social media and everyone’s life, including mine.

Let us start by working through a day of mine. I woke up at 8am, putting on makeup while also checking out my Facebook home page to see what has been going on. On my way to school, I was discussing today’s Groupon deal with my classmate Karena. When we arrived to class, I used my Groupon mobile app to purchase the offer. At the start of class, our professor discussed news articles people posted on Twitter. After two classes, I went back home and began browsing my friend’s food photos on Facebook, which inspired me to begin thinking about what to eat for dinner- sweet and sour pork! Later that night I browsed a few forums for travel advice, because I was planning my Thanksgiving trip to Seattle with friends. I drafted a schedule in 1.5 hours based on people’s suggestions and experiences!

According to The State Of Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2011, US report, younger generations, GenZ (18-22) and GenY (23-31), are more active on social networks. While Baby Boomers are using social media, with a similar percentage having a Facebook or a LinkedIn account as their younger counterparts, the younger generations are far more likely to have a Twitter or MySpace account. In summary, students are more likely to use a combination of social platforms. These young people do not know a world without mobile or the internet.

Just as it is for me, social media tools help students in a variety of ways, and lead to a much easier life. Below are some ways in which social media integrates into the life of a student:
ž   Academic: Improves interactions with professors and other students. It also allows students’ thoughts to be heard by the world.
ž   Casual: Just spending time browsing and reading
ž   Catching up with friends: Communicating with friends and family online helps with separation anxiety, especially for students who live far away from their family.
ž   Looking for information: From academic assignments to food, travel, movie, fashion, and shopping, information on nearly every aspect of life can be found online. Social media is also the go-to platform for people who rely on word of mouth (WOM).

There is definitely great business potential. College students, for example, are at the beginning stage of having control over their life and having decision making power on their disposal income. They are also more likely to try new brands that are recommended through social media instead of sticking on certain brands.

Do you track in this trend? Is your brand using it in the right way to communicate with this young group? All marketers must realize the importance of using social media to connect with consumers. If students are part of your target audience, congrats, you have many opportunities to leverage social media. Think about using social networking to create an online community for the organic chemistry.

Irene Pei-Yun Hsu, Northwestern IMC Graduate, @IreneHsu_97

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