Shifting sands – how are students using social media?

Posted: 20 Jun 2018 - 11:33
UCAS Media how students are using social media
In the UCAS Media student lifestyle report this year, we surveyed more than 11,000 students on their habits, preferences, and attitudes toward social media.

For the first time, they told us they network digitally with their friends and family more (84%) than they do in person (83%). A cultural shift in the millennial lifestyle certainly, but a vindication for the digital-first advertising approach used by many brands toward the student market.

For more than a decade, Facebook has been the dominant social force. Globally, it enjoys a 70%+ market share, and with its nearest competitor, Twitter, at just 10%, it might look like a done deal for marketers.

But for students, our lifestyle research shows a very different picture.

Facebook is still top of the pile when it comes to regular usage (83%), but faces real competition in the student market from both Instagram (73%) and Snapchat (73%). Facebook’s growth has been steady, and saw a slight decline this year, while Instagram and Snapchat have been the fastest growing networks for three years running.

But usage isn’t the only factor to consider when planning a campaign. Using this information to successfully target the student market relies on knowing what each channel is used for, particularly when students are using them for 4+ hours per day, and almost half of those we asked couldn’t imagine being able to go more than three days without signing in.

Facebook is the most popular choice among students for chatting to friends and family (41%), using video chat (31%), and finding offers (30%). While the personal networking aspect of the first two can strengthen brand advocacy and awareness, the active bargain-hunting use certainly opens the door for promotions. The ability to target on location, interest, and behaviour through advertising on Facebook makes this an attractive prospect for retailers.

Instagram came out on top, unsurprisingly, for the sharing of photos and videos (47%), but it also placed highly for discovering more about a brand (27%) and researching new products (16%). No other social media channel ranked higher for brand research, and only YouTube (21%) placed higher for finding new products, making Instagram a strong contender for more direct commercial use.

Snapchat, while clearly making waves in the market, finds itself limited to more traditional networking. Whilst many brands are utilising Snapchat’s advertising features to take advantage of the vast marketplace, students are using the channel primarily to chat to friends and family (20%), share media (21%), and use video chat (16%). Snapchat’s usage is similar to WhatsApp’s, in this regard.

YouTube is the dark horse of the group. While many won’t consider this a social media channel, what cannot be denied is its pedigree as an advertising medium for the student market. Its primary uses were research into a brand (23%) and into new products (21%). The popularity and success of video content in marketing, along with monolithic monthly traffic, makes looking past YouTube extremely difficult. 

Aligning each stage of your campaign to the channel most suitable for your content and product is the key to successful and efficient student marketing. It can be tempting to simply follow the traffic spikes all the way to Facebook, but look closely at your message and identify the most suitable channels to realise a more success-oriented strategy.

Understanding engagement on their terms
To find out more, download the UCAS Media student lifestyle report, or get in touch. We’re in the perfect position to support brands that want to speak to and support the verified student audience, with products and services that will make their next step a confident one.

For more information on any aspect of the student lifestyle report, or to find out how we can connect your brand to this important audience, call 01242 544 881, or email [email protected].

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