More colleges are advertising with online media companies like Buzzfeed to attract students to their programs and institutions.
In 2016, 86 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in the United States used social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others, according to the Pew Research Center.
Stephen Loguidice, the vice president of brand development for Buzzfeed, says his company was one of the first to respond to changes in how young people react to information and advertising.
Loguidice explained that new, online media takes a different approach to advertising to the youth market.
“With social, now [companies] have to think about, ‘How do I say what they want to hear and not necessarily what I want to say?’
“And at the end of the day, now [companies are] competing with friends and family and co-workers and trusted news sources and all these other things.”
Studies show that younger people rely on the opinions and shares of their friends and family on social media more than traditional approaches. A recent study showed that youths say that nearly half of news on social is fake.
Buzzfeed studies its most popular content and creates advertising in the same style for clients like universities. For example, the online music service Spotify paid Buzzfeed for a branded marketing campaign in 2014. Buzzfeed created a story for them with the headline “15 Of The Best Bands To Come From College Campuses.”
Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was one of the first universities to partner with Buzzfeed in 2015. The website created an advertising campaign for the university that received almost 800,000 views online.
Shortly after, schools like Indiana University and the University of Wyoming began working with Buzzfeed. Chad Baldwin, vice president of communications at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, said his school paid Buzzfeed $100,000 in 2016 for two campaigns.
He admits this can be costly and says the school still send brochures and information through the mail. But UW is very happy with the Buzzfeed material, which has been viewed over 100,000 times, he says.
“There are a lot of the traditional things we still use,” Baldwin said. But “the social media element is huge and anyone who resists engaging in those [ways] is probably going to get left behind.”
Jay Baer is the creator of Convince & Convert, a marketing company that deals mostly with social media. (He is also a parent of a high school student choosing a college.) Baer says many media companies create this type of branded advertising, including large newspapers like the New York Times, for clients.
Universities should have considered this method of advertising much sooner, he says.
Jennifer Cronin is a professor of marketing and social media in the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. She cautions schools to be careful about losing the public’s trust if the online material is considered offensive or untrustworthy.
“Colleges are supposed to be very elite and [centered] on academics, Cronin said. “And so, when you use these other [methods], if you do it poorly then there is the chance that you could harm your reputation.”
What do you think is the best way for universities to share their message with the current generation of young people? Should colleges use marketing like Buzzfeed?