College Students Give Failing Grade to Social Networking as Marketing Tool
If you’re a corporate marketer trying to reach out to college students, you may want to think twice about using social networking sites as a tool, according to a new research study.
The study, conducted by research firm Nielsen Norman Group, found that college students associate social networking sites with private discussions—not with corporate marketing.
“Sites like Facebook are simply not the first place that college students think to visit to get information about organizations,” said Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group.
When students want to learn about a company or organization, they turn to search engines to find the company’s or organization’s official website, according to the study. Based on the study, Nielsen Norman Group recommends that marketing campaigns concentrate on a company’s own website rather than on social networking sites.
“College students are squarely in the online generation, having grown up using the web and now spending—and sometimes squandering—large amounts of time on it,” Nielsen said. “While it’s no surprise that organizations targeting college students try to reach them on the web, they’re mistaken if they think the best path is through social networking sites.”
Nielsen Norman Group researchers observed 43 full-time college students in four countries while the students performed tasks on 217 websites. Other findings of the research include:
• College students often are stereotyped as being extremely tech savvy. While it may be true for some, most expect the web to be easy to use; they don’t want to work too hard to figure out how to do something.
• Students are unimpressed by fancy design and multimedia. College students generally view websites as tools to help them get things done. They appreciate multimedia on certain sites like YouTube, but they don’t want multimedia at all times on all sites.
• Students immediately flee a website when confronted with a page full of dense text. They don’t even bother reading the first sentence.
A 2010 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 91 percent of college seniors reported having an account on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn. That’s up from 86 percent in the 2009 survey and 83 percent in 2008.
A poll released in October and commissioned by mtvU, the Jed Foundation and The Associated Press indicated that 85 percent of college students think social networking sites make them feel more connected. About four in 10 college students have at least 500 friends on social networking sites, but few of the students interact with them regularly, the poll showed.