3 Facebook lessons from colleges’ favorite brands

Though you might not manage PR and marketing for an organization that supplies sports teams with uniforms or makes delicious sandwiches, consider these takeaways to boost engagement.

For many brand managers, college students and alumni are coveted consumers they want to woo.

With Facebook’s recent announcement that it will give less favor tobrands’ posts, PR and marketing pros are struggling to reach these consumers—but a few collegiate favorites can share insights that can help you succeed on the platform, despite decreased reach.

StudySoup compiled data from Facebook Insights, looking at activity from consumers who “liked” a particular college or university page stacked against other brand pages they followed. Here are three lessons from the organizations that came out on top:

1. Under Armour: Focus on visuals.

Under Armour was the most popular clothing brand, liked by Facebook users connected with 93 colleges and universities across the nation. H&M garnered likes from students and alumni from 50 colleges, followed by Nordstrom, Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer.

StudySoup wrote:

… While [Under Armour] company seemed most popular in the Rust Belt, it was also a hit among those who liked some large Southern schools, such as Auburn. That university’s supporters have particular reason to show Under Armour some love – the school invested $10 million in the company in 2015.

H&M earned second place in our standings, thanks largely to fans of schools clumped on either coast. Colleges based near New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco were hubs for H&M love, suggesting the brand resonates most with an urban student base. Elsewhere, more expensive retailers ruled: Nordstrom ranked first among fans of many Western schools, while Vineyard Vines carved out a sizeable Northeastern presence. Lilly Pulitzer garnered more love farther down the Eastern seaboard, taking the top spot for fans of several schools in Virginia.

Aside from college sports partnerships with Under Armour, the clothing brand’s content on Facebook can lend insight into the type of posts that college students want to consume.

Its page is full of images, GIFs and videos featuring athletes from teams that wear Under Armour clothing. Though the posts are ultimately promotional, marketing messages take a backseat to the athletes’ stories:

When Under Armour does feature its products, it does so with short, visually captivating videos and images:

If you’re a PR or marketing pro for a clothing brand, don’t fret if your budget is smaller than Under Armour’s. A study from Corra analyzed the 100 most recent Instagram posts for 200 fashion brands, and found that more followers doesn’t mean more consumer interaction.

Corra reported:

Audience size is not indicative of highest engagement metrics. All brands, regardless of their popularity, can take actionable steps to connect with their consumers through photography. For instance, although the streetwear vertical had a limited audience size, it was also the most successful in terms of engagement. Even brands that are not leaders in their respective vertical can increase their engagement rates through a set of successful image themes.

The study showed that backgrounds chosen, people featured, and colors used can all make a difference in attracting consumers’ attention—so if you’re frequently employing visuals, you might want to consider the details. You should also make sure that your images and videos match your brand voice.

The report said:

In the words of Corra’s Senior Visual Designer, “Consistency is key. When it comes to displaying your products online, having a unified look and feel is so important for your business. This consistency is the foundation for a reputable brand which translates to a confident experience for users.”

2. Jimmy John’s: Embrace casual conversation and snark.

StudySoup reported that Jimmy John’s was the most-liked restaurant brand on Facebook with college students and alumni, grabbing followers from 129 colleges and universities. Sheetz and The Cheesecake Factory, the next most popular restaurants with college students, lagged behind with followers from 43 and 40 schools, respectively.

It might be Jimmy John’s sandwiches and fast delivery time which ultimately make it a college student favorite, but the chain’s social media team boasts a brand tone and stories that appeal to younger consumers.

Along with visuals and serving suggestions, Jimmy John’s Facebook page is a collection of customer and employee stories, which helps make the sandwich chain more relatable to its followers:

When promoting its offerings, the organization relies on its employees and embraces its silly, snarky brand voice:

3. Southern Living: Go local (and understand your audience).

Though many college students follow Mother Jones and The Atlantic (both racked up “likes” from 43 colleges and universities), Southern Living took the lead with followers from 55 schools.

Southern Living does well on Facebook with its local focus—along with understanding its audience. The publication’s page features its articles, played up with posts that promote pride in southern United States products, recipes, decor and innovations:

Aside from its articles and information, the publication’s social media team uses video to attract its followers’ attention and rack up views—along with shares.

This includes videos that its audience might like—even if it doesn’t come from Southern Living or one of its sponsors:

How are you breaking through with consumers on Facebook, PR Daily readers?

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