By Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos.
Campus rep programs go by many terms: student influencer, student brand ambassador, campus ambassador, student rep. I recently attended and spoke at a few conferences this year that touched on this topic, including Share.Like.Buy., Youth Marketing Summit and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).
A campus rep is a student who represents a brand and carries out a marketing plan to their peers both online and offline. My agency has had students set up events in sorority houses, post on social media or answer questions for market research. I recently identified six key takeaways from the Millennial Marketing Conference, which I, unfortunately, wasn't able to attend, by following their Twitter feed during the talks this year. They are below.
Play the long game.
Don't just opt for a flash in the pan. Think about the longevity you can create with your campaign for best results. For example, I worked with a home alarm company who knew to plant the seed early with seniors in college. It's not an industry you would think might target college students, but they understood the longevity they could create. They worked with students in the classroom and gave them a great experience. When those students graduated and bought their first home, who do you think was the first company they thought of for home alarms?
Build it with students, for students.
Co-create to ensure you accomplish your goals. Don't rely on students to create a majority of your marketing plan, but use them to vet your plans before you execute to ensure it will resonate. Students love students, so use them. For example, we wanted to sell speakers to students in hotel rooms on spring break. In talking to students, we learned it would be advantageous to fully take the speakers out of their packaging so spring breakers didn't think they would be charged if they opened up the package. A simple conversation helped to improve conversion of speaker usage.
Assemble an epic squad.
Don't recruit just any student. Recruit the best students for your campaign and brand. Be rigorous. Are you asking students to post a lot on social media? Pull their Klout score (which measures online impact of posts) to determine high engagement on social media. Are you asking students to speak in front of a student organization? Identify their Myers Briggs or Personality Index score to find out how extroverted they are.
Understand the power of training.
These are students after all. Your quality of execution will directly reflect your quality of training. Invest in it! Have a session on using social media as a marketing platform or role play an offline execution. Don't forget to listen to students' feedback throughout training. Training is best done in the summer so you don't have to compete with classes. Ensuring they are not sitting down for too long will remind them this isn't another classroom. Mix up powerpoints, roleplaying and other methods to keep attention spans longer.
Create a community.
Use digital tools to bring your team together. Share successes and report/track how teams are performing. Promote sharing and collaboration across your support platforms. Messenger apps are growing rapidly and have surpassed social networks in terms of monthly active users. My company uses a messaging app we created to reach our campus reps community. Other common tools include Slack, private groups on Facebook and GroupMe.
Stick to where your brand is best. For maximum impact, use your brand to support students to live better lives. Listen to what your audience wants and deliver authentically. For example, we work with Men's Wearhouse, which taught students how to dress for success before a career fair. The students gained knowledge whether they went into a Men's Wearhouse or not. By supporting students and making their lives better, the company was able to deliver a positive ROI from coupon-offer tracking.
You can learn a lot by following a conference Twitter feed. Take these learnings and test, iterate and repeat.
Adam Grant serves as CEO of Campus Commandos, a top Youth Marketing Agency helping you market products/services to college students.