Social Media Week: Social media marketing and millennials

I went back to college Friday morning at a social media week event with seven students who have an interest in media and online engagement.

I went back to college Friday morning at a social media week event with seven students who have an interest in media and online engagement. It was moderated by Doug Akin, chief engagement officer of interactive marketing agency Mr. Youth. Serving as a bit of a focus group, Akin asked the students, from New York University and the University of New Hampshire, about their preferences online, how they engage with companies, and what brands can do to attract fans and followers.

"It really doesn't do so much if you don't create constant connections," said Marc Geffen, a senior marketing major at NYU's Stern School of Business. "It has to provide you some type of added value." The students said that contests and sweepstakes, deals for products, and cause-marketing elements all attract them to interact with a brand online.

"We're engaged in giving back to the community and a lot of people got engaged in giving back promotions," added Cuauhtemoc Sandoval, also a senior at NYU's Stern School of Business, who highlighted the Chase Community Giving campaign on Facebook.

While the students admitted that tools such as Twitter and FourSquare are not mainstream among most college students, they use the sites to build up networks, particularly around future jobs and internships. Jessica Roy, a senior at NYU and editor-in-chief of campus news blog NYU Local, explained how she was offered an internship by a Twitter follower who noticed she was looking. Roy also spoke about print vs. online reading habits, saying she reads mostly online because, "In terms of news content, our generation is very niche-oriented."

Each student expressed different opinions on which sites appeal to them and how companies can engage with them online, but there were a few common themes. Many students don't own a TV or get cable, preferring to watch online video, Hulu, or live-streams. Brands such as Pepsi, Levi's, Virgin America, Target, and Burger King were all mentioned as being involved in interesting online content. They also follow TechCrunch and Mashable. One question touched on the fine line between providing content and being annoying through social media. The students said a schedule of one to three posts a week on sites like Facebook is a good amount.

For those who follow social media daily, a lot of the information discussed was not new. Of course brands should aspire to create the next funny viral video, allow for interaction, and incorporate cause-marketing. And these tech-and-media-savvy students are a small chunk of the population - a fact they admitted themselves. But one comment rings true for college students and the general population: In-person events are still one of the best ways to attract consumers, particularly when free food is involved.

Read more about this event on Twitter: #smwnycfri

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