College is usually depicted as an oasis of sorts. It’s supposed to be the place where life-long friends are made, careers are started, success thrives, and it’s where everything comes together as fate would have it. Unfortunately, while that may happen for some, college is rarely that. College is hard. College students no longer fall into a small and specific age bracket, not every college student is involved in the Greek system, or other college clubs, and is a melting pot of seemingly endless demographics. Because of these factors, among others, marketing to college students isn’t as easy as it sounds. Yes, many college students are still young and highly connected with social media and other trending ways to connect, but targeting the entire student body of even just one college campus is going to be difficult.
When thinking of college students, and the college system itself, one would think that there should be a way to compile and organize pros and cons of the system, structure, and strategy of everything involving or pertaining to student interests, habits, social scenes, and general commonalities. This is where SWOT analysis comes into play. Because of its simple, yet effective design, a SWOT analysis can be carried out for a company, product, place, industry, or person. Depending on what businesses are promoting, the SWOT model can be used to market to college students in various ways, whether it’s for a new app, a product, a brand, or anything that needs a widespread marketing plan.
SWOT analysis is used for businesses, or other more professional projects and programs, and the previously mentioned simplicity of it makes it the perfect model for an audience as large as “college students.” Since college itself is a business, the school’s values and input from students and faculty could be used for a SWOT analysis to improve upon itself for a better impact.
By using the SWOT model for college students or a college demographic, it is easy to think of it as a set of blueprints. Taking in information, and compartmentalizing it into these four broad sections, which can then be broken down and sectioned off even more, is just like drawing out the plans for a building or structure. Because it is a business plan, a SWOT analysis for college students is going to follow most of the same motions as any other marketing strategy, but vary between a generalized approach and a much smaller and individualized scale.
Business marketing plans that use a supplemental software or other service to help promote whatever they are currently advertising to fill in the blanks of the plan, as well as cover more advertising platforms are going to be the most successful. While they are not always necessary, with a target audience as large as a college student body, there is no room for error. By using services like Saleshub, Buffer, Hootsuite or other similar companies, which have been able to use a SWOT-like approach to create campaigns and market their clients to the target audiences, working as a strong marketing tool, is a surefire way to ensure success.
Services such as those mentioned above are great for larger-scale marketing strategies, as they are able to incorporate everything the client wants advertised, and create a campaign that is specific to that target audience and the relation to the client. They take the SWOT model, and break it down even further to fully capture the breadth of the audience.
S – Strengths:
Luckily, college students are impressionable, so a marketing strategy is going to be able to use that receptive nature to grow over time. And whether or not all students participate in college activities or groups, there is still a community aspect that connects all students together, so news of anything new and exciting is going to travel quickly across a college campus, and will be widely noticed in a short period of time. While the student body varies in demographics, the majority of an average campus student population is going to still have an affinity or connection to the social culture of college, and a business can still gain recognition by targeting that small group.
W – Weaknesses:
While college students may be impressionable, they are still sharp. They have a better idea of what is going to last, versus what may be a short-lived trend or activity, and can sense a poorly devised marketing plan from the very beginning. If a business has the idea to market to a college crowd, the least they need to do is get the opinions of members of said college crowd. So many marketing plans fall flat because they don’t have any actual input or inside knowledge from the target audience. They also need that audience influence in order to prevent any failures from happening, or at least to have solutions to potential problems.
O – Opportunities:
In today’s world, no matter the demographic, the best way to market anything is through social media. Social media is the billboard, magazine advert, flyer, etc. of the now. So much money has been put into creating these social media platforms for connecting and sharing information, and it is a proven method to reach any desired audience. Colleges typically use various forms of networking sites, on both private and public servers; so one way of reaching a large student population is going to be accessible with little effort. Many colleges are also endorsing companies or organizations, or holding sponsored events to fundraise or gain awareness, and can be used for advertising more concentrated or specific businesses.
T – Threats:
There’s no trying to hide that college is expensive, so money is a large factor in just about anything a college student does. If a business is targeting a college demographic, the cost of marketing cannot outweigh the profit made (any sound business plan follows this), therefore meaning that with tight budgets, college students aren’t about to splurge on anything. Since so much of a college student’s world revolves around social interaction, the mainstream happenings are going to have an impact on any and everything. If a business has even the slightest connection or affiliation to something that is not doing well in the social circle, the plan will fail.
Because the college-going population is so diverse, on various levels, a SWOT analysis is going to be very generalized and vague until the promoted product is chosen. Marketing with a group as widespread as college students is completely viable with the SWOT model, it just takes more time and specificity to create a workable strategy.