Students Ask the Same Questions as Professionals

A conversation on digital marketing and social media

October 13, 2016

This week I had the chance to give a lecture on digital marketing and social media for a group of business students at a college here in London. Located in a space that looks like it's part start-up and part hipster coffee shop*, the college is a non-traditional higher education institution in the heart of the city.

At the beginning of the lecture (it was more of a facilitated conversation, but I digress) I asked the students what they already knew about digital marketing and social media. They're in their second year and it turns out that they know quite a bit. In fact, I had worked with this particular group of students in their first year and it was refreshing to hear how much they've learned/grown.

After we went over the "known knowns," I then followed-up my first question by asking the students what they didn't know about digital marketing and social media. Their responses** were fascinatingly similar to the questions that I'm most-often asked when I'm consulting with higher education practitioners:

  • What are the best social media apps/sites for engagement?
  • How do you create content that goes viral?
  • What are the best tools/services for social media analysis?
  • Based on current trends, what will be the next big thing [in social media]?
  • How do you grow/build a community?
  • What's the best time to post content on social media?
  • How do you maximize the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts?


There are a lot of social media apps and sites. But students are still using only a select few on a regular basis.


One of the most insightful aspects of the discussion was when we spent some time chatting about which social media apps the students used on a regular basis:

  • Instagram - Every single student was on Instagram. Interestingly, the aspect of performance versus reality came up as a negative issue with the photo/video sharing site. Also, most of the students were skeptical about the new Stories feature. The idea being that Snapchat already fills that particular interaction space.
  • Snapchat - Once again, all of the students were using Snapchat. While they had no idea that the company is now called "Snap," they were big fans of the most-used ephemeral app. In fact, one of the students even wondered why their own institution didn't have an account on Snapchat. The idea that a student-run Snapchat account be used for recruiting prospective students was also mentioned.
  • WhatsApp - There wasn't a lot of excitement in the room about WhatsApp. However, all of the students confirmed that they were members of several group chats on the app.
  • Yik Yak - When I spoke with this same group of students in February, they were all over Yik Yak. This week, none of them were on the app. Some still had it on their phones but they weren't using it. Its appeal had faded drastically.
  • LinkedIn - Most of the students were on LinkedIn...even if they thought it was slightly boring. They have at least one more year to go before they graduate...I emphasized the importance of getting fluent with the app and building out their digital presence sooner than later.
  • Twitter - I was somewhat surprised by the fact that about half of the students were using Twitter on a regular basis. Sometimes the media makes it seem that students aren't using Twitter at all. Perhaps there's been a bit of a resurgence for the 140 character sharing site/app.
  • Facebook - All of the students are on Facebook. They use the website and the app(s). Many of them talked about using Facebook as a place to consume content from other people.
  • YouTube - Most of the students watched videos on YouTube on a regular basis. Only a couple of them were creating content on the site. A lot of them were familiar with vlogs and vloggers. Casey Neistat was mentioned as being the most well known of the genre.

While we talked about other apps/sites, those were the ones that the students were actually using on a regular basis...Yik Yak being the only exception.

*Just in case you were wondering, this is a compliment.

**The lecture content and discussion ended up answering all of their questions.


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