Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to market to college kids

One of the many reasons that we love being in Austin is the great pipeline of talent we have for our intern program from the University of Texas and other central Texas Universities.

Our interns helps us do research, pack press kits, handle mail-outs and--from time to time--write blog posts.

Today's post is from Jaclyn Thomas, who is a member of one of the toughest demographics for authors, publishers and publicists to reach--the college crowd.

As Jaclyn points out below, although college kids are busy and have little-to-no disposable income, they do buy cool books and this post is all about how to give your book the best chance at being one of them:

Between studying for exams, keeping up with family members and friends, and finding free food on campus, college students don’t have a lot of free time or money to read books for pleasure. As a college student, I very rarely have time to read anything other than my textbooks. When I do read for pleasure, it’s because a book has been recommended or given to me, because, let’s face it, I’m not going to spend what little money I have on a book that may or may not be worthwhile.

I started thinking about the last three books I read and why I read them and I realized that the first two were highly recommended by my friends and the third was given to me. So, does this mean that I am somehow out-of-the-loop in terms of hearing about new books or are companies methods of reaching out to college students just not effective?

Until I started working for P&P, I frankly wasn’t receiving any information about new books. Granted I never actively searched for new books, this seems very strange to me because I’m by no means living in a cave. College students are so busy trying to stay on top of school work and maintaining a social life that they don’t even think about finding out about new books. If information about a book isn’t put right in front of us, we’re not going to see it.

So how are companies trying to reach out to college students about new books? Most companies are currently using a few tactics to target the college audience and some attempts are more successful than others.
  • Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace: Many companies are jumping on the social networking bandwagon and promoting books through these sites. Using social networking sites to promote books could be the most effective way to reach college students because they allow members to instantly share and review the books they like with all of their friends. With budget and time constraints, the power of friends and recommendations is incomparable. This is the genius of Facebook: it puts it all in one place. We can see what books our friends like and then, if we hear enough good things, we may go and do further research about purchasing it. Grade: PASS
  • Traditional Media, Book Reviews, Author and Book Websites: Unfortunately, while this marketing tactic may be successful for other target markets, these types of websites are ineffective for the college student demographic. We all have at least two email addresses, Facebook, Twitter, and even MySpace pages to check every time we get online. This means many college kids don’t have the time to look up information about new books to read unless the information is on a site we’re already on. On the off chance a college student has the time to Google search a particular book, if a link to a Facebook page pops up on Google first, the other websites don’t stand a chance. Facebook offers the power of friend referrals that personalized book websites can’t. Grade: FAIL
  • YouTube: Book trailers are becoming a popular promotional tactic that I think could be right on the money. However, this is still an up-and-coming tactic that many college students don’t know about. Although I didn’t know about book trailers until I started working for Phenix and Phenix, I feel that this marketing tactic still has the potential to be very successful among college students. Every student I know visits YouTube on a weekly, if not daily, basis, including me. Students are much more likely to watch a promotional video for a book than to read descriptions online about it because it takes less effort. Also, book trailers can be easily reviewed by, shared with, and sent to friends. Grade: PASS
So, just to wrap up, if you want to generate buzz among college students, be smart about how you promote your book. We have very little time to read for fun and probably won’t read anything not recommended or given to us. Also, keep in mind that the book being promoted has to be good enough to be recommended to others. Clever marketing campaigns alone aren’t going to be enough for college students to recommend your book to someone close to them.

If you want us to read it, promote your book on social networking sites or on YouTube because the sad truth is that we’re probably not going to take chances or put in a lot of effort to find the information ourselves.

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