Today’s college students have grown up in a world saturated with professional marketing, so it takes more than hard sells and marketing tactics to win them over. They need to build trust with a brand before they gain interest, and especially before they’re loyal. That’s where the power of a campus brand ambassador comes into play, a marketing strategy that leverages peer-to-peer influence to integrate your brand into a college campus.
For brands marketing to college students, we’ll explain why college brand ambassadors are so powerful for your vault of college campus marketing strategies, how they can drive brand engagement and sales, and how you can get started today.
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What is a college brand ambassador?
A college brand ambassador (also known as a campus rep) is a student on-the-ground at a campus that serves as a representative for your brand. A campus ambassador engages with students through on-campus clubs, in one-on-one interactions, through campus presentations, and online through social media.
In other words, a student ambassador program is a type of influencer marketing, and this word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer marketing is extremely powerful — 92% of people say they trust their friends’ recommendations over direct advertising.
And according to Refuel’s College Explorer Series™, on campus advertising through ambassadors attracts impressive attention — of those who interacted with a campus ambassador 42% went on to research the product, 28% bought the product or redeemed the discount, and 26% mentioned the brand to friends and family.
Implementing a student ambassador marketing program allows you to hone in on your target audience with a grassroots approach, build trust with students through their peers, increase brand awareness through strategic integration, and drive sales. Students live in extremely social communities, and they trust the opinions of their peers and community.
The idea is to build a community of people talking about your brand in organic, peer-to-peer environments. If reaching college students more effectively is a goal for your brand, you simply can’t ignore the power of peer-to-peer influence.
How to choose the right brand ambassador
To choose the right student brand ambassador for your ambassador marketing strategy, you need to clearly define your campaign objectives. What is it that you want out of your campus marketing campaign? Your goals could include increasing your social media presence, advertising your product or service directly to students, or using a student to answer the questions or concerns from potential customers. Once you’ve defined your objective, you can seek out the right kinds of students to be a part of your campaign.
At Refuel, while we have an organic database of current college students interested in becoming potential brand ambassadors, but we also find it important to custom recruit for each campaign. Your campus ambassadors need to mirror your brand DNA, and our team of specialists ensures that happens.
When you’re looking for ambassadors, you’re going to want to look for some of the following characteristics:
- Well-connected and involved on campus
- A well-established online presence
- Some experience with marketing or interest in developing their marketing skills
- An eye for design and ability to create engaging content
- Alignment and interest in your brand’s purpose and values
- Enjoys connecting with and spending time with other people – a social butterfly
What does a student ambassador do?
So, what does a good student ambassador do for your brand? Student ambassadors can help your brand in a variety of ways, but the ideal combination is going to be a combination of online and offline activities.
These events can include hosting events and guerilla marketing on campus, creating social media content featuring your brand, hanging flyers around campus, engaging other students in conversation about your brand, and recruiting other students on campus to join the team.
How to pay student ambassadors
There are several ways you can approach handling your student ambassador compensation, and how you pay them is going to be tied to what your campus ambassadors are doing (but will be very similar to how payouts are handled with influencer marketing).
The first way to handle compensation is by providing product to your campus reps. After all, the more product your ambassadors have, the more they can use it and talk about it. You can also pay your ambassadors per post, per event, or per marketing activity.
How to start a student ambassador program
1. Use technology to train your ambassadors
Bridging the gap between in-person interactions and the online world has been a skill everyone has mastered in this previous year, so implementing virtual training for your student ambassadors should be easy. Take advantage of collaboration and communication tools to make your ambassadors feel that they’re a part of a team and to keep them well-informed.
2. Stay in touch
One mistake that many brands make is to train their brand ambassadors, and then not keep them in the loop. Make sure to stay in communication with your ambassadors to keep them engaged, interested, and well-informed. Networks like Slack and Facebook can provide a sense of community for your brand ambassadors to stay in touch, learn from each other, and ask questions.
3. Define your KPIs, and use programs to track results
Any live, in-person marketing strategy becomes inherently more difficult to attribute success to, so implementing strategic KPIs and using programs to track them will help you measure success.
A few popular tools to track your metrics include Hootsuite, Keyhole, BrandMentions, and Khoros. To track the efforts of each of your ambassadors, you can custom hashtags, custom links, and custom discount codes.
4. Assign roles for your ambassadors strengths
A key to ensuring that your student ambassadors will be successful in their roles is assigning their roles to their specific strengths. Certain personalities will be drawn to hosting events and making presentations, while other personalities will excel at engaging on social media, handing out flyers, or working behind the scenes.
5. Gather feedback from your ambassadors
It’s highly beneficial to your campaign to establish a productive feedback loop early on. At Refuel, we call the relationship between brands and college influencers a “push-pull” relationship. While brands are feeding college ambassadors information on positioning the brand and educating their peers, ambassadors, in turn, are educating brands on how to better infiltrate their specific campus culture.
In essence, your college ambassadors act as highly effective listening devices and local experts who are able to pass along crucial insights on how your brand can improve positioning, offerings, and overall strategy.
Activate Your Student Ambassador Program With College Club™
College Club™ is Refuel’s peer-to-peer college ambassador marketing platform that includes both face–to–face and online influencer activities at over 100 of the largest campuses nationwide. College ambassador marketing programs catalyze powerful influence that drives significant behavioral changes on campus.
By leveraging our proprietary student ambassador database combined with specialized local recruiting, we field a powerful peer-to-peer engagement team to promote the brand. Refuel has activated hundreds of campus programs across every product category. We also have the power to multiply your campaign with the power of on-campus media and student digital targeting.
Brands who successfully utilize College Club Ambassadors work with Refuel to design specific college lifestyle usage occasions to showcase how the brand can fit into and assist with everyday college life. We have over 100 college partners and access to personalized reporting. Want to learn more about how to use a student brand ambassador marketing program to drive campus engagement and increased sales this school year? Learn more about our college marketing capabilities.