One of the most defining characteristics of today’s Millennial generation is their pervasive use of social networking sites to both communicate with each other and to learn more about news and developing trends. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Barnes & Noble College has invested so extensively in social media channels as a means of reaching out to its student audience. “You have to be nimble,” admits Barnes & Noble College’s Consumer & New Media Marketing Manager, Tamara Vostok. “One year, the buzz might be about Foursquare, and the next, everyone’s focus might shift to a site like Pinterest,” she adds.
Although Barnes & Noble College has had little difficulty keeping up with its fast moving audience, Vostok and her team believed there was something missing from a media mix that employed social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter along with the company’s corporate and ecommerce websites. That something was The College Juice.
With its byline of ‘when it’s hard to concentrate,’ The College Juice is an entertaining blog designed to engage students and help ignite “word of mouth” marketing across the college campus. “We realized the best way to build a voice for Barnes & Noble College would be through our own blog, and especially through the development of our own exclusive content,” explains Vostok.
The voice she refers to engages readers’ right across the editorial spectrum, with everything from fashion to music, sports to study tips, and presentation skills to advice on managing money. Everything is written by a small team of bloggers relying heavily on a lively, relevant writing style to keep audience attention. As a way of ensuring that relevance, Barnes & Noble College developed a student intern program throughout the summer to bring in young writers, themselves frequent social media users, to develop a strong editorial schedule.
“Social media is something we relate to and use every day,” explains Penn State student Chloe Leach, who worked on the summer program. “The real challenge was to write blogs that the audience would not only find interesting, but would also be engaging and relevant to our own college experience,” she adds.
With the valuable input of Leach and others in the intern program, The College Juice has continued to grow a strong reputation for original content, making good use of the diverse interests of students to develop a loyal following. As Leach explains, “Coming into college is a totally different experience, and something like The College Juice ─ where people can seek advice, get answers and stay informed, can play a big part in helping to adjust to college life.”
As The College Juice grows, both in terms of traffic and readers, Vostok and her team have high expectations for the blog. “We want to give our users a stake in Barnes & Noble College,” she says. “The bookstore is an important resource for them throughout their academic career, and by using social media, we can effectively increase their engagement.” She explains that through crowd sourcing, students can influence what is stocked in their campus stores, while email campaigns can alert them to upcoming sales or promotions.
Using media like The College Juice, Barnes & Noble College also widens its reach to include parents, faculty and college administration. It can even help encourage social issues through partners such as Rock the Vote and Habitat for Humanity. “It gives us the opportunity to really have a dialogue with our students,” Vostok says, “marketing just isn’t a one-way conversation anymore.