Get Schooled- a Marketing Student’s Takeaway for the Year


One day I want to grow up to be a full-time social media activist, using technology to fight for the greater good.

Currently- I’m a busy college kid just trying to pass all of my classes, be the best club president I can, and get any available ear to listen to me about compassion and sustainability. As the President of Youth for the Environment and Sustainability for the 2013-2014 school year, I got a ton of firsthand experience. Here is my reflection on the most important things I learned and the benefits you can derive from them!

So, why does my advice matter? And how on Earth are you supposed to use it for your business or real life?

Here are a few reasons to keep reading:

  • Our target market is gigantic, and we tailor our marketing to reach as many of those people as possible. 
  • Guerrilla marketing and shock value are our expertise.
  • Most people in college are like me, busy and poor. We have expert tactics at using those “drawbacks” to our advantage.
  • We have no shame asking for free stuff, which has given us a tremendous insight into the importance of giving, and giving-back.

Our Target Market is Large and Complex. We get that.

I’ve been doing a lot of research about inbound marketing these days; and the way to effectively affect an audience is to build a buyer persona. This helps an organization base decisions on pleasing a semi-real person who is a representation of an intended Target Market.

Here is who we use:

Name: Casey Smith

Employer: Local chain restaurant downtown

Goals/ Values: Pass school, do not die of debt overdose, enjoy socializing, look and feel cool, and find niche in the world to excel.

Motivations: Free stuff, extra credit, new mutually-beneficial relationships, and personal growth.

Frustrations: Time management

Information Sources: Internet and word-of-mouth

The Problem: This is almost every person on a college campus. A driven millennial, trying to find out how they fit into the world, who wants to share their experiences with all of their friends. So in essence, YES’s problem has been: How do we get this vast population to see sustainability as a unique opportunity for them, and how can they make it a shareable and rewarding experience?

But, how do we appeal to everyone? And where?

Guerrilla Marketing- “An unconventional way of performing marketing activities on a very low budget.” 

That’s right! YES is a street team of individuals who consistently look for out-of-the-box solutions to our problems. Flyer-bombing and run of the mill Facebook posts aren’t something we believe in.

College is a time for the extraordinary. It is a pivotal transition period in everyone’s life. This is the point where all generic efforts are ignored. To get our generation’s attention you have to be bold. 

How to do it right:

  1. Meet your audience on their terms- no one read your flyer on the community board, it was covered by two “Roomie Wanted” announcements and a coupon for free shots. Instead, put yourself, your brand, or your product where your customer already is. YES believes in leading a more plant-based lifestyle. So, foregoing the old “hand-the-pamphlet,” we handed free “on the go” vegan pancakes with fun facts about non-meat ways to get the daily recommended amount of protein. It was 8 am, they were hungry and we were on the busiest pedestrian walkway on campus. Did we run out of food? Damn right.
  2. Be unexpected- awesome things happen daily. So many awesome things, in fact, that most of them go unnoticed. A person with a clipboard trying to approach people will have an adverse effect. No one likes surveys or spam email. Even if you have the best incentive, a person with a clipboard screams “I want your information so I can destroy your inbox.” Instead, try to embody what you are promoting. YES arranged a raft trip for five to be the top prize for our Earth Week Scavenger Hunt. A group of fully-adorned “rafters” took the campus by storm. There are no rapids in Greeley, bystanders felt obligated to ask us what was going on. Did we tell them all about it? Damn right. 

    Photo by: Youth for the Environment and Sustainability

    Photo by: Youth for the Environment and Sustainability

  3. Be passionate- I’m just going to say it- NO ONE WILL CARE ABOUT YOUR CAUSE UNLESS YOU DO. I live everyday for my top priorities. I eat breakfast with animal rights and I tuck environmental sustainability in at night. I fill every crack in my leadership with devotion. Why? Because exuding that commitment and passion makes people curious. Conviction can be contagious if confronted the right way. Don’t preach and belittle, it hurts a reputation and excludes people. Instead, help people understand your cause and let them know the tiny changes they can make that will make a huge impact. Give compassion, receive compassion.        

Capitalize on Your Audience’s Needs

I’m a college kid, and the struggle is real. We are poor, overworked, in need of fun, and busy. I believe in my causes because I think investment in them will make the world a better place. Most people do not share my beliefs. Lecturing friends or forcing them to watch animal rights videos is a good way to lose friends. So, I opted to host events that meet their needs. YES is passionate about the benefits a plant based diet has on the ecosystem, so I put on vegan dinners for all fifty of my closest friends FOR FREE. Why do they come? The food is free. It is already made. I clean up the mess.

What do I gain by this? When everyone’s hands and mouths are full of succulent quinoa, baked bean, brown rice Sloppy Joes they are at the prime time to listen to my mission. They made it clear they love the food, everyone got seconds. They want the recipe. But the real sustenance during the night is explaining (with undivided attention) how the meal they are ingesting is humane. No one was exploited in the process. Nothing harmed. Nothing killed. 

I never try to make people feel guilty for their food choices. I do however understand college kids need food, and they adore it if it is free. Why not meet on a middle ground and inject a little of my agenda into all of their free food? 

Creative Fundraising:

We are a college club, but we need funding like any other organization in the world.  

We knew what we wanted to achieve, we knew how much we ideally wanted to spend. How did we get it? We asked for free stuff… A LOT. Most companies were more than obliged to help us out. We received a lot of donations, discounts, and overall support. Recognizing we are opinion leaders is one of YES’s strengths. Realizing we are broke and need help though, is also a strength. Overall, being a community citizen means investing in that community. People want to help. They especially want to help people that are trying to immediately reinvest that help as a means to spread a wider message.

It’s not easy to ask for help, we’re human. But believing in your cause and yourself will build a support system that people want to assist in.


Being a college club is a lot like being a nonprofit. The difference being that we are in the perfect environment for stimulating change and attention. However, consistently implementing a focused target market persona profile, insisting on cost-effective guerrilla marketing, reaching our audience through their needs, and asking for help can carry into our “real lives.”

What will you do to grasp your audiences’ attention?   




Nonprofit Social Media Tool Belt


Social Media Platform Overload

In today’s world there is a social media platform for everything.

You can network on a social cause social media site called if you want “to find practical solutions to social and environmental problems, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect.” There are sites to see how influential you are on social media (Kred or Klout). Not to mention Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., etc., etc!! 

So… How do you decide which platforms to use, or how to utilize them effectively? 

The first place to start is to understand a few things about your nonprofit, your customer, and social media. Three questions can help you decide these things- at least to a point where you can start formulating an effective social media tool belt.

  1. Who’s there?– there are some social media sites that will just never work for a nonprofit. Example: If you run a nonprofit pairing senior citizens with adoptable senior dogs, your efforts may be completely lost on Instagram. So, find out who uses what platform and make sure to focus on platforms that your target market is already familiar with.
  2. What are they doing?– So, you found out what platform your target market is using! Now we need to find out what they are doing there. Example: The seniors for adoptable seniors would require photos, text, and not much else. So having a YouTube channel would be awesome! But may also end up wasting a lot of your time if it is an unnecessary channel. Keep in mind, matching your social media platform with the content that you intend to share is key to optimizing your social media impact.
  3. What’s my objective?– Are you selling, sharing, networking, or learning? There are a lot of options, and most platforms offer something different, so make sure you hone in on what you REALLY want to gain from jumping in to the social media pool.

What Now?

Okay, you have done the analysis and you now know who you are, who your audience is, and what social media platforms do what. Now you need to decide which platforms are right for you. The mainstream platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are great, but some lesser known sites (from Nonprofit Hub) offer great, niche-specific benefits you may want to consider. A few of these include:

  • Crowdtilt- Small crowdfunding projects for your ogranization.
  • Slideshare- Share your latest presentation with donors and board members
  • Storify- Creates stories from social media feeds.

Be unique in your choices and you will also be more effective. Your target market wants to be reached in a way that is easy and interesting for them.

Great, but How Can You Tell if it is Working?

Well there is a checklist for kicking off your social media strategy. J Campbell’s Social Marketing is spot on with her short-sweet-and effective list. If you run through this there is a good chance you will be headed in the right direction.


There is a place for all of us on social media. What is important is finding out where our target market is already going, which platform caters to the information we are sharing, and sharing content that will be benefit all concerned parties.

Which social media platforms will YOU choose?

ImageImage by MorgueFiles


Event Marketing for a Three Day Run

Marketing for a Three Day Event- For the First Time

Youth for the Environment and Sustainability (YES) is the environmental and animals rights club on campus and I am the president, social media manager, and event coordinator for the group. This week put my skills to the test when two influential women graced our campus with their presence. Liz Marshall and Jo-Anne McArthur were doing a three-day-stay at UNC. They are, respectively, the director and subject of the film The Ghosts in Our Machine. I will write a blog post in the future highlighting more about the film, the women, and their social media presence and progress through the film and in their other ventures.

YES’s Plight to Grow Attendance

This is, however, about YES’s plight for stimulating attendance to an event that falls under the category of “animal rights.” When most people hear animal rights they imagine crazy barefoot-dreaded hippies throwing blood on strangers in fur coats. This scares most people. In all honesty, that scares me.  Animal rights is more about bringing people together to raise the collective conscious about the fact that we take advantage and enslave animals for profit margins and fashion. Most of the time, this still scares people- which is a huge barrier.

The Events

This is a constant struggle for most nonprofits. People have closed their eyes in order to avoid seeing things they don’t want to. This was obvious when the first event of the week happened. Jo-Anne spoke on the work for her book, We Animals. The event had its own page on Facebook, all of the members of the club were aware of it and inviting friends, and we mass emailed a large amount of students hoping to inflate attendance! Fourteen people RSVP’d on Facebook, about fifteen people showed up. But, Wesley Faulkner said it best, “No event is ever really a failure unless you think it was.” 

“No event is ever really a failure unless you think it was.” -Wesley Faulkner

The next event was the screening of the actual movie, The Ghosts in Our Machine. Same details roughly- Facebook, email, word of mouth. Attendance dropped to three people. I got a frantic email, riddled with worry that our big event on Thursday would be a flop. So we had less than twelve hours to change the course of the event.

We Hit the Streets!

  • Leafleting and posting flyers EVERYWHERE
  • Each member of YES stood up and made an announcement in their classes about the unique opportunity presented through this documentary. Even in classes such as finance and music theory.

Reaching out to a wider audience:

(Because ours was obviously not large enough)

  • Posting the event directly on to UNC Confessions– a page where people divulge all through an anonymous outlet on Facebook.
  • The event was solicited through the University electronic email.
  • Each member of YES stood up and made an announcement in their classes about the screening.

Over 100 people attended the screening that evening!!!

I’m no expert, but I have come to realize that effective events pair well with time-efficient marketing and reaching out to larger crowds. Finding other social media outlets that are popular on the UNC campus is mandatory in reaching larger audiences in the future. We have a lot of work to go in the way we prepare for and market multi-day events, but for our first try YES seems to have done okay.