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Students on social media: “Let us create your content!”

Research finds that students are just happy to receive promotional content on Facebook. It takes a lot more to get them to engage. There’s plenty of talk about social media revolutionising business models, of co-creation and collaboration. But it requires more than a social media strategy…


The theory goes that social media makes it easier for people to connect. We know that’s true because we all do it – a lot – when we share pictures, ‘like’ statuses and comment on posts from friends and family.

Companies also talk about how social media is changing the face of business, not just with its extended marketing reach, but through direct customer feedback and engagement. By exploiting social media technologies, businesses can create contacts and build relationships with their customers in a more effective way that leads to greater satisfaction of customers’ needs and wishes.

A research project from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences reveals more of the truth. Firstly, models and theories are widely available, but facts and figure on customer engagement through social media are scarce. Many businesses, especially SMEs, are understandably hesitant to invest significant time and money into developing and promoting interactivity.

A survey of 250 students and focus group interviews in Groningen, the Netherlands, showed that most students communicated with their peers via social media; Facebook and YouTube were their main sources of information about products and services. Indeed, the students said that social media channels gave companies significant exposure for their marketing messages. Moreover, the students trusted promotional content on their favourite platforms.

However, the proportion of students collaborating, cooperating or participating in discussions with companies via social media is small compared with passive readers. Most students were happy to ‘like’ companies to receive promotional messages, but they remained content consumers – using vouchers and discounts, but not interacting with the company in any way.

The key message of this study is that Web 2.0 is ruled by the content creators i.e. the consumers themselves. The only way companies can favourably influence their target audience is by providing customers with all necessary web tools for quick and easy content creation and engagement.

“Few students wanted to collaborate or cooperate with companies over Facebook”

Further reading

  • Read the full report: “Innovative services building engagement” 

  • Channel strategy report


Svitlana Holota. Email:

Svitlana Holota graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in International Communication from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. She currently lives in the Ukraine.