Gen Z grew up on social media – we’ve been building our friends and followers list since we were kids. So, for college students who want to try their hand at starting a business, they have a ready customer base and marketing platform at their fingertips.
Social media platforms realize that potential and are publishing tools for commerce. Pinterest and Facebook were among the first to launch shopping/marketplace features and follow Instagram a few years later, giving small businesses the opportunity to reach millions – and in some cases billions – of users. This has been a game changer for startups.
In August, TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify, whereby Shopify merchants with a TikTok for Business account can add a Shopping tab to their profiles. Reality star Kylie Jenner was among the first users to try the new TikTok shopping feature, using it to market Kylie Cosmetics beauty products to her 37 million followers.
Kylie Jenner attends the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City.
WireImage | Getty Images
“I’ve built my social media business; it’s where fans first go to look for the next step from Kylie Cosmetics,” Jenner said in a statement.
This also goes for college students: Your friends already follow you on social media to keep up with what’s new with you, so if you’re launching a business, they’re there waiting to hear about it. This makes it much easier – and cheaper – to start a business. You don’t have to create a marketing plan or devise thousands to advertise.
And when you consider how Facebook has almost 3 billion users per month, TikTok and Instagram each have 1 billion users, and Pinterest 444 million users, the potential growth for your business is huge.
Instagram currently has more than 200 million business accounts on its app. Nearly half of the Instagram users surveyed (44%) said they use features such as Shopping Tags and Shop Tab Instagram to shop every week.
Kerissa Mason, a student at Baruch College, started a custom artwork on Instagram. She launched the business during the pandemic.
All of her work comes from social media. Mason loves the addition of Instagram Reels (short videos) and the ability to post intervals of her art on Instagram.
Kerissa Mason holding her “Girl on Fire” painting from her custom artwork.
Source: Kerissa Mason
“Instagram is a way for me to share my art with friends and strangers while working with the algorithm to expand my business,” she said. “I’ve been inspired to do this mostly by cheering on TikTok and my friends.”
Alexis Larreategui, a recent graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh, launched her vegan skincare business on Instagram. A few years ago, she discovered that she can’t pronounce some ingredients in her skincare products. After doing the research and finding out how bad it was for her skin, Larreategui looked into more organic treatments. After I started in college, I also understood the difficulties students might face when shopping for products.
She explained, “My whole job was to give people access and affordability. If they’re like me, they’ve been in college, looking for an alternative from the major brands – that they have something at a reasonable price.”
Alexis Larreategui wears a chocolate face mask from her vegan skincare brand.
Source: Alexis Larreategui
In addition to reaching your friends on social media, these platforms also help your followers and other businesses discover you and your products.
Instagram recently introduced new tools that will support creators and brands to make it easier for them to discover and collaborate with other brands. Among the new features that will be introduced, perhaps the most important one is the ability to find the best creators for Branding campaigns using unique filters. Collaborating with other brands can help companies gain more followers and make the brand name known.
“Instagram helps me get a wider audience. It is an easy platform to connect with clients and collaborators,” Larreategui said. “I’ve collaborated with 5-10 brands and it wasn’t a big deal other than giving gifts our products were featured or promoting each other on our page.”
87% of people surveyed said they took an action after seeing product information on Instagram, such as following a brand or making a purchase online.
more than College Voices:
Stress. Worry. procrastination. lack of self confidence. Don’t fall into these traps in college
How to Become an Entrepreneur – While You’re Still in College
College students have used Instagram to sell face masks and other products during the pandemic
When college students start a business in college, it is important for the business to go after graduation; Whether it becomes a side hustle or a major source of income.
Pricing varies but Mason can earn up to $45 for one of their pieces. She considers her work a side hustle and will continue it after her graduation.
“I feel like my business will become a second source of income,” Mason said. “I want to have my career and then my work is something I will do for fun, but it also makes me money.”
Larreategui also considers her business a side hustle but wants to see it grow and network more with other brands. Every month is different but she made up to $300 in one month.
Are you interested in starting your own business?
“One thing I would say is just the beginning,” said Chantel Richardson, who runs a consulting firm and uses multiple social apps. “Go there and learn [because] We’re in a generation where everything is easily accessible, so I feel if you like it, go out there and get it.”
Mukund Iyengar, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology who also runs several programs focused on launching startups for students, says the college is the perfect place to think outside the box and create new and whimsical ideas.
“College is the time to be the most ambitious you can be in your life because you really have nothing to lose,” Iyengar said.
Get the value proposition.
Melinda Emerson, an author, small business expert and marketing consultant known as SmallBizLady, says the key to starting a business is having what’s called a value proposition.
“You have to have something about your business that cannot be easily copied by your competitor,” Emerson said. “Discover something unique – something that makes your customers feel special because it is about creating an amazing customer experience.”
Do a competitive search.
Larreategui suggests searching YouTube to find “how-to” videos and see what other people have done. Find out what other products are available, how these creators market them, and what platforms they use.
“When I was deciding how to create my brand, I struggled, but after I research [for] And people showed me that I had to come up with a certain aesthetic and follow a color scheme.”
Take a business class in college.
Mason believes that attending a class will provide students with more knowledge about aspects of running a business.
“If you have an idea for a project, it would be good to have the educational aspect to maximize access to it [you have]She said.
Test the product and get feedback.
Emerson knows that there are various reasons why people buy and testing is critical.
“The first time you put something in there, people might not like it, so you might have to remix it and put it back in there,” she said. “Get feedback from strangers, and social media is an easy way to do that.”
Choose one platform first.
Mike Alton, head of strategic partnerships at Agorapulse, which makes social media management tools, says companies should focus on one platform initially.
“My advice is to pick one platform and work everything on that one platform until you see success,” Alton said. “Once you see success – and you have to know what that means [for you]; Once you reach this point, you can as soon as possible expand to other platforms and diversify your platform.”
Looking for a mentor.
Allton thinks it’s important to talk to someone about the project you’re about to start.
“They’re not going to be experts at everything,” he said, “so figure out who’s going to save you their time and experience, and identify their strengths.”
Richardson believes that it is important to pursue your dreams and make the effort to do so.
“We’re in a generation with easy access to everything, so if you want it, go out there and get it,” she explained.
But don’t just go blindly pursuing your dreams.
“Dream with your eyes open,” said Iyengar. “People who dream with their eyes open tend to do something about it [the problem]. “
CNBC channelCollege Voices″ is a series written by CNBC trainees from universities across the country about getting their college education, managing their own money, and launching their careers during these extraordinary times. Lena Wells He is an undergraduate at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an intern in CNBC’s Department of Talent Development. The series is edited by Cindy Berman.