Gen Z grew up on social media – we’ve been building our list of friends and followers since we were young. So, for students who want to try their hand at starting a business, they have a ready-made customer base and marketing platform.
Social media platforms recognize this potential and have deployed tools of commerce. Pinterest and Facebook were among the first to launch buy / market features and Instagram followed a few years later, giving small businesses the potential to reach millions – and in some cases billions – of dollars. users. It has been a game-changer for start-ups.
In August, TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify, where Shopify merchants who have a TikTok for Business account can add a shopping tab to their profiles. Reality star Kylie Jenner was among the first users to try out the new TikTok shopping feature, using it to market her 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.
Dia Dipasupil | WireImage | Getty Images
“I built my business on social media; this is where my fans go first to search for the Kylie Cosmetics sequel,” Jenner said in a statement.
And that goes for students, too: your friends are already following you on social media to keep you up to date with what’s new, so if you’re starting a business, they’re there waiting to hear about it. It makes it so much easier – and cheaper – to start a business. You don’t need to create a marketing plan or come up with thousands for advertising.
And, when you think about how Facebook has nearly 3 billion monthly users, TikTok and Instagram each have 1 billion, and Pinterest has 444 million users, the potential growth for your business is huge.
Instagram currently has over 200 million business accounts on its app. And, almost half of Instagram users interrogates (44%) said they use features like shopping tags and the Shop Instagram tab to shop every week.
Kerisa Mason, a freshman at Baruch College, started a bespoke art business on Instagram. She started the business during the pandemic.
All of his stuff comes from social media. Mason likes the addition of Instagram Reels (short video clips) and the ability to post time-lapses of his art on Instagram.
Kerisa Mason holding her painting of “Girl on Fire” from her custom art business.
Source: Kerisa Mason
“Instagram is a way for me to share my art with friends and strangers while working with the algorithm to grow my business,” she said. “I was inspired to do this mainly by TikTok and my friends cheering me on.”
Alexis Larreategui, a recent SUNY Plattsburgh graduate, started her vegan skin care business on Instagram. A few years ago, she discovered that she could not pronounce some ingredients in her skin care products. After doing some research and finding out how harmful it was to her skin, Larreategui turned to more organic remedies. Having started her business in college, she also understands the difficulties students can face when shopping for products.
“My whole mission was to give people accessibility and affordability. If they’re like me, they were in college and they’re looking for an alternative to mainstream brands – that they have something for a reasonable price. “, she explained.
Alexis Larreategui wearing a chocolate mask from her vegan skincare brand.
Source: Alexis Larreategui
Beyond reaching your own friends on social media, these platforms also help other followers and businesses discover you and your products.
Instagram recently introduced new tools that will support content creators and brands to make it easier for them to be discovered and collaborate with other brands. Perhaps the most important of the new features that will be rolled out is the ability to find the best creators for branding campaigns using unique filters. Collaborating with other brands can help businesses gain more followers and build awareness of the brand name.
“Instagram helps me get a larger audience. It’s an easy platform to connect with clients and collaborators,” Larreategui said. “I have worked with 5-10 brands and it was nothing more than giving giveaways where our products were featured or promoting each other on our page.”
87% of those surveyed said they took action after seeing product information on Instagram, such as following a brand or making an online purchase.
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When students start a business in college, where the business goes after graduation matters; whether it becomes a secondary activity or the main source of income.
Prices vary, but Mason can earn up to $ 45 for one of his pieces. She sees her business as a secondary activity and will continue it after graduation.
“I feel like my business will become a second source of income,” Mason said. “I want a career and my business is something I would do for fun, but it also makes me money.”
Larreategui also sees his business as a secondary activity, but wants to see it grow and network more with other brands. Every month is different, but she earned up to $ 300 in one month.
Interested in starting your own business?
“One thing I would say is just getting started,” said Chantel Richardson, who runs a consulting business and uses several social apps. “Go there and learn [because] we’re in a generation where everything is easily accessible, so I feel like if you want it, go ahead and get it. “
Mukund Iyengar, a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology who also runs several programs focused on launching student start-ups, says the university is the perfect place to think outside the box and create new and weird ideas.
“College is the most ambitious time you can be in your life because you really have nothing to lose,” Iyengar said.
Have a value proposition.
Melinda Emerson, 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 isn’t easily replicable by your competitor,” Emerson said. “Discover something unique, something that makes your customers feel special, because it’s about creating an amazing customer experience. “
Do competitive research.
Larreategui suggests searching YouTube to find ‘how-to’ videos and see what others have been up to. Find out what other products are out there, how these creators market them, and what platforms they use.
“When I was deciding how to create my brand, I had a hard time, but after looking [for] videos, people showed me that I had to create a certain aesthetic and follow a color scheme, ”she said.
Take a business class in college.
Mason believes that taking a course will allow students to learn more about aspects of running a business.
“If you have a business idea, it would be nice to have the educational side to maximize the reach that [you have],” she said.
Test products and get feedback.
Emerson knows there are different reasons people buy and that testing is crucial.
“The first time you put something in there people might not like it, so you might have to remix it and put it back there,” she said. “Get comments from strangers, and social media is an easy way to do that. “
First choose a platform.
Mike Allton, head of strategic partnerships at Agorapulse, which makes social media management tools, says companies should focus on a single platform first.
“My advice is to pick one platform and get all-in on that platform one until you see success,” Allton said. “Once you’ve seen success – and you should know what it means [for you]; once you get there, then as soon as you can, expand into other platforms and diversify your platform. “
Find a mentor.
Allton thinks it’s important to tell someone about the project that’s about to start.
“They won’t be experts in everything, so identify who is going to give you their time and expertise, and identify their strengths,” he said.
Richardson believes in following your dreams and making the effort to do so.
“We’re in a generation where everything is easily accessible, so if you want it, go ahead and get it,” she explained.
But don’t just blindly make your dreams come true.
“Dream with your eyes open,” said Iyengar. “People who dream with their eyes open tend to do something to [the problem]. “
CNBC “College Voices″ Is a series written by CNBC interns from universities across the country about getting their college education, managing their own money, and launching their careers in these extraordinary times. Leanna wells is an undergraduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and intern in CNBC’s Talent Development Department. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.