AUSTIN, TX - Google scores highest among college students looking for an apartment as students continue to turn away from traditional advertising – such as ads in campus newspapers – and instead go online to shop for a new place to live, according to a nationwide survey of more than 500 college students.
The survey was conducted by Catalyst, an Austin-based marketing firm that specializes in the student housing industry, and asked students about their use of digital/social media and the types of marketing tactics that typically impact their housing decisions.
Fifty-three percent of students surveyed ranked Google/internet searches as most important in helping them find a place to live. Friends' recommendations and those from parents followed at 37 percent and 27 percent, respectively. They identified Facebook, ads in the student newspaper, student activities sponsored by apartment communities and online ads/promotions as least important in helping them find an apartment.
The survey also found that 98 percent of college students use Google Search to find information online, and 71 percent of the students ranked Google as the most important website/application they use. Google was followed in order of importance by university websites and Facebook. The students said they rarely turned to Twitter or Google+, which is still relatively new. In fact, the majority of students surveyed said they never use Twitter.
When looking for an apartment, few students use apartment-specific websites, such as apartments.com or apartmentguide.com. The survey showed they prefer to simply use Internet search engines to find information about apartment communities. As expected, they also placed greater importance on digital marketing methods that leveraged the social media posts/messages of friends and peers, as well as email messages.
"What we're seeing is that college students are becoming increasingly savvy in how they filter digital media marketing messages," Catalyst CEO John Kerrigan said. "They are using search engines, Facebook pages and comments from friends to do their homework in their search for apartments. At the same time, we are seeing a steep drop-off in the impact of traditional advertising in print publications, such as campus newspapers, on searches for student housing."
The survey's findings mirror those seen in college student focus groups Catalyst conducted in the fall. The firm periodically conducts focus groups and surveys of students to identify the most effective ways of marketing student housing properties to them.
This latest survey shows that digital media is becoming increasingly prevalent among college students as a resource when making rental housing decisions.
Other highlights from the survey include:
Almost half (47 percent) of students surveyed spend four to seven hours online every day.
The majority of students have some type of smartphone with 42 percent saying they have an iPhone and 30 percent saying they have an Android.
61 percent of students say they will watch a video that is on a website they are visiting.
78 percent of students surveyed said they would use Facebook to learn more about an apartment community.
Email (68 percent) and texting (49 percent) were ranked as their most important methods of electronic communication.