For students, peer-to-peer relationships aren’t just about friendship, work or love. They can also be used to make extra money on sites like Depop and Instagram through building a ‘personal brand’ others want to buy. But this means students can never take time off from strengthening that brand. They are constantly selling themselves through a highly curated social media feed and looking at how they can widen the use of apps to grow their ‘fans’ and influence.
As work, life and love have become more intertwined so has the way students think about networking. Anyone, regardless of where you meet them, could be a useful professional contact in the age of the side hustle.
Because today’s students are natural, almost accidental entrepreneurs. According to Open University, 97% of Gen Z aspire to start their own business and become financially independent. They have grown up with online platforms that make peer-to-peer buying, selling and renting really easy and with so few barriers to entry, everyone can do it. Most have been managing their own personal brands on social media for years already!
“Next year I’m starting a graduate scheme for marketing, and I’m going to try really hard over the summer to build my own personal brand because I feel that if I can’t market myself, how am I going to market anything else?”
Students love buying from their peers, whether on Ebay, Etsy, Depop or the Student Union notice board. 50% of students look to their friends for style inspiration and why not? Fashion today is driven from the street up. But with peer-to-peer recommendation, the key is knowing what’s hot and what’s not. And that comes down to the creation of a personal brand, which acts as quality control, marketing and taste-maker. This is why they are so obsessed with their online presence! 4/10 admit they make sure their social media projects a certain look and lifestyle. It is part of branding themselves and is a totally worthwhile exercise when we find that 4/10 students check out the person they are buying things from on sites like Depop and now Instagram, which has become a marketplace in itself.
“It’s being observant of trends and seeing what items in your wardrobe fit with those trends.”
Brands need to understand that students are never ‘off’. They are constantly looking for people, opportunities and information that can help them progress in any area of their lives. And as those relationships grow and their time becomes more limited, they will be looking for ways to nurture those connections in the digital world. Apps like Garden act as a personal CRM and reminder list of who you last connected with, anything of importance you discussed and when you want to speak to them again.
Brands can also help students build their personal brands by giving them much coveted social currency in the form of acknowledgement. A nod from a fashion brand such as American Eagle, who has given its audience complete creative control over its latest campaign, is invaluable. Instead of models, American Eagle used social media to find its fans and the final images and footage were used across the brand’s social media channels, in-store materials and website content. It is the perfect example of ‘for the audience, by the audience’ and promotes both parties in a positive and relevant way.
Another way brands can enter this peer-to-peer selling culture is by making the choice to facilitate rather than compete: creating more opportunities to collaborate or focussing on limited editions and collectables so students can show how much they are in the know.
“I know students that sell on those sites and I would call them entrepreneurial.”
In a global campaign for ASOS, we provided the tools for students to express, discover and create something of their own. With Go Beyond Basic we inspired students by challenging them to design a classic white tee either online or live. Their peers could then vote for and buy the designs - the ultimate personal brand validation!
“Personal brand…it’s how others perceive you.”
Streetwear is a sector that has embraced resale with open arms. Limited edition drops like those organised weekly by Supreme are now so popular they have introduced a ticketing system before you can even hit the store. 43% of students we spoke to were excited by limited editions and collaborations. Scarcity still drives demand. These are the tastemakers to connect with and the ones who will push up the value of the brand amongst their peers.
Brands need to consider how they can support the resale market. With fast fashion going out, the idea of reuse, repair and recycle is taking hold and the drive to be original is stronger than ever. Can they afford to ignore it?