Win back-to-school season by understanding how parents engage with social media

As summer ends, children and teenagers across the country relax and soak up the last rays of sunshine before the school year begins. For parents, it’s an entirely different story – it’s back-to-school season. That means weekends spent searching for the best deals on back-to-school items, including clothes, electronics and school supplies, among hundreds of other necessities.

But not all parents are the same. Some have children attending elementary school, while others may have teenagers in the final years before college. These are two distinct audiences at different stages of their lives as parents with different interests and brand preferences. Brands need to recognize the differences between these types of parents to deliver nothing but the most relevant offers as they shop for back-to-school items. Luckily, brands can tap into social media data to gain more insight into the preferences and interests of potential back-to-school shopping parents.

At Experian, we recently leveraged our Social Media Analysis to dig a bit deeper into the demographics, preferences and social media behaviors of parents with children ages 5-10 and parents with children ages 17-19.

The elementary school parent …

As the saying goes, “Timing is everything” – which is particularly true in social media. Brands want to make sure their posts are seen by their target audiences. And for brands targeting parents of elementary school children, these parents are most engaged on social media, Sunday through Thursday between 8-10 p.m.

While timing is important, understanding who your target audience is and where their interests lie, is just as critical. It provides brand marketers the opportunity to optimize content, deliver meaningful messages and uncover potential partnerships to leverage for getting your brand in front of new audiences.

For example, our analysis revealed more than 60 percent of parents of children ages 5-10 were female, and more than 33 percent were between 36 and 45 years old.

Additionally, the analysis showed these parents were more likely to fall within distinct life stages based on our Mosaic® lifestyle segmentation system.  These segments differentiate between income, household dynamics and suburban vs. rural lifestyles.

As far as the types of brands and social media handles these parents followed, the results aligned with what you might guess on your own. That said, the specific brands, as well as the messaging and images these brands used gave a ton of insight into what parents of elementary school children find engaging. These parents were more likely to follow brands within the categories of snack foods (Lance Snacks, GoGo squeeZ, Welch’s Fruit Snacks), household stores (Brentwood Home, eVacuumStore.com, CleanItSupply.com) and personal care stores (OneDorHair, Violife, LovelySkin.com). Furthermore, the types of social media handles these parents followed were more likely to be NFL athletes (Kroy Biermann, John Thornton, Brandon Ghee), NFL enthusiasts (James Wexell, Steelers Buzztap, Bengals Buzztap) and consumer packaged goods influencers (Kaitlin Launder, Bobbies Bargains, Fuggs and Foach).

elementary aged parents blog

The parent of college-bound students …

While parents of younger children seem to be active on social media, parents of teenagers aged 17-19 seem to be quite the opposite. Findings from the analysis showed these parents are most engaged on social media on Sunday between 10-11 p.m., as well as Tuesday between 9-11 p.m. Since these parents spend considerably less time on social media, brand marketers need to consider omnichannel strategies that supplement their social media outreach.

The analysis showed approximately 56 percent of parents of teenagers ages 17-19 were female, while more than 37 percent were between 46 and 55 years old.

We also found that parents of a college-bound student was more likely to fall within the life stage Experian refers to as “Picture Perfect Families.” These folks tend to be established families who are constantly on-the-go and live in wealthy suburbs.

These parents are more likely to follow brands in the categories of snack foods (The PUR Company, Sunbelt Bakery, HannahMax Cookie Chips), restaurants (Smoothie King, TacoTime, LongHorn Steakhouse) and nonalcoholic drinks (Maxwell House, Dr. Pepper, Hank’s Beverages).  The types of social media handles these parents were more likely to follow included NFL athletes (Le’Veon Bell, Tyler Eifert, Kevin Zeitler), NFL enthusiasts (NFL Stats, Indy Star Sports, NFL Retweet) and Republican party politicians (Mississippi GOP, Ben and Candy Carson, Mike Pence)

college age parents blog

What’s important to note for brand marketers is that while many of the types of brands and interests being followed by both segments of parents have similarities, the specific brands and interests themselves are quite different. Marketers need to consider how these specific brands position themselves and recognize these as openings for strategic media planning, product placement and brand champion opportunities. Marketers need to reach out and collaborate with complimentary brands, as target audiences are likely already engaging with them.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, we all know that. So, leverage the demographics, lifestyles and social media insight data that is readily available on these back-to-school audiences. Consumers are at different stages in their lives, and thus have different interests. The marketers who understand the nuances of their target audiences year round will be able to stay ahead of the competition.

*This research is based on data from Experian’s Social Media Analysis, which leverages SpotRight’s active Twitter user profiles and Experian consumer data. Active is defined as consumers who have tweeted in the past 12 months.