Social Media Habits of College Students

Topics: Millennials + Gen Z, Digital Media, Campus Media

Posted by: Marketing

Campus advertising is a vital part of the marketing mix for many businesses and organizations. But it’s not enough to understand why you should advertise to college students or even the basics of how to advertise on campus. To create effective advertising campaigns, you must also have an excellent grasp of the best ways to reach and influence university attendees, who are deeply enmeshed in the digital landscape. Explore the social media habits of college students to maximize your marketing campaign results.

College Students and social media habits

What does the college population look like?

To understand the social media habits of college students, we must first understand who they are. Most college students are between the ages of 18 and 24, and members of Generation Z. In fact, 12.8 million of American 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in college or graduate school. This includes 37.8% of American males aged 18 to 24 years and 46.7% of American females aged 18 to 24 years. However, a significant portion of the post-secondary population is somewhat older. In fact, the average college student is 26.4 years old (and therefore a millennial). 

While college students largely belong to the younger generations, campus ads reach a widely varied audience in terms of both gender and race.

  • 55.5% of undergraduate and graduate students are women.
  • 55.2% of college students are Caucasian.
  • 19.5% of the student population is Hispanic or Latino.
  • 9.6% of college students are Black or African American.
  • 7% of college students are Asian, and 3% are Pacific Islander.
  • 3.9% of students are of two or more races.

From an economic perspective, students from more affluent backgrounds are significantly more likely to enroll in college.


Inequity among college students


What social media platforms do college students use?

The next step in understanding the social media habits of college students is to look at social media usage statistics. A recent Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults found the following: 

  • 84% of adults ages 18 to 29  use social media.
  • YouTube and Facebook continue to dominate the online landscape.
  • The vast majority of adults under the age of 65 use YouTube, including 95% of those 18 to 29. 
  • 70% of those ages 18 to 29 use Facebook
  • Certain sites or apps, particularly Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, have an especially strong following among young adults. The majority of 18- to 29-year-olds use Instagram and/or Snapchat, while roughly half use TikTok.



“Social media is not just a spoke on the wheel of marketing. It’s becoming the way entire bicycles are built." 



How often do college students access social media sites?

  • 70% of Facebook users access the site daily, including 49% who visit several times a day. 
  • 71% of Snapchat users ages 18 to 29 access the app daily, including 60% who visit multiple times a day. 
  • 73% of 18- to 29-year-old Instagram users visit the site every day, with 53% accessing the platform several times per day.
  • 54% of YouTube users access the site daily, with 36% visiting several times a day. 


The social media habits of college students vary by age.

While millennials and Gen Z have similar social media habits, there are some differences in the amount of time they spend on these platforms and how they use them.


MSSmedia Social Media Behavior




  • Millennials estimate they spend an average of 3.8 hours a day on social media while Gen Z is spending almost 4.5 hours a day on these sites.
  • Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to be following small business and big brands, while Gen Z is more likely to be consuming, and spreading, social media trends and viral content
  • Compared to millennials, Gen Z has become more active on social media during COVID, using the platforms to fight boredom and as a means to feel connection (messaging friends, video chatting, and checking their feeds).
  • 41% of Gen Z say that the main reason they visit social media platforms is entertaining content, while millennials are mainly heading to social media to keep up with friends and family. 

Regardless of the ways in which the social media habits of college students vary by age, there’s no denying that social media has solidified its role as an information, entertainment, and connection source for these demographics. With this in mind, it’s easy to see the importance of  including social media marketing in your campus advertising efforts.


See our complete guide to advertising to university students.




Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSS Media, Inc. a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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