By Caitlin Brennan

September 12th, 2017

Have you seen the school buses rolling down your block? It’s that joyous time of year again when eager youngsters pack their backpacks and head off to fill their heads with knowledge.

If you sell the supplies those kids fill their backpacks with, back to school can be your Christmas. Whether heading back to the local grade school or off to college, millions of young consumers visit office supply stores late each summer. These students may not yet have offices to supply, but these early experiences picking brands can build customers for life.

Here are the brands that earned straight A’s in Back to School Social Media 101 and one that may need to repeat the class.

Surround yourself with successful people:

Big box supply retailer Office Depot partnered with women’s lifestyle media and commerce company Brit + Co to offer valuable advice for heading to college accompanied by the product you need to succeed. While they are pitching products, Brit + Co. aren’t heavy-handed about it. They display their chic and creative aesthetic alongside products that will help their audience cultivate the same look.

Big box office supply stores aren’t usually synonymous with individuality and curated flair, but by partnering with Brit + Co., Office Depot position a boring day planner as a fun outlet for fashionable organization.

Learn while you play:

While students might not gain practical knowledge such as algebra (ha!) from this tweet, it will likely get their attention, or better yet, their parent’s attention. Imagine a mom takes a short break from writing up a shopping list to spot the differences in the two backpacks. She quickly identifies that the Sharpies are different colors. Sharpies…she ponders, oh right, she forgot to add them to her shopping list!

This game highlights the products kids need in a fun way. Imagine a parent walking down the aisles of Staples and spotting the glue upon a shelf and realizes with a thrill he’s found it again, just like in the tweet. That scenario might be a stretch, but the process of buying glue can only be made so fun.

Don’t be a try-hard:

Ok Walmart, you need to spend a bit more time communing with the youth of today.

We get what you’re going for, highlighting the efficiency and small profile of Keurig coffee makers. But come on, what kind of textbooks are 50-pages long and look conspicuously like moleskine notebooks? And a fidget spinner? Really?  You may as well just swap out the ‘textbooks’ for Animal House, Anchorman, Superbad and American Pie DVDs.

Maybe we’re being a bit harsh. It is just that we’re so tired from fidget-spinning on the quad with our squad and our Keurig aka “Best. Roommate. Ever.” is broken.

But maybe we spoke too soon. Here’s a tweet from Walmart where they not only listened to a back-to-college aged person, they retweeted her:

social media campaign
If you ever need help determining how to speak to your audience, looking to how your audience is speaking is a good place to start. It’s also good to see that Walmart is on the ball with social listening. Even a fleeting moment of warm interaction like this one is a branding win.

Show off your lighter side
How does a big box store express friendliness? With humor. When properly deployed, humor can keep your social media presence both welcome and relevant. Target’s twitter feed is filled with tongue-in-cheek jokes.

Purchasing an expensive, grey-screened graphic calculator is a rite of passage for many American high school students. This tweet evokes nostalgia for older millennials and lets the next generation in on the joke. Brands don’t need to be brilliant humorists to make their audience smile.

Winner: Staples
While Office Depot deserves kudos for a bit of sharp co-branding, it’s Staples that goes to the head of the class.

Staples takes the interactive route with its post, which is generally a winning tactic, but is particularly relevant in the spirit of back to school. With a special offer baked in, Staples has hit a trifecta.

Students come to school to learn, but the knowledge they graduate with may not be limited to what they hear in the classroom. Back to school marks the end of summer vacation and the beginning of a busy shopping season. Smart brands know when their customers are making purchasing decisions and develop a social media strategy accordingly.

Does yours?

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