How does the average college kid's social sphere equate to contacts across all digital channels? Exactly 87 email contacts, 146 cell phone contacts, and 438 "friends" on social networks.
Without factoring in contact overlap, that means every student in the nation has a potential reach of 671 consumers, according to a new "University of Media" study conducted by Mindshare's Business Planning group in partnership with Alloy Media + Marketing and Brainjuicer.
The study -- which examined where, when and how U.S. college students are using communication channels -- found that college men have more email and cell phone contacts, while their female peers have a much greater number of social network friends.
"College women tend to be more sociable than the guys," said Debbie Solomon, managing director of Business Planning at Mindshare. "They have more friends and connect with them more frequently and in greater depth ... And when you think about all the contacts they have, it's easy to see how news and ideas can spread rapidly among this group."
Of particular note, students aren't only "friending" people. On the contrary, four out of every 10 college students report having "friended" a brand on a social network -- compared to 19% of adults.
Also, as unbelievable as it sounds, the study found that college students have an average of 14.3 screens (!) -- vastly more than the 5.8 screens that the average adult incorporates into his or her life.
Three digital channels -- TV, the Web, and cell phones -- presently dominate students' lives. According to Solomon: "These media represent the primary ways that brands can communicate with them."
What's more -- for brands, friends, and parents alike -- digital channels are now the primary means of reaching college students. Text messaging is their most common method of communication, while only 29% prefer face-to-face communication.
Meanwhile, the vast majority -- 92% -- of college kids have watched at least one full TV program on the computer during the past year. A full 83% report accessing shows through a Web site associated with the program, 63% watched on a site "premium" like Hulu or Joost, while 54% used YouTube or another video-sharing site.
During the study, 144 students between the ages of 18 and 24 were interviewed via hourly text messages over a two-day period. Survey questions prompted participants to respond with their current location, media they are interacting with at that moment, and any advertising in sight.
The methodology concluded with an online survey to further explore consumption behavior and media exposure.