College students used Instagram to sell face masks and other products during the pandemic

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Youth unemployment skyrocketed during the pandemic. Some crafty college students turned to side hustles to make money — and they used Instagram to advertise.
Youth unemployment skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting some entrepreneurial college students to turn to side hustles to make ends meet. Unemployment for young people (in the 16-24 age range) hit a high of 27.4% in April 2020 — that's nearly 1 in 3 who were unemployed. Meanwhile, Etsy reported that the number of sellers on its platform nearly doubled to 4.4 million by the end of 2020. They don't break it down by age group, but Etsy reports the average age of its sellers is normally 39 but last year when creators started selling goods during the pandemic, the average age dropped to 33. That says a lot of young people were turning to Etsy for a source of income. Face masks, sanitizing kits, homemade household items, care packages and even virtual hugs were some side business students created in the pandemic. They sold them on e-commerce sites like Etsy but also directly on social media platforms like Instagram. Instagram says 90% of its users follow a business. And, 50% of users surveyed by Facebook (Instagram's parent company) said they are more interested in a brand when they see ads for it on Instagram.

Madison Klimchak, a senior at the University of South Carolina, started "Masked by Madison," selling face masks during the pandemic. Source: Madison Klimchak

Madison Klimchak, a 20-year-old rising senior at the University of South Carolina majoring in finance and risk management and insurance, sold personalized reusable masks to sororities and other organizations. She promoted them on Instagram and her typical order was 150 to 400 masks at the height of the pandemic in March. She sold them for about $10 each and a portion of the proceeds was donated to the Emotional PPE Project, which connects health-care workers with mental-health services. Klimchak said she chose Instagram because she already had a following and it was easier to promote on her personal accounts. When business started to slow down as mask mandates eased up, college…
Jessica Coacci
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