3 tips for engaging your Gen Z college applicants as they abandon Facebook
Every industry is currently asking, “how on Earth do we market to Gen Z?” They don’t fit the same mold as Millennials, they don’t use the same forms of social media we’ve grown used to, and they have different expectations around communication. For college admissions teams this is extremely relevant. As today’s teens are preparing for college, your office will have to adapt and adopt new tactics and strategies to capture the attention of Gen Zers and convert them. Here are the top three things to know as you move into this yield season.
Generation Z is not on Facebook
Facebook is seeing declining numbers of American users, but no generation is turning its back on FB faster than Gen Z. Research shows that Snapchat ranks as the most important social network for 41 percent of U.S. teens, followed closely by Instagram at 35%. In comparison, Facebook ranked 4th with only “six percent of teenagers in the United States stating it to be their favorite.” There is also a rise in Tik Tok usage—more than 41% of Tik Tok users are between 16 to 24 years old (if you haven’t heard of Tik Tok, take a look at this guide and do a quick YouTube search for Tik Tok compilations). In stark contrast to the Millennial and Gen X generations, Gen Z prefers to limit their online profiles and values cultivation and authenticity over mass sharing. As one teen put it, “Facebook is just a tool for group chats or keeping up with parents.”
This is important when it comes to college admissions. Until now, the class Facebook page has been a key tool for connecting with admitted and deposited students, building community, and answering important questions. But now that students are turning away from FB, there is a gap between admissions offices and the students they serve.
Teens are more cautious online than previous generations
Teens grew up watching their parents, grandparents, and older siblings’ unbridled use of social media to share every thought, photo, and relationship status online. As recent data scandals and privacy breaches have become more frequent and concerning, Gen Z has turned to more temporary and private platforms such Snapchat and private Instagram accounts known as “finstas.” While Gen Z are drawn to hyper-authentic and curated experiences on social media, they are fiercely protective of their data.
This doesn’t mean you should abandon online engagement—in fact you should do the opposite. Gen Zers expect highly personal digital experiences and are more willing to share personal information when organizations offer secure storage and protection of that data. This juxtaposition is an opportunity for your admissions team to create a sense of belonging and build online community among admitted and deposited students that is highly personalized as well as completely private.
Gen Z is mobile-first
Most Gen Zers have been using smart phones and tablets for the majority of their life, and their technology habits reflect that. This age group prefers mobile connection and convenience over PCs and laptops. Smart phones are the go-to devices for teens when it comes to almost every online behavior including: accessing their social network, instant chat messaging, steaming video content, and even purchasing products online. Generation Z expects and demands that your tech is not just mobile friendly, but mobile first.
As we approach yield season and your office is creating its engagement strategy, think of ways to incorporate tactics that will not only resonate with your Gen Z applicants, but will also set you apart from the pack. By meeting students where they are online, making highly personalized experiences while committing to protecting their data, and prioritizing mobile-responsive tools, you can stand out as an institution committed to student success in the 21st century.