For many school marketers, like millennials, marketing to Gen Z feels to be a bit of a mystery. But, by following a few simple best practices, you’ll be able to reach and engage this young, quick-to-judge, smart-phone addicted, generation.
But first things first, who is “Gen Z”?
Who is “Gen Z”?
Generation Z (Gen Z) is technically defined as people born between 1996-2014 nestled neatly between millennials and Generation Alpha (which seems like an inordinately strong name for a group of actual children!). A more accurate definition for Gen Z would be a group of children and young adults who do not know a time before the internet.
Gen Z is unlike any other group. By 2020 they will make up 40 percent of all consumers, so figuring out how to market to them is imperative. They are informed consumers and social media connoisseurs; they have a short attention span and a completely unique stance on what influences their purchases and commitments. Most importantly, their brand loyalty is weak, and can easily waver when expectations are not met.
The four ways to help your school expand your reach and attract Generation Z are:
Create and share quick-to-digest content
Understand how they use social media
Focus on humanitarian efforts
Focus on a mobile-first approach
1. Create and Share Quick-to-Digest Content
Millenials have an attention span of about 12 seconds. Shocking, right? Well, Gen Z has an attention span of only eight seconds. If you thought you were creating effective and quick content before for your millennial audience, it needs to be even quicker for Gen Z.
This is applicable to all avenues, including:
Social media campaigns
With such a short window to create a first impression you want to get right to the point. Educate them on exactly how your school will create more success for them today and beyond. They seek the bottom line. Get rid of the “fluff” and tell them what is in it for them.
For example, Trinity-Pawling School’s new website keeps content short and compelling for their Gen Z and millennial audiences. While traditionally, “Why” pages on school websites have been lengthy areas to share everything that makes a school unique, T-P focuses on quick-to-digest written content with one of the best admission videos we’ve ever seen.
2. Understand the Way They Use Social Media
Remember when you’d tie up your landline phone in order to use the dial-up Internet? Gen Z doesn’t. Gen Z has grown up with an arsenal of Internet-enabled devices giving them 24/7 access to all of their social media platforms (which many of them also don’t remember a time without). Recent studies show that 95 percent of Gen Z has, or has access to, a smart device and 45 percent are on it “almost constantly.''
Because of this, each platform has developed a unique niche in the lives of Gen Z users. And because of this, it is important to understand each app’s purpose from a Gen Z perspective in order to effectively capture their attention and trust.
Let’s take a look at five of the most common social media platforms.
Instagram & Snapchat
For Gen Z, Instagram and Snapchat rule their social lives. This young generation uses both platforms to showcase the best moments of their lives.
Instagram posts and stories, as well as Snapchats, are great ways to churn out the quick, visual content Gen Z loves. Because Gen Z loves quick content, your stories will likely get higher engagement than the content you post to your profile.
For schools, incorporating Snapchat into your communications strategy is just another task on your to-do list, and might not be practical. But, Instagram is a must. In order to create content your prospective and current Gen Z community wants to engage with, you should follow a few best practices:
When you post a photo, use a location and appropriate hashtags to expand your reach. On Instagram, you can use up to thirty hashtags to wind up in the feeds of prospective followers.
Make an “ask.” Gen Z loves engaging with the brands they care about, and that includes your school. Ask them to tag or comment on your posts to make them feel more connected and grow your organic reach, like Baylor School does here:
Only post high quality photos. Because of Gen Z’s short attention spans, you’ll need to post vibrant, high quality images to make them stop mid-scroll.
Keep the captions short! While on Instagram you might be tempted to post longer captions (and that is a great idea for your older audiences), when trying to engage Gen Z, keep it short, simple — and even funny!
Gen Z has grown up using all of the ins and outs of Instagram and that is what they are used to, you will want to accommodate that. If your account has the capability, when posting a story, use the “swipe up” feature to draw your audience to a desired landing page (whether that be your school website, a page to sign up for your email list, etc.). You should also incorporate polls, stickers, questions, and other interactive story features to encourage engagement.
Make sure your school’s Instagram is set up as a Business page so you can review your post insights, and see which posts/stories are generating leads. Studying your insights will show you what your audience is reacting most positively to.
For strategies for engaging Gen Z on Snapchat, read this blog.
Gen Z has a short attention span and they like their information straight to the point — what better way for you to deliver their news than in 280-character-limit tweets?
But what should live within those 280-characters? The facts. They are on Twitter for the truth. Gen Z is not using Twitter to show off their life, or connect with friends - they are going there for the news. What is the president tweeting? What is happening in the world today?
As a school, you should utilize this space to share any news from campus, accolades that your programs have received, news articles, or simple updates your community cares about. For Avon Old Farms School, a simple announcement about the sports season returning is enough to garner 31 likes and four retweets.
While on Instagram you may post an intriguing back-to-school picture of your beautiful campus ready for the arrival of new students, on Twitter, you should focus on tweeting about the new award-winning changes to your program for the upcoming semester.
According to Gen Z, Facebook isn’t “cool,” and is really just a place to keep up with parents and have group chats. So, if you’re trying to engage Gen Z, this really isn’t the place. (Only 9 percent of teens say it is their preferred platform!)
However, Facebook is a hub for information for its users. If a Gen Z-er wants to know what people are saying about a certain restaurant they can go to the restaurant’s Facebook page to see reviews, pictures from real guests, hours of operation, address, and more.
Because Gen Z isn’t interested in engaging on Facebook, don’t focus your attention on them here. However, keep the importance of short, compelling content top-of-mind, as this best practice is relevant to almost all audiences, including millennials.
YouTube has become an excellent resource for reviews and learning — that Gen Z loves — so take advantage of this!
If a 16-year-old was told that they will be moving to Columbia, MO next week and they have no idea what it was like there, they will likely turn to YouTube for help. “Columbia, MO virtual tour,” “Columbia, MO,” and “Mizzou” could be some of the YouTube searches to help that 16-year-old understand where they are getting ready to move to. What an incredible time that we can make a person actually feel like that are somewhere that they are not?
Think of your audience: How can you help them commit to your school through video? Perhaps you want to build a personal connection with the staff through a quick mini-series of interviews? Maybe you would help your audience commit by showing them a quick tour of the campus and surrounding town. Use the power of video and make them feel comfortable and eager to learn more about your program.
For example, McCallie School in Tennessee uses YouTube to share a variety of short, 1-3 minute videos that showcase campus life and culture. And with over 2,000 subscribers, we’d say they’re reaching their Gen Z audience pretty well!
Social Media Integration
Because Gen Z loves social media, integrating it into your website is imperative. You can use a tool like Finalsite Feeds to integrate content from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and more to build an engaging mash-up of the latest social media content in a single location — the perfect experience for this social media loving generation.
Download our Finalsite Feeds datasheet to learn how your school can integrate social media feeds!
3. Focus on How Your School Initiates Change
This generation is truly changing the world (or, they’re the ones who care the most about it). As the children of millennials, they were raised on caring about doing the right thing, and they want to make sure the businesses they support are doing their part too.
If your school is making efforts to help with environmental issues, socio economic issues, or beyond — showcase it throughout all of your marketing and communications efforts! Gen Z is known to rally behind an organization that is doing “the right thing.” Show them how you are helping to make positive changes in the community. Use social media and your website to build a strong rapport and help Gen Z gain faith that their commitment to you will help your commitment to a better tomorrow.
Conserve School, knowing their target audience is environmentally-minded students, does an excellent job of promoting their humanitarian efforts across social media and their website.
Even if your school’s mission isn’t grounded in being environmentally-minded, your school likely has some humanitarian efforts you should promote to Gen Z to earn engagement.
4. Focus on a Mobile-First Approach
A recent poll shows that 75 percent of Gen Z use their smartphones as their primary gateway to the Internet. Combine that with an eight second attention span, and it becomes a no-brainer that that your website needs to be mobile-friendly and even more importantly, fast.
This means that having a mobile-first website is imperative, and adding a mobile app to your school’s communications toolbox is equally as important. As you build your website, keep this top-of-mind. If you use Finalsite Composer, you should rely on the device preview tool to view content on a mobile device to ensure it remains engaging and easy-to-read on all devices.
This importance carries over to your other marketing channels as well. If you have an email marketing campaign, make sure the layout looks just as great on a smartphone or tablet as it does on your desktop. Be sure that your YouTube videos can be watched in landscape or portrait orientation without distorting the quality of the video.
This group has grown up watching “Shopping Hauls” and “Toy Unboxing” YouTube videos in cinematic, 4K quality, with smooth transitions and incredible intros and outros — so their standards are set pretty high.
Generation Z is a unique group of individuals who have a high level of expectations and a world of options at their fingertips. It can be overwhelming to leave old methods behind and explore new marketing strategies, but with 40 percent of all consumers being Generation Z by 2020 your ability to keep up will pay off.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.