Colleges and universities need help attracting and engaging Gen Z. Gen Z is a tech-savvy and socially conscious generation. This generation is challenging to reach the constantly evolving digital marketing trends. As we start projecting for 2024 budgets, institutions must consider adopting innovative digital marketing strategies that resonate with Gen Z’s Higher Ed 2024 preferences to remain competitive in the higher education space and bolster enrollments.
Authenticity Takes Center Stage in Higher Ed 2024
Gen Z has developed a keen sense of detecting inauthenticity in a world of information. This generation has become adept at spotting marketing efforts prioritizing profits over genuine Institutions and must adopt new digital marketing trends that cater to Gen Z’s preferences. This is necessary to remain competitive in higher education and boost enrollment—social engagement. A study reveals that nearly one-third of Gen Z actively block or unfollow social media accounts weekly (1).
This signals the need to embody authenticity in their marketing communications for colleges and universities. Building trust and credibility is paramount to resonate with Gen Z. Institutions should showcase their commitment to social issues, sustainability, diversity, and transparency in their values and actions.
To create an authentic brand image, colleges can initiate purpose-driven campaigns that highlight their involvement in social and environmental causes. Supporting community initiatives, engaging in sustainable practices, and sharing stories of student-led initiatives can all contribute to building an authentic and socially responsible image. Gen Z values institutions that actively contribute to the betterment of society and are likely to be drawn to colleges that share their values and interests.
Harnessing the Power of Short-Form Videos
The rise of short-form videos has revolutionized how Gen Z consumes content. Research indicates that 61% of Gen Zers prefer videos under one minute long (2). Platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts have become powerhouses for this generation’s content consumption.
Higher education institutions should leverage short-form videos to engage Gen Z to deliver impactful and concise messages effectively. Whether showcasing campus life, highlighting academic achievements, or featuring student testimonials, universities can creatively use short-form videos to capture Gen Z’s attention and interest.
Creating captivating and shareable videos can amplify the reach of the institution’s message. User-generated content (UGC) is precious as it resonates with Gen Z’s desire for authentic experiences. Encouraging students to create and share content can be a powerful marketing strategy. UGC not only strengthens the sense of community among students but also showcases the institution’s campus life and culture through the eyes of current students, who matter the most.
Customize Email Marketing. Make it AboutThem
Despite many communication options, Gen Z surprisingly still values traditional email for engaging with colleges and universities. In a survey encompassing over 9,000 high school students, 80% of respondents said they check their email daily (3). This presents an exceptional opportunity for institutions to personalize email marketing strategies and effectively communicate with prospective students.
Personalization goes beyond merely addressing recipients by name; it involves tailoring content based on individual interests, aspirations, and academic preferences. By sending relevant and timely messages, colleges can forge a stronger connection with Gen Z, boosting engagement and nurturing relationships.
Incorporating storytelling into email marketing can significantly impact Gen Z’s perception of the institution. Sharing stories of successful alumni, faculty achievements, and transformative student experiences can make the emails more engaging and relatable. Moreover, using data-driven personalization techniques, such as segmenting prospective students based on their interests and intended areas of study, can increase the effectiveness of email campaigns. The goal is to make each email feel tailored and relevant to the recipient, fostering a sense of personalized attention and care from the institution.
Your Demo is on Moblie (one of the best digital marketing trends)
In the digital landscape of 2023, mobile devices have become an extension of Gen Z’s identities. An astounding 95% of U.S. teenagers aged 13 to 17 own a mobile device (4), underscoring their reliance on smartphones for various activities, including researching potential colleges and universities.
Therefore, higher education institutions must prioritize the development of mobile-optimized websites that offer seamless user experiences. A clunky, non-responsive website can be a significant turnoff for Gen Z, leading them to explore other options. Colleges must ensure that their websites are fast-loading, easy to navigate, and provide essential information at their fingertips. Additionally, integrating click-to-call features, virtual tours, and interactive elements can enhance engagement and cater to Gen Z’s preferences.
Besides optimizing their websites’ technical aspects, colleges can create interactive and visually appealing landing pages for mobile users. These pages can showcase program-specific details, admission requirements, campus highlights, and virtual campus tours. Additionally, integrating chatbots into mobile websites can enhance the user experience by providing instant assistance and support.
Add Chat to Your Marketing or Be Left Behind
Gen Z is no stranger to instant gratification, and their expectations extend to online interactions. As a result, customer service chatbots have become increasingly essential for colleges and universities. The usage of chatbots has surged by an impressive 92% in the last three years (5). Chatbots represent a powerful tool for institutions providing immediate assistance, answering queries, and offering relevant information round-the-clock.
The convenience and efficiency of chatbot interactions can significantly improve the overall user experience, fostering a positive impression of the institution. Furthermore, colleges can leverage chatbots to engage with prospective students through personalized conversations, assisting them in exploring program options, admission requirements, and financial aid opportunities.
To make chatbot interactions more engaging and interactive, colleges can add a touch of personality to the chatbot’s responses. Creating a friendly and approachable character for the chatbot can resonate well with Gen Z, making them more likely to engage in extended conversations. Moreover, integrating chatbots with other communication channels, such as email or SMS, can ensure a consistent and cohesive experience for prospective students across different touchpoints.
Email Marketing Automation for the Win
Email marketing is a highly cost-effective online recruitment tactic, with a potential return of up to $38 for every $1 spent (3800% ROI). However, manual email marketing can take time and effort to manage effectively. To optimize their efforts, colleges, and universities can adopt marketing automation platforms that streamline processes, enable personalized campaigns, and improve efficiency and engagement with prospective students.
Automation allows institutions to send targeted and timely emails based on specific triggers or user behavior, nurturing leads through the admissions funnel. Automated emails can include welcome messages, program-specific content, reminders, and relevant updates. By adopting email marketing automation, colleges can ensure consistent and impactful communication with Gen Z, strengthening their connection with potential applicants and ultimately driving enrolments.
Incorporating email marketing automation into a comprehensive communication plan is essential to maximize its potential. It allows colleges to create multi-channel campaigns that include email, SMS, social media, and website interactions. For instance, when a prospective student signs up for an event or submits an inquiry, an automated email can be triggered to confirm the registration and provide additional details.
Subsequently, a follow-up SMS reminder can be sent closer to the event date, ensuring that the prospective student gets the opportunity to attend. Integrating these communication channels creates a cohesive and immersive experience for Gen Z, capturing their attention at various touchpoints and reinforcing the institution’s brand message.
Employ SMS Marketing or Miss the Boat
Text messaging has emerged as a highly effective communication channel, boasting an impressive 98% open rate and a 209% higher response rate than other methods (5). For colleges and universities, SMS marketing offers a direct and immediate means of reaching Gen Z, providing timely updates and essential information.
By incorporating SMS features into their marketing automation software, institutions can send personalized messages to prospective students, such as application deadlines, event invitations, and program updates. SMS marketing can complement other channels, such as email or social media, reinforcing key messages and keeping students engaged throughout enrollment.
To effectively leverage SMS marketing, colleges should maintain a balance between communication frequency and relevance. Overwhelming prospective students with excessive SMS messages can lead to disengagement and disengagement from receiving further updates. Instead, colleges should use SMS strategically for critical updates, event reminders, and time-sensitive information.
Additionally, a call-to-action (CTA) in SMS messages can prompt students to act immediately, such as signing up for campus tours or submitting applications. The brevity and immediacy of SMS messaging align well with Gen Z’s preferences for concise communication and prompt responses.
Create Engaging Social Media Campaigns
Social media plays a central role in the lives of Gen Z, with platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat becoming integral to their daily routines. Colleges and universities can tap into the power of social media to engage with prospective students authentically and creatively. Building a solid social media presence involves more than just sharing generic posts; it requires creating content that resonates with the target audience and encourages meaningful interactions.
Visual content, such as eye-catching images and videos, holds significant appeal for Gen Z. Colleges can showcase campus life, academic achievements, student clubs, and faculty interactions through captivating visuals. User-generated content (UGC) can also be a powerful tool for building authentic connections with prospective students. Encouraging current students to share their experiences and stories on social media can give prospective students an authentic glimpse into campus life and foster a sense of belonging.
Social media contests and challenges can further engage Gen Z, encouraging them to participate and share their experiences. For instance, a college could host a contest for the best student talent show performance or a challenge to create the most creative DIY project related to the institution’s values. Such campaigns boost engagement and create community and excitement around the college or university.
Utilize Influencer Marketing if You Can
Influencer marketing has gained immense popularity recently, and Gen Z is no stranger to its impact. Collaborating with influencers who align with the institution’s values and resonate with Gen Z can significantly boost the college’s visibility and credibility. Influencers can provide authentic perspectives on campus life, academic experiences, and extracurricular activities, showcasing the institution from a peer’s point of view.
When selecting influencers, colleges should prioritize authenticity and relevance over follower count. Micro-influencers with a smaller but highly engaged following often yield better results in terms of engagement and impact. Moreover, micro-influencers are likelier to maintain a genuine connection with their audience and are perceived as more authentic and relatable.
Colleges should collaborate with influencers on integrated campaigns that span various platforms and touchpoints to make the most of influencer marketing. Influencers can create dedicated content, host live Q&A sessions, participate in campus events, and even conduct campus tours. By involving influencers in different aspects of the college experience, colleges can reinforce their key messages and create a more comprehensive and authentic view of the institution.
Invest in Virtual Education Events and Experiences
As digital natives, Gen Z is well-versed in navigating virtual spaces, making virtual events and experiences an excellent opportunity for colleges to engage with prospective students. Virtual open houses, webinars, and campus tours enable colleges to connect with a global audience, providing access to students from different locations.
Virtual events should be interactive and engaging, offering opportunities for prospective students to ask questions, interact with current students and faculty, and explore various programs and resources. Virtual campus tours, in particular, can be customized to showcase specific areas of interest, such as laboratories, libraries, and dormitories.
Moreover, colleges can organize virtual panels featuring alumni success stories, faculty insights, and discussions on relevant topics that resonate with Gen Z. These panels can provide valuable insights into the college’s academic and extracurricular offerings, fostering a deeper connection with prospective students.
Prioritize Social Proof and Student Testimonials
Social proof holds tremendous influence over Gen Z’s decision-making process. They place great value on the experiences and opinions of their peers when considering which college or university to attend. Colleges should harness the power of social proof by showcasing testimonials and success stories from current students and alumni.
Video testimonials, in particular, are highly impactful as they provide a personal touch and authenticity. Current students sharing their academic journeys, experiences on campus, and growth within the college community can be particularly compelling for prospective students. Alumni success stories can also inspire confidence in the college’s ability to prepare students for future careers and personal development.
In addition to video testimonials, written reviews and ratings on platforms like Google, Facebook, and Niche can further reinforce the institution’s credibility and positive reputation. Encouraging satisfied students and alumni to leave reviews can profoundly impact prospective students’ perceptions of the college or university.
Employ Down-Funnel Enrollment Analytics
Enrollment analytics plays a crucial role in understanding audience behavior, measuring campaign performance, and optimizing marketing strategies in the digital age. Colleges and universities can leverage CRM analytics tools to gain valuable insights into Gen Z’s preferences, interactions, and responses to marketing initiatives.
By analyzing website traffic, engagement metrics on social media, and email campaign data, colleges can identify trends, understand what content resonates with their audience, and tailor future marketing efforts accordingly. For instance, data analytics can reveal which program pages receive the most visits, which social media posts generate the most engagement, and which email subject lines result in higher open rates.
Furthermore, A/B testing can help colleges identify the most effective marketing strategies. By testing different variations of emails, social media posts, and website designs, colleges can determine which elements yield the best results regarding engagement and conversions.
Be Smart About Digital Marketing Trends
Engaging Gen Z requires a deep understanding of their unique characteristics and preferences and a commitment to creating meaningful connections. By staying ahead of the digital marketing trends curve, higher education institutions can position themselves as attractive choices for Gen Z’s educational journey, drive enrolments, and thrive in the competitive higher education landscape of the future. The digital marketing landscape will continue to evolve, and colleges that stay agile, innovative, and student-centric will be well-positioned to captivate Gen Z and emerge as leaders in higher education.