As your flagship marketing instrument, one of the primary roles of your higher ed website is to attract applicants to your school. How well it’s able to do so depends on how appealing your site is to your target audience – high school juniors and seniors.
In order to draw in qualified prospects, you have to first understand your audience – or, at least their online behaviors. Today’s high school students are part of a generation that grew up using the internet from a very young age. Their relationship to technology can be completely different from older groups.
This cohort – sometimes referred to as Generation Z, or Gen Z – is similar to the Millennial generation. But, whereas Millennials came of age just as internet culture began hitting its stride, Gen Zers have never experienced a world without smart devices or social media.
That difference, while seemingly negligible, does create an entirely distinct persona. So, what separates Gen Zers from Millennials and other generations? A report from Vision Critical, a Canadian market research firm, sheds some light on a few Gen Z traits.
Here are a few insightful tidbits on Generation Z to ponder:
- They prefer their smartphones to any other device and consume the least amount of TV content compared with other generations
- They appreciate creative and edgy content and don’t always respond well to traditional marketing
- They like videos
- They’re extremely tech-savvy
- They identify as DIYers, activists and agents of change
What does this information say about your primary audience?
For starters, that marketing campaigns targeting Gen Z have to be not only mobile-friendly, but mobile-first. That you’ll need to be active on several social media platforms, and it’d help if you promote an altruistic message. And, finally, that you should prioritize video content.
Let’s talk about how to apply these insights to your higher ed site.
Lean Into Edgy via Social Media and Blogs
You have to meet your audience where they are – that’s the golden rule of marketing. That means you have to get comfortable with all those social media platforms, especially ones that feature video content. More than comfortable, you’ll need to be fluent in social media-speak.
Embrace the Meme Culture
Memes correspond to the Gen Z preference for creativity, comic relief and edginess. They’ve also evolved into a powerful cultural force. Whatever it is you’re selling – whether a college education or a toothbrush – if you attach a topic-appropriate meme to your product, you’ll increase the odds of your marketing campaign going viral. (Just think of Cheryl’s She Shed in that State Farm commercial.)
But meme culture doesn’t just extend to posts on social media – it’s really more of a mindset. As such, it can be extended to other marketing channels, including blogs.
The low hanging fruit here is including or creating a suitable meme in a blog post. This would also add a critical visual element.
… on social media. Gen Zers have their favorite platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram – and they’re active across numerous social media sites, especially ones featuring video content. If they’re there, that means you’ve got to be there, too. And, you’ve got to be there with content that’s fresh, cool, funny and shareable. So, go ahead and start practicing producing those short-form videos.
One thing many higher ed marketers forget is that social media platforms are two-way communication channels. Posting your curated content is just one half of the equation here.
If you’re going to spend time and energy beefing up your social media game, you’ve got to play it right. That means engaging with the users who comment on your posts. Don’t, don’t, DON’T forget this vital aspect of your social media efforts.
Bells and Whistles for Your Website
It should go without saying that all your social media efforts should lead back to your blog or website. But, when they get there, will your prospects stick around long enough to be compelled into setting up a campus visit or starting an application?
You can increase your conversion odds by including elements that resonate with Gen Zers.
If they like video, give ’em video. Instead of a static image in your impact area, load it up with two or three short, action-packed videos that introduce your school in a visually compelling way. Maybe do that for all the important landing pages even.
Don’t stop there. Figuring out what student life is actually like on campus is notoriously difficult for prospective students. But, guess what? Getting a feel for a school is easier when you can see actual students doing real things on campus.
Make videos for all your on-campus housing options and be sure to feature real students. Create a bank of student testimonials to rotate on your Admissions pages. Better yet, harness your own students’ love of sharing by soliciting and posting their videos of campus events.
Make Social Visible
Since you’re going to be working crazy hard on all those social media platforms, be sure that all those awesome posts – and, more importantly, user comments – are highly visible on your website.
It’s not enough to just put up logos of the social media platforms where you have an active account. Incorporate a social media feed into as many of your pages as possible.
One way to signal your social media savvy is by including a social media panel on your homepage.
We’ve covered the benefits of personalization in a previous post. One of the biggest benefits of personalized content is that it makes the user feel like you’ve created an experience just for them.
That’s an extremely powerful feeling, and something that Gen Zers are sure to appreciate. A personalized experience is sure to win some brownie points.
You can’t always get your prospects on campus for an in-person visit. But you can still make sure that every visitor “walks” the grounds and sees the best of what your school has to offer. This can be accomplished with a virtual tour that features real videos of various locations on your campus.
Just be sure to not skimp on this virtual experience. Gen Zers will absolutely ding you for bad execution.
Beacon Knows Higher Ed
Want to know if your website is meeting the needs of your future students? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit by our digital marketing experts.