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Gen Z Students Look for More Than Just Social Media Presence for Higher Education Institutions—Study

Is the effective use of social media for colleges important these days? 

In a growing student population made up of Gen Z students (born from 1995 to 2010), the answer is a resounding “yes.” 

Key Points at a Glance
  • College students visit social media sites at least once a day (Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat).
  • Majority of students do not talk about institutional matters on social media.
  • More than half of students who wished to enroll in a university or college visited the school’s official website for information.
  • Gen Z students prefer email as their top mode of communication.

According to a recently published Digital Admissions study, the world has now arrived at a point wherein higher education and social media should go hand-in-hand. However, mere presence on the internet is not enough.

A key observation presented in the Digital Admission 2020 study by TargetX and mStoner Inc. said that current college students use Instagram, YouTube, and SnapChat on a daily basis. Half of them also used Facebook but not on a daily basis. / TargetX

While the majority of young college domestic and international students (63 percent) do follow college and university Instagram accounts, they are less likely to engage in conversation about their schools on the internet. In fact, 94 percent of students said they have never written a blog about their school, 90 percent said they have never uploaded video content related to their college or college search, and 87 percent have never tweeted about a specific college or university hashtag, among other results.

The Digital Admission 2020 study by TargetX and mStoner Inc. presented data which should be helpful for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)—majority of college students are online but do not necessarily engage in content related to college or their college search. / TargetX

Solid internet presence: Completing the trifecta

While social media presence for higher education institutions is a must, social media in higher education is not a one-time magic pill in reaching out to domestic and international students. The study suggests that college websites are “vital” when young college students are “researching and deciding on colleges.” Ninety-two percent of college students said that a website was more important than a social media account. 

For one, an informative, attractive, and easy-to-navigate website could be what takes students from their rooms and into universities. 

According to data presented by global education specialist UniQuest, more than half of students who wished to enroll visited and used the university or college website as their sole channel of communication.

The UniQuest International Stealth Applicant Survey with 2018 enrollees as respondents, found out that 52 percent of students used the university website exclusively upon enrolling. The study suggests the importance of maintaining a quality website. / UniQuest

“Students are relying on University websites as their one-stop-shop to learn about a university,” said Jennifer Parsons, UniQuest’s director of marketing and insights.

UniQuest shared five tips with higher education institutions on how to maintain a quality website which would improve an institution’s connection with prospective students.

  • Have a dedicated page for international students
  • Keep it simple
  • Stand out among other colleges, universities by highlighting the “international student experience”
  • Avoid slang, local expressions
  • Make the “Contact Us” section a priority

Last, even Gen Z students recognize the importance of “face-to-face” communication. While social media presence and websites complement each other, actual conversations with friends who are enrolled in that particular college or university is an “important influence.”

More than half of students also responded that they prefer to communicate with colleges and universities on school matters via email.

A student communication survey done by EAB Enrollment Services in 2019 also revealed that Gen Z students—the first generation of true digital natives—prefer email as the top mode of communication between them and institutions because they find it as a “less intrusive” communication method.

Social media: A window into an institution

If students then rely on college or university websites for information, and actual conversations to influence their decisions on whether or not to enroll in a particular institution or take up a particular course, the Digital Admissions study suggests that social media gives students a peek into a school’s culture and environment.

Content on social media gives Gen Z students an idea of what a particular school is like inside the campus. Social media also allows potential students to gauge ahead what kind of students are already on campus and what the learning environment is like. This should serve as a guide for higher education social media marketing: 45 percent of respondents said that college videos on YouTube “had some influence on where to enroll.” These are good reminders on an effective university social media strategy.

Having a great website, authentic content on social media, and consistent person-to-person communication whether offline or online should help higher education institutions complete their online presence and connect with the new generation of incoming students.

Read more:

Data Sources:

2020 Digital Admissions. Target X. Retrieved from https://info.targetx.com/hubfs/eBooks/mStoner_TargetX_Digital_Admissions_2020_small.pdf

Civinini, C. (2018, July 25) UniQuest traces path to application of “stealth” students. The PIE News. Retrieved from https://thepienews.com/news/uniquest-traces-path-to-application-of-stealth-students/

Tips to Make College Websites More International Student Friendly. UniQuest. Retrieved from https://uniquest.global/iem-insights/make-higher-education-websites-more-international-student-friendly/

Ericksen, K. (2020, November 18) Communicating with College Students: Adapting Your Admissions Approach for Gen Z. College Is Education. Retrieved from https://collegiseducation.com/news/admissions-processes/communicating-with-college-students/

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