Compared to previous generations, Generation Z is widely known among postsecondary marketing and recruitment professionals across the country as having unique needs and interests. For example, Facebook and Twitter, typically viewed as “kings” in the social media space among other generations, were only used by 50 percent and 35 percent of the high school students in a new Canadian survey—an indicator that marketing professionals at higher education institutions must craft a custom, tiered recruitment and marketing strategy in order to effectively reach today’s high school students.
Now more than ever, institutions need a strategy that meets Gen Z on the right platforms, with the right message, and at the right time, according to a new white paper from student influencer network Glacier and Canadian research and consulting firm Academica Group.
Gen Z spends a significant amount of time on social media platforms, but they primarily use Instagram (95 percent), YouTube (90 percent) and Snapchat (87 percent). While these platforms have consistently high usage among high school students, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit usage is much more common among students in grade 12 than it is among those in grade 10.
Are these platforms on the decline, or are they platforms students start using at an older age?
Overall, a mere 5 percent of respondents said they had not used any of the listed platforms in the past three months. What’s more, social media enjoys the highest ad recall rate among the marketing channels studied, with 51 percent of grade 12 students and 44 percent of grades 10 and 11 reporting that they recalled seeing an ad on social media. Second only to social media, poster ads also enjoyed a high level of ad recall. Among grade 12 students, 40 percent of those surveyed recalled seeing a university or college ad or poster in their high school.
“It’s no surprise that Gen Z spends a lot of time on social media, but we do find it interesting that ad recall for traditional recruitment strategies like posters, viewbooks and booths are also performing at a significantly high rate,” said Jordan Wenzel, CEO at Glacier, in a news release. “This points to the need for postsecondary marketers to execute a diverse channel strategy.”
How social media use affects postsecondary recruitment
Driving prospects to a website is a common tactic for postsecondary institutions looking to convert high school students into applicants, and institutional websites are also the top way that high school students research their postsecondary options. Fully 82 percent of students said they had used university/college websites for this purpose, while nearly half had used social media/online forums to research institutions (49 percent). Other high-ranking research tools included viewbooks and brochures, talking to university/college students, talking to family members, and attending high school visits, booths and presentations.
“Reaching Gen Z where they are is half the battle,” said Julie Peters, PhD, vice president of research at Academica Group, in the release. “Ultimately, all marketing initiatives need to be driven by a clear sense of who the target market is, where they are in the recruitment funnel, and the goal of the given marketing initiative.”
Most common postsecondary approaches
Students in grades 10 and 11 who have started thinking about their postsecondary options are relatively cursory in the ways they research these options, with looking at institutional websites (79 percent) and talking to family members (66 percent) being their most common approaches. By grade 12, the picture is much different—institutional websites (85 percent); viewbooks/brochures (71 percent); talking to current university/college students (65 percent); talking to family members (64 percent); and attending high school visits, booths and presentations from recruiters (61 percent) are all widely used information sources for grade 12 students who are researching postsecondary options.
This shift from cursory “grazing” on postsecondary marketing materials in grades 10 and 11 to a more engaged approach in grade 12 makes the case for schools to develop a tiered approach to marketing and recruitment, with materials tailored to grade 10 and 11 students focused on building awareness and materials tailored to grade 12 students focused on engagement and conversion.
The results presented in this report are based on a total of 1,720 surveys completed among a random sample of Canadian high school students from British Columbia (n=286), Prairies (n=479) and Ontario (n=930). All surveys were completed online via an outbound solicitation distributed by approximately 60 social media influencers across Canada.