Gen Z—the first generation of true digital natives.

Gen Z, or Zoomers, was born after 1996 and shaped by the digital age, climate anxiety, a shifting financial landscape, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are highly influenced by social media and are known for being conscious, diverse, and accepting.

Therefore, you need a well-structured Gen Z higher education marketing strategies to capture the attention of this generation.

At a glance, Gen Z might look similar to millennials, but here are some tips to remember: 

  • Sell experiences, not products
  • Social media promotion
  • Engagement and interaction
  • Highlight your value proposition

Research indicates Gen Z is still on track to be the best-educated generation, as more than 57% are enrolled in college.

According to Morning Consult, 54% of Gen Z spend more than four hours daily on social media. So, branding in higher education via social media is a key element marketers must include in their checklist for Gen Z.

In this blog, we will explore higher education marketing strategies for Gen Z to capture attention, drive engagement, and recruit students.

8 Higher Ed Marketing Tactics to Recruit Gen Z With Examples

Gen Z is infamous for having a short attention span. When marketing to them, you must make it quick and easy to understand.

Here are the best 8 Gen Z-focused higher education marketing strategies with examples.

1. Use Instagram to Capture Gen Z’s Attention Instantly

As a higher Ed marketer, you must prioritize digital outreach for Gen Z.

With 1.4 billion active monthly users, Instagram attracts prospective students through its highly visual nature.

According to a study published by EY, Gen Zs aren’t looking for ‘picture perfect.’ Authenticity is the most important value for Gen Z. 

Therefore, authentic content must be created to capture Gen Z’s attention on Instagram.

Share real stories and experiences from students and staff, using photos and videos that showcase everyday campus life.

Use appealing images and videos to highlight the best aspects of your campus.

Leverage Instagram Stories, Reels, and IGTV to present a variety of content that keeps the audience interested and engaged. 

Follow these simple Instagram marketing strategies for higher education:

  • Spotlight your college or university’s location
  • Showcase campus life
  • Add some humor to posts
  • Use hashtags strategically
  • Post Insta stories

With a number of best Gen Z higher education marketing campaigns by universities and colleges, Boston University uses Instagram to connect with Gen Z through a campaign called #TerrierTuesdays.

Every Tuesday, a student shares their story, including their hometown, interests, and how they settled into BU.

After their bio is posted, the student takes over BU’s Instagram account for the day, showing their life on campus.

BU’s Instagram

Source: Instagram

2. Snapchat Works Best for Universities to Drive Engagement Among Gen Z

With a dominant user base of 42 million Gen Z users, Snapchat is projected to expand to 49.5 million Gen Z users by 2025.

According to Snapchat findings, context matters for this generation and how brands show up through messaging and media selection. 

Snapchat’s ability to fulfill Gen Z’s emotional needs provides higher education marketers with a powerful platform to connect with this demographic authentically.

By leveraging Snapchat’s features, such as Stories, Discover, and the Camera, marketers can create engaging content that resonates with Gen Z, driving student engagement, brand awareness, and recruitment efforts.

Here are a few ways you can use Snapchat for higher education marketing for Gen Z:

  • Cross-promotion to start building following
  • Firsthand look at the campus
  • Ask Q&A from prospects 
  • Offer discounts and incentives

For example, Clemson University utilizes various Snapchat lenses tailored for students, alumni, and faculty, enhancing their ability to share University-related content.

Clemson University utilizes various Snapchat lenses

Source: Snapchat

3. 70% of Gen Z Use TikTok to Search for Courses & Diploma Content

Gen Z loves using TikTok because it shows them quick and exciting videos they can relate to. 

46% of Gen Z TikTok users have bought a product because they saw it on TikTok in 2023.

Almost 70% of Gen Z users use TikTok as a search engine, looking for videos about courses and diplomas.

This helps them determine what they want to study and where to go to school.

Also, it’s like giving them a sneak peek into university life and encouraging them to consider that university for their studies.

Here are five ways you can use TikTok to market to Gen Z:

  • Share your academic program highlights
  • Give more visibility to prospective students
  • Answer questions and queries of Gen Z
  • Boost on-campus events and celebrations
  • Promotes a sense of community

For example, West Texas & A&M University has a TikTok account where videos from games, university life, and other events are regularly posted.

West Texas & A&M University has a TikTok account

Source: TikTok

4. Nano-influencers are the Game Changer for Attracting Gen Z

Universities and colleges are changing the game with nano-influencer marketing. They are increasingly collaborating with students who have large social media followings.

Gen Z is on board with these nano-influencers; they not only like influencers but also want to be like them. Thus, it seems the best way to reach them.

Nano-influencers connect well with their followers and seem more real than macro-influencers.

Social media influencers are more approachable. Therefore, universities leverage their platform to reach prospective students and promote authentic content.

For example, That Oxford Girl, the Instagram handle of Oxford student Tilly Rose, has become a nano-influencer, assisting others in navigating the application process with over 40,000 followers.

Oxford Girl, the Instagram handle of Oxford student

Source: Instagram

5. Design Gen-Z Friendly Web and Apps that Adapt to the New Age Users

To succeed in the digital era, web and apps are effective higher-ed marketing techniques for Generation Z.

Gen Z is a mobile-first generation. They tend to access websites and apps through their smartphones.

For example, the University of Akron, Ohio, has created a mobile app for existing and potential students and faculty members to stay connected and get the required information.

Content-rich apps are finely tuned to target them and keep enrolled students returning for more.

University of Akron, Ohio, has created a mobile app

Source: The University of Akron, Ohio

Developing websites for Gen Z requires a keen understanding of their unique preferences and habits.

Therefore, universities must develop websites with seamless navigation, mobile responsiveness, visually appealing designs, and interactive features.

Here are some higher education website design tips to follow:

  • Tell a story with compelling content
  • Create positive emotional connections
  • Focus on your university branding
  • Create guided pathways
  • Address multiple audiences
  • Create visuals that interest Gen Z

Integrate social media features into your website, allowing Gen Z to share content, connect with friends, and engage with online communities.

6. Build Trust & Win Gen Z with Social Proof

Testimonials are a crucial part of Gen Z’s higher education marketing strategies.

They value actual feedback, which can significantly impact Gen Z’s decisions. It can also be a significant part of the student recruitment strategies for Higher education.

Online reviews and testimonials are trusted sources of information for this generation. They help colleges and universities build a solid reputation among Gen Z.

Here’s how you can showcase student testimonials and leverage for Gen Z higher education marketing:

  • Use them on the higher education landing page
  • Share them on social media
  • Include them in your email marketing
  • Use them for offline marketing like brochures and newsletters
  • Use them as Facebook Ads or Google AdWords campaign

For example, American University has a dedicated video testimonial page that features students and their stories, which can significantly impact prospective students’ decision-making process regarding higher education choices.

American University has a dedicated video testimonial page

Source: American University Washington, D.C.

7. Gen Z is More Frugal & Experience-Focused

Gen Z is known for being careful with money and valuing real, authentic experiences.

Showing them campus visit videos can be a great way to connect with these priorities.

With emerging technologies enhancing the experience, higher education ed marketers must know that experience is second nature to Gen Z. 

They expect communication to flow out of the tap and look forward to actual footage of educational institutions.

As Gen prefers experience, live campus videos and recorded videos can work best for them. Also, campus visit experience sharing helps in higher education lead generation.

Follow these higher education marketing tips for Generation Z campus experience sharing:

  • Keep it short
  • Direct to Gen Z
  • Make it appealing
  • Keep it real

For example, the University of Tampa offers a comprehensive campus tour via its website for prospective students. 

This online tour allows students to explore the campus virtually, seeing facilities, dorms, classrooms, and recreational areas from the comfort of their homes.

It includes videos, photos, and interactive maps, providing an immersive experience that helps students understand the campus environment.

It gives Gen Z a real feel for the campus, helping you decide if the University of Tampa fits you.

University of Tampa offers a comprehensive campus tour

Source: The University of Tampa

8. Personalization & Storytelling Makes Gen Z Feel Valued

As the digital-savvy Generation, Gen Z expects and appreciates personalized experiences.

Gen Z responds very well to personalization. Speak their interest and preferences through customization and make them feel respected when their choices are addressed.

Some of the benefits of personalization in higher education for Gen Z include:

  • Enable Gen Z to align their abilities, interests, and goals
  • Encourage Gen Z to be active learners and take initiatives
  • Enhances Gen Z attention and heightens motivation

So, suppose you want to get Gen Z really excited about something big. In that case, you can offer them a personalized acceptance video for incoming students like the University of South Dakota, completely changing the student experience.

The University has combined the power of storytelling with personalization, placing a future student (Peyton) at the center of the narrative. You’re sure to catch their attention.

University of South Dakota  personalized video

Source: YouTube 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is marketing to Generation Z important in higher education?

4 reasons why marketing to Generation Z is important in higher education:

  • Increase Gen Z enrollment
  • Elevates the credibility
  • Maximizes your message
  • Influence the decision-making process

What are the key characteristics of Generation Z that impact marketing strategies?

Some of the key characteristics of Generation Z that impact marketing strategies include:

  • Short attention spans
  • Seek personalized experiences
  • Socially conscious
  • Multi-screen users
  • Value authenticity
  • Prefer real-time communication

What are some challenges in marketing to Generation Z?

Some of the key challenges in marketing to Generation Z include:

  • Shorter attention spans
  • Ad-blocking behavior
  • The constant need for novelty
  • Navigate social media platforms
  • Competing for attention
  • Adapting to shorter content
  • Visual-driven content preferences

Final Words

Gen Z is already making waves, and marketers cannot afford to ignore them

To conclude, Generation Z higher education marketing strategies require extensive planning. It requires a long-term approach with a personalized plan.

Higher ed marketers are adopting tactics and strategies to attract and retain the attention of Gen Z.

And with nearly every Gen Z having a social media account, higher ed institutions can capitalize on this and stay competitive.Also, an expert higher education marketing agency can help you develop a Gen Z-specific strategy and maintain consistency across multiple digital marketing channels.