The internet and social media have fundamentally changed the way young people explore and learn about the world around them. Gen Z is almost spending three hours a day on social media. In fact, research conducted by the non-profit Youth Insight Business, sfs media, shows that if you take into account that several devices are open at the same time, they spend 16 hours a day online. and Gen A are five times more likely than Gen Z to agree, “I don’t spend enough time on social media.”
Should we fear this fact, or does it tell us that these channels present great opportunities for universities to step up to their audience, actively engage with them and make better decisions? If the last, it means doing a few things differently.
This resource summarizes insights on how to engage Gen Z and Gen A, drawn from three innovative marketing projects at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB):
1. The world’s first prospectus made available exclusively via social media
The end of the traditional prospectus has long been predicted. Information for interested parties is presented in a richer, probably more up-to-date and certainly more sustainable way on the university’s website. The key question is how to get that there.
With the overarching goal of transforming engagement, reach and sustainability, we post our prospectus on social media and vote Instagram.
Our goal was to get the prospect involved earlier in the decision-making process, so we took a step towards our audience by choosing a platform they already use on a daily basis – putting the prospect back at the heart of the HE marketing plan to have . That year, it won gold for best prospectus and silver for best use of social media ROBBERY.
2. A more engaging and inspiring career app
Career guidance in schools is fundamental to good educational decisions. But current online portals are aimed more at teachers than students, and they all suffer from a common flaw – if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how do you know to type it into the search bar? AUB started in 2022 WonderWhat, an image-based career search engine designed to stimulate career curiosity. It’s free to use and collects no data – an impartial resource that won the Global Teacher Prize Andria Zafirakou referred to as a “game changer”.
3. TikTok offers great opportunities to raise awareness, but it requires creativity and maybe even a bit of anarchy
We launched our first TikTok channel in the summer of 2022, but only after sharing a conspiracy theory about it our VC is the artist Banksy that we truly engaged our audience, turned the VC into an unlikely star and garnered over a million views.
learning and advice
Your initiatives and solutions will most likely be different, but here’s what we learned and why these initiatives worked for us:
- For Gen Z/A, the term “social media” is a misnomer — it’s the way they engage with, learn about, and plan for their world.
- Social media can have an incredibly amplifying effect on your marketing, but remember it’s community driven and you’re there by permission, not right. So build communities – don’t try to buy viewers.
- Working in college marketing is indeed a privilege – helping people make life-changing decisions. But despite this heavy responsibility, it’s important to remember that we’re talking to young people — alternately intimidated and excited by career and study choices, cynical about advertising and adept at filtering out thousands of campaign messages each day, as well as emotional and sometimes light-hearted anarchic. Talk to the whole person, not just the “consumer.”
- In most cases, a prospect must provide information in order to receive a traditional prospectus. While we, as marketers, appreciate this exchange, if we break free from this transactional impediment, could we become more engaging/porous? The print run of our last brochure was 30,000 – the Instagram brochure reached almost 400,000 accounts in the first cycle.
- listen to colleagues. Concept testing with academics has encouraged us to abandon the traditional prospectus. One said: “I get an email once a year (to check the price pages of the next prospectus) and say ‘oh s@*t’… The prospectus is an old tool. I don’t recognize it as something that aspiring applicants value.”
- Better educational choices aren’t code for “recruit to my college.” The problem of shrinking applications for subjects such as arts or humanities is upstream in the school curriculum. That ask me something App is designed to engage and inspire pre-GCSE audiences with better career information so they can make more informed educational decisions along the way. Be generous, even if it means helping others in your industry; It’s not just about bums on seats.
- Gen Z and even more Gen A want us to live our values – by giving up our printed brochure, the world has been spared 8 million printed pages.
- Universities (and v-cs) need to be bold and confident enough about their place in the world to have a little fun with their own self-image. Hats off to my boss for that, Vice Chancellor Paul Gough. The Banksy/Gough TikTok reminds us that sharing your humanity, not just your office, is a powerful thing.
- Authenticity is key with this audience, especially on these channels. And they come in all shapes and sizes. stay real
- Real creativity, like the Banksy conspiracy theory, works. It gets you noticed, it sparks conversations and creates a consensus – especially useful if you’re one of the smaller players in a crowded sector.
- Always listen to the young people on your team – this crazy TikTok idea might be just what your marketing plan needs. By the way, this crazy TikTok idea we went for has just been shortlisted alongside Burberry, Tesco and Amazon at the TikTok Awards.
Social media is much more than just social. It offers institutions a great opportunity to innovate, make themselves more accessible to more people, and ultimately help marketers live up to their responsibilities: helping young people make some of the most important decisions of their lives.
After 20 years in advertising at agencies such as JWT, DDB Worldwide and Havas Worldwide, Simon Pride transitioned into higher education in 2011. He is Head of Recruitment and Marketing at The Arts University Bournemouth and is passionate about inclusive marketing that empowers students to make better decisions.
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The Arts University Bournemouth has been shortlisted for Outstanding Marketing/Communications Team at THE Awards 2022. A full list of shortlisted candidates can be found here, with winners to be announced at a ceremony on November 17th.
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