As those in the higher education field know, the millennial generation–whom the Pew Research Center defines as those ages 18-34 in 2015–has essentially grown up in the age of social media and technology. As a result, it has become the job of most higher education marketers to deliver social media in a way that is organic and, of course, engaging. This certainly is no small feat, but that is why I (a product of my own millennial generation) am here to help you better understand how to most effectively reach and engage with millennials. Here are some essential social media stats higher ed marketers may not know about millennials.
1. Forty Four Percent Of Millennials Believe Brands Are Extensions Of Their Identity And Values
Above all else, social media was created as a tool for communication and connection. How can you expect your students–prospective and current–to care about your content if your messaging behind the content is inauthentic? The truth is that millennials had the advantage of growing up with social media and are more conscious of deceptive online practices like “clickbaiting,” the use of vague yet sensational or provocative headlines for the sake of clicks or shares. While their generational predecessors may see deceptive marketing as “just business,” millennials feel it is the brand’s responsibility to represent the consumer’s identity.
While this information makes paid social media advertising more complicated, this should be good news for universities. Simply because of the field itself, millennials already view higher education institutions as trusted advisors, but in order to see the interaction and engagement your bosses are looking for out of your social campaigns, you must establish the storyline and humanity behind the school as a whole. This, of course, is not small a feat, but the secret is creating a space for students to connect, learn, inspire, and grow in their lives and career. Whether you’re managing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts, the only important selling point is the story of hope, love, and good versus bad. If you can follow these storylines, students will proudly share your content if only to connect, inspire, and grow their own friends’ lives.
2. Ninety-Nine Percent Of Millennials Prefer Brands Associated With A Cause
As you may have noticed, Facebook and Twitter have become hotbeds for social activism, but more importantly, studies and consumer reports confirm that millennials are more willing than their generational peers to spend more money or switch brands all together based solely on a brand’s alignment with a cause. Whether it’s because of the 2008 recession causing extreme economic caution, but the data still holds true. This, of course, can prove to be difficult for higher education institutions who often face red tape when faced with the decision to stake a claim on a social cause, but that does not mean there aren’t alternative ways to illustrate the positive impact a university has on the real world. So how can your team capitalize on this information? Simple: By leveraging professors and other stakeholders.
While it might not be the same as joining in on the hype of a social movement, your university or program does have professors who are working to make our world a better place, and that is something people care about. Take advantage of the resources you have right in front of you and let your students know why it matters. If you can change your messaging from, “Hey, check out what our professor is up to!” to “We’re so proud to have a professor so passionate about civil engineering and its environmental impact.” Current and prospective students alike will instantly have a reason to connect with you and your brand. Demonstrating how stakeholders are making a difference and exemplifying how students in the program can one day do the same thing is the type of sharable content that millennials will eat up.
3. Eight-five Percent Of Millennials Own Smartphones Compared To Only 50 Percent Of Baby Boomers
This means that a millennial is always, always, mobile, but what marketers often forget is that content still needs to flow seamlessly across any and every device. With an attention span of a whopping 8.25 seconds being stretched across several different screens at a time, your content must not only catch the eye of the reader, but the text and link headline need to be impactful and genuine enough to warrant user engagement. We already know the millennials are constantly flipping from phone to laptop to tablet; therefore, your link headline and subsequent messaging must be concise and targeted for their socially active lifestyles. Gone are the days where news consumption takes place at the breakfast table before work. This means that your news and updates need to be as succinct with the mobility of a millennial’s lifestyle.
4. Sixty-Two Percent Of Millennials Say Brand Engagement Increases Customer Retention
Yes, you read that right. You may want your students to read and engage with your content, but they want you to understand and engage with them. This is at last where you will see your ROI reach it’s highest potential. Although the higher ed industry often requires more caution and red tape, the best way to connect with students is to simply prove to them that there is an actual human on the other side of your social content. The truth is that most individuals who interact with brands simply want a real connection and the knowledge that someone from your institution actually cares about their education. In return, you are much more likely to win over their loyalty. Your research, your classes, even your professors don’t matter to them unless you show your prospective and current students how those things affect not only them but the world we live in. Millennials may have a bad wrap for being flower-crown wearing, entitled hipsters, but at their core they are humans looking to connect on a personal level with you and your university. When you disengage from the social media realm, so does everyone else. Work for your students. Inspire them. Teach them. Then tell me whether or not your engagement is low.
Tami is one of our in-house social media gurus with a passion for content marketing and public relations. After earning her degree in communication and marketing from the University of California, San Diego, her dedication and multi-faceted skill-set for creative marketing strategies has led her to become a crucial team member driven to expanding Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.