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Engaging Generation Z: Using Digital Platforms To Attract Sixth Formers
Emma Radford and Michelle Crees

How to keep up with Gen Z? The generation renowned for having ‘the attention span of a gnat”

In this blog, as current sixth form students of Lady Eleanor Holles School we will explain potential ideas to help engage with students our own age. We will explore the various methods in social media and digital communications to encourage these ‘screenages’ to interact with school’s content taking advantage of these ‘digital natives’ who according to Ofcom ‘spend an average of 27 hours online a week’. With examples from our own work in school, these ideas will help retain current pupils, attract prospective sixth formers while reaching out to recent alumni. 

Why are digital platforms vital to attract Gen Z?

  • Gen Z grew up surrounded by technology, consequently using it like no generation before.
  • These digital natives can be engaged by harnessing the numerous advantages their technology orientated world brings.
  • The new digital Era allows schools to be able to reach out to students 24/7 and allows students to have information at their fingertips non stop.

Engaging current students creates an active online community which is key to success in this digital era. Generation Z are becoming much less active on Facebook and turning to snapchat for round the clock communication with close friends. This is partly due to Gen Z taking their privacy more seriously than millennials due to a higher awareness of their digital footprints after having been brought up in a world of hacking and security issues. However, for a school to use Snapchat it would overstep personal boundaries for pupils and has a format that is less applicable for school usage. Instagram is simpler and fresher than Facebook and consequently, each year younger students choose it over Facebook. Gen Z does not use Twitter much as a social media platform to communicate and post and consequently it is low performing in the graph, however it is used more by Gen Z as a news platform and for political views.  In 2016, Twitter moved its app from the ‘social networking’ category to ‘news’ on the App Store. Consequently, schools posting news about themselves can harness this to share most of their information.

5 ideas to change your schools marketing campaign to engage current students:

1) Getting students to run instagram accounts.

  • Gen Z are converting to Instagram and Snapchat which having been founded more recently (2010/2011).
  • Currently, few schools use Instagram actively but more students have set up accounts for various teams and clubs. For example, the Lady Eleanor Holles first team Instagram account for lacrosse.
  • These are much less formal, so by encouraging pupils such as sports team captains to set up team Instagram accounts, participation and links between year groups within the school are created.

2) Having specialised active twitter accounts linked by hashtags.

  • Many schools use Twitter as it appeals to all ages and bridges the gap between the school, parents and pupils. Parents are able to catch up on what their children have been accomplishing.
  • Students love seeing posts of themselves and friends on school Twitter showing what they have been involved in.

A Generation Z said, “When I have taken part in something, seeing the photo of myself on school twitter makes me feel recognised and satisfied in what I’ve done”.  

  • Having specialised accounts allows students to see posts relevant to themselves without having to search through irrelevant posts from communities in the school that they are not part of and cannot relate to.
  • Keep it active: This keeps students on their toes and can be easily done by delegating the accounts to teachers in specific communities.
  • Twitter accounts run by responsible students would have less formality and encourage students to engage and comment on these posts.

3) Setting up a Student Blog or Newsletter.

  • This will encourage a sense of community and recognise other’s achievements.
  • Updates on activities written by students will allow everyone to contribute and let others hear about activities going on that they could get involved with.

4) Get a student’s Perspective: ‘Creative Director Team’.

  • In order to engage with current pupils, it is critical to view marketing strategies through a students perspective.
  • By the time students are in sixth form, the baton of decision making has been predominantly handed over to pupils from parents.
  • It is even more critical students ambassadors are taken into account to create links to other teenagers in the community.
  • At our school, we have a Creative Director Team so the marketing department ensures a students viewpoint is heard. They can go to regular meetings and be consulted to hear their alternative views.

5) Holding whole school events linked through digital platforms.

  • As part of the creative director team, we helped organise a celebration for International Women's Day on the 8th of March. As part of this, we held a series of events to bring together the current pupils. This involved various different technological platforms that students could interact with:

  • A video with different teachers perspectives on feminism. This had some serious themes but we kept it light in order to engage the Gen Z audience.
  • A poll encouraged interaction of the whole school. It was sent out to the school’s interactive learning platform and we got a surprising amount of responses! These results were then presented back to the school as posters and during the whole school assembly.
  • We also helped set up and run a photo booth that enabled students to have their photo taken with the Instagram frame encouraging trending hashtags. To appeal aesthetically we included balloons and ribbon with lavish amounts of purple as this was the day’s colour, tying in an overall theme to the events.

A 3 step plan to increase digital traffic of prospective students to your website:

  1. Maintaining balance in social media feeds and posts by creating separate accounts to represent different sections of the school.

Each individual always has their own criteria that are personal to them and not their parents. This would include:

  • Sports teams
  • Music and arts
  • Drama
  • Academic enrichment
  • House events

For example, if a prospective student passionate about drama and scrolls through a feed of sports teams they will quickly become uninterested. At an age where interests are set and passions have been found, easy access to what someone is interested in is essential to show them that your school has what they need.

  1. Having important facts and statistics that will stand out and grab the attention of the reader.

If a pupil is deciding between schools then they will look for what is unique about each one, to differentiate between them. This will include important facts such as:

  • Results and grades
  • Mixed or single-sex
  • Transport access
  • Location
  • Career support
  • Extra-curricular opportunities

This information must be easy to find as this could be the difference between choosing schools. As surprising as it may seem, we know a friend who was completely put off a potential university due to the website only. A person’s average time spent on a website or social media page is less than a few seconds as attention online is minimal. Information needs to stand out and grab the potential new students.

  1. Using alternative sources from a student’s perspective for a more relatable, honest opinion.

Most school posts come from a teacher or the marketing department tailored to show the best of the school, however, in order to give prospective students a real taste of school life we believe again the current students perspective is essential. To use sources such as interviews, videos or social media links for asking questions can give a much more realistic view of the school.

An example from our experience... As creative directors, we produced an alternative video on ‘A day in the life of a sixth former’. This included aspects including closer relations with teachers, own clothes and early lunches along with more significant ones like careers guidance and enrichment opportunities. The film showed everyday life without the setup of an open day. Linking all these videos to a platform like Youtube makes it much more likely to be seen as recent search history can recommend more videos about the school and keep them interested.

 

3 Ideas to keep your school in touch with recent alumni:

  1. Promoting the school’s ongoing events to encourage nostalgia and a sense of school identity.

To make recent leavers look back on their past, things again must be related to their interests on feeds and posts. Past players in a team representing the school would want to look back with pride on how well those teams are doing now. Large events such as reunions or alumni events can also be promoted using hashtags and subscriptions to their school’s accounts to keep past pupils in touch and involved.

  1. Creating a social media platform for alumni only.

This could be in a large group chat or linked by hashtags and posts. It would especially be useful to include where the people from your year are now with current information on how to contact old friends. On social media, it allows easy access from the alumni themselves to update contact information, celebrates the success of others or includes a status like profile if they want to keep in touch.

  1. Keeping a strong link between current and past students.

This will allow current students to look to the future for where they can be in their own careers. To do this awareness must be increased about the vast resource of experience which the alumni hold. Online links can be formed to ask questions about work, work experience or for advice about specific fields.

An example from our own experience... Recently our school has been designing a science mural to celebrate the success of past remarkable women in science.  Along with renowned scientists, there are alumni who have also succeeded in their respective fields of science. For students everyday to walk past and see where their education can take them is extremely important and can be encouraged by the possibility of linking to these alumni on social media.

Key Takeaway

To conclude, it is vital School Marketing departments harness and exploit the digital era to appeal to Generation Z. These various ideas can be implemented in your schools to help communicate with past, present and future pupils enabling a more focused marketing approach from a different perspective

 


 

Emma Radford and Michelle Crees are sixth form students at Lady Eleanor Holles School working with the marketing department as ‘Creative Directors’ an initiative to encourage students to help implement projects with their alternative perspective. At Finalsite UK office, they are completing work experience and helping share their ideas on engaging Generation Z with different 

  • Marketing/Communications
  • Social Media

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