Youth marketing
min read

Using Social Media To Attract, Engage And Educate Gen Z

Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
April 12, 2023
Last updated
January 18, 2024

What this article covers

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The world of social media is constantly changing, and for Gen Z, it's their number one form of communication.

As brands and youth marketers, it's vital that you keep up with the pace of Gen Z and the social media landscape in order to build and grow communities and convert browsers into shoppers.

But how can you build out these communities, make the most of your social media networks, develop smart marketing strategies, and create content that really stands out from the crowd? Well, great news: we, and our team of industry leaders at our Youth Marketing Strategy LDN, are here to help.

Social media marketing and higher education 

Getting student marketing right is hard. The social media landscape is constantly developing and young people's wants and needs are always adapting to accommodate their surroundings. So what's the secret to success? Risk taking.

Taking risks on social media to attract your target audience

"Social moves fast, without taking risks you're never going to learn new tactics and will be expecting returns doing youth marketing on Facebook", Matt Horne, Head of Digital Media at Newcastle University, shared with Voxburner. "I'm not talking risks like dropping sassy replies in the comments, but risks like experimenting with new placements, content types, campaign hooks, and messaging. Be bold, experiment, measure and learn, then start taking new risks." You can hear more from Matt during his session Social Media: You're Never Going to Win at YMS LDN.

Group of female friends using a cellphone while sightseeing in the city

Why is social media marketing important for attracting Gen Z students?

Whilst receiving a prospectus in the post or attending an open day is undoubtedly something that Gen Z students still do, marketing across different social media platforms is the true way to capture their attention. As Gen Zer Theresa shared on Voxburner+'s Marketing for Higher Education panel: "Social media seems more authentic and also it's a really easy way to infiltrate the space Gen Z is in anyway". Taking your brand into the spaces where these digital natives live and breathe is the best way to connect with them.

As we discussed in our Marketing for Higher Education report, this authenticity can be achieved by platforming current students and giving them a voice in your marketing strategies. Emma Pollard, Student Recruitment Marketing Manager at Newcastle University, shared in the report: "All in all, prospective students are looking for authentic messages, therefore platforms that allow prospective students to interact with current students, and/or consume content created by them, are most effective."

Happy Gen Zer on their phone

Furthermore, a significant 42% of Gen Z students found that higher education marketing tends to be more targeted to parents than students, with a huge 78% wanting to hear from current students in university marketing campaigns. Additionally, it appears that current marketing is not representative of students, with our research revealing that 45% want more racial diversity and 42% want more disability representation.

You can find more, including exclusive insights, case studies and examples of universities taking to TikTok, in our full report, available on Voxburner+ now.

Social media and the rising cost of living

Gen Zers are getting more financially literate, there's no doubt about it. The rising cost of living is causing young people to seek out education and support to help them better prepare for the (uncertain) future, and they're favouring those online brands and communities that share information in an accessible manner. As one young person shared in Voxburner+'s Challenger Brands 2023 report, "[I'm] becoming more engaged with [my] finances and engagement options."

Why is financial education important for young people?

Taking to the platforms Gen Zers know and love is important when it comes to helping them with such an important and complex topic. Not only will supporting these young people (who are facing yet another international crisis) set them up for the future, but it will also result in loyalty between them and your brand.

Young Gen Z women on her phone

In our recent Rising Inflation, Shrinking Budgets webinar, Gen Zer Victoria discussed the impact that the lack of financial education had on her when she became a student. "Even in university, I was pushed immediately into needing to know how to allocate my salary, the money my parents gave me, that I literally sank and had debt on my credit card within my first year. I just didn't know what I was doing."

TikTok and fintech

Perhaps unsurprisingly, user generated content is one of Gen Z's most trusted forms of marketing. Particularly when it comes to potentially [complex] topics such as the fintech industry, this form of marketing is one of the most favoured amongst the generation thanks to its authenticity.

But it's not just UGC that drives Gen Z to purchase, with influencer marketing, TikTok ads, and SEO all also playing a significant role. Yoann Pavy, CEO of fintech company nude, will be taking to the YMS LDN stage for his session How to Maximise TikTok Ads for Apps in 2023, sharing why TikTok is working for fintech brands and what other sectors can learn from this. From TikTok SEO hacks to how to best work with creators, this is a topic that impacts all youth marketers from across the industry.

Engaging and reaching Gen Z on social media

So we know that social media is the place to engage Gen Z, but how can you make sure the connections are real and result in long-term loyalty and spending? And why is diversity so important when it comes to connecting with these young communities online?

Diversity, Gen Z, and social media

At YMS LDN, we'll be joined by a number of Gen Zers who'll be sharing their thoughts and feelings on all things social media. Millie Finch from 106 Communications, who are hosting our session Meet Us Where We Are: Leveraging Culture Trends to Connect With Under-Represented Gen Z Audiences on Social Media, describes online diversity as "critical". "Gen Z are a diverse generation and will notice if they are receiving untailored content that doesn't recognise the nuanced nature of their reality", she told Voxburner.

Ensuring that your social media marketing is diverse and representative of your audiences, from the organic content you share to the creators you work with, is an absolute must if you want to create the ultimate Gen Z marketing campaign. Leading brands Refinery29, Huel, and VOXI will be taking to the YMS stage to share their secrets to staying culturally relevant to a Gen Z audience in the panel session How to Create the Ultimate Gen Z Marketing Campaign.

Which social media channels are Gen Z favouring?

Ahead of her session at YMS LDN, Audrey Madden, Senior Creative Strategist at Huel, chatted with Voxburner about her go-to platform for engaging Gen Z. "It's short form and entertaining which definitely speaks to Gen Z. We find our audience on TikTok skews slightly younger than our other platforms and as a result, we do see content inspired by trends from Gen Z perform well", said Audrey.

Four happy friends having a good time at a house party.

But the future isn't all virtual - events certainly still have a place in Gen Z's world! "I think events would be key to reaching [Gen Z] too", said Audrey. "I know it's the case for other brands, the majority of Huel's advertising just happens online for us at the moment." So whilst a significant amount of budget should be saved for the virtual world, don't forget about the real one just yet!

Who are the creators catching Gen Z’s eye? 

Influencer marketing is a fantastic way of engaging your young audiences and communicating with them in a relatable, accessible way. Big-time macroinfluencers like Emma Chamberlain, Molly-Mae Hague, and Bretman Rock are undoubtedly popular amongst young people, and are the faces of international marketing campaigns.

But it’s not just international influencers who are making a difference. The creator landscape is constantly evolving, and creators with smaller audiences and close-knit communities can offer young people the authenticity and engagement that macro influencers cannot. In fact, 46% of Gen Z believe having less than 20,000 followers makes you more trustworthy!

Millie from 106 Communications, hosts of our Meet Us Where We Are panel at YMS LDN, told Voxburner that her favourite creator is one who's focusing on audience engagement and education. "A content creator doing a great job at connecting with Gen Z is @millyg_fit on Instagram. She promotes an anti-diet culture mentality and focuses on helping young women in particular to retrain their thoughts about food and body image", said Millie. "She's a positive influence who engages with her audience consistently too through Q&A stories."

Make sure you check out Student Beans Creators to find out how you can run leading multi-channel campaigns, tap into the student network and grow your brand!

Two Gen Z women walking through the city

So there you have it: a round-up of the key ways Gen Zers are engaging with social media and some actionable takeaways to help youth marketers attract (and convert) those all-important young spenders!

Supercharge your marketing strategy and join us at YMS, where we’ll be returning to London to unite the youth marketing community, share relevant industry news, platform the most inspiring speakers and share the freshest insights. Make sure you secure your tickets today!

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