Your higher ed. institution can reach Gen Z with these video-first social media tips.

Gen Z refers to anyone born between 1997 and 2012. Translation: Gen Z’s probably make up the vast majority of your current students, now through 2030. So knowing how and where to connect with them is a marketing challenge that won’t change anytime soon.

You have no choice but to showcase your college or university in a way this young demographic can relate to. And considering that 40% of Gen Z’s prefer Instagram Reels and Stories or TikTok videos when seeing brand ads on social media (as opposed to a mere 12% preferring an in-feed image), it’s in your school’s best interest to adopt a video-first strategy. 

What’s more, Gen Z’s aren’t the only ones who would rather see videos than images. The platforms themselves are setting their algorithms to favor video content, too. 

Read on for tips and tricks to revamp your higher ed. institution’s social media videos and keep up with fanny-pack-loving, social-justice-seeking Gen Z’s.

Change your university’s definition of video content to match Gen Z’s. 

The idea of creating videos means different things to different people — and to different generations. It used to be that brands shared promo videos (with huge budgets) to social media and everywhere else. Think drone shots of campus buildings, hired talent, and a year or more of strategy and production. But younger generations think of social media videos as something all together different. Videos are in the moment, authentic, lo-fi content shot on smartphones and shared with minor editing. 

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with big budget promotional videos for your higher ed. institution. They’re beneficial in certain situations such as major capital campaigns or rebrands — just not for platforms Gen Z prefers, like TikTok or Instagram. These longer form videos are suitable for YouTube, where a lot of lengthier videos exist.

To create Gen Z video content, you’ll likely need to rethink much of your video production process. The days of working with a committee and vetting through multiple rounds of approvals before a single video is published are gone, and the current TikTok song or Reel trend may have passed by the time your video is finally ready to go live.

To keep your process simple, don’t overthink your presentation or the content. Try getting ideas from other schools’ profiles that are leading the way in terms of Gen Z-approved social media videos.

Take a look at Baylor University who swiftly hopped on a TikTok trend using a popular sound (the original TikTok had 4M views) to showcase a typical campus day — you know, hanging with bears when you have free time. 

@bayloru #fyp #popculture #studytok ♬ original sound – Justin Mousseau

And University of New South Wales’ Stories From a Student series features the ever popular video Q&A format with a student candidly responding to a single question like, “What would you say your biggest achievement has been in life?”

@unsw goals that are out of this world #unsw #unitok ♬ Clair de lune/Debussy – もつ

Use existing “talent” to create relatable higher ed. video content. 

How exactly can you simplify your process and cut down on production time for your school’s videos? Harness the copious talent and resources around you, that’s how. Highlight students, staff, and faculty on your school’s Instagram Stories and TikTok videos. Have a student do a “Takeover Tuesday” by filming their day on your Stories in real time, for example

Take it one step further and hire a team of students who are already capturing authentic content on and off campus, and pay them to continue to post about their day-to-day lives as sponsored influencers. There’s no one better to give an authentic and honest overview of your school than your students. Putting together an in-house student content creator team will help you reach Gen Z, and offer a valuable hands-on perspective that their peers can’t get from your campus’ channels.

Remember, Smartphone shots and other user-generated content is perfect for the preferred Gen Z platforms — Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat. Gen Z’s aren’t spending time on these feeds for the high production value – and they definitely don’t want to feel marketed to. They want authenticity and transparency into your unique student life and campus vibes.

Plan bespoke videos for your school’s social media platforms. 

Another way schools should rethink the video production process is to stop posting the same content across social media channels, and cross-posting. Gen Z can sniff out shortcuts — like reposting TikTok content on Instagram — a mile away. Trust us . . . they see that little TikTok logo on your faux Instagram Reel. Instead, create content that’s contextually relevant to each and every channel. 

To do that without killing your timeline or budget, adapt your planning method. We like to plan our content thematically. Say you’d like to focus your content on student clubs for the month of February. Decide on the video content you’ll create about clubs on each platform. Then film all in one day and cut down and edit the content to suit each channel. For TikTok, use the ever-popular list format or take advantage of a trending song or sound. For Instagram, post a Reel using a different portion of the same footage set to yet another trending song. 

With this method, you gain efficiency by planning and filming all at once. But you also post platform-specific videos to please the digitally-savvy Gen Z crowd. 

Assign social media leads to watch trends your school can leverage. 

As mentioned, you can’t have a committee or layers of approvals slowing down your video posting process. Digital trends change rapidly. The only way to attract Gen Z users is to keep the same pace. Here’s how. 

Assign members of your team to act as social media leads for each of your social media channels. They can become intimately familiar with each one, including what’s hot as far as video content goes at any given moment. 

Having leads means that trends are being closely monitored, which then increases the speed at which you’re able to respond. The leads can also ensure the videos you create align with the trends and fit in with the other content on each platform. 

Consider giving your social media leads some autonomy to increase their production and video publication speed even more. Don’t ask them to run everything up the chain of command for approval. Instead, trust that their knowledge of each platform will guide them to post well-suited content to grab Gen Z’s attention. 

Enlist outside help to elevate your higher ed. videos.

Of course, your higher ed. institution’s social media leads could be employees within your marketing department. But we know times are tough in terms of hiring right now. If your school is short-staffed, lean on ED. Marketing. We’d be happy to supplement your team and be the Gen Z whisperers for you.

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