June 29, 2016
For colleges and universities, these two generational groups are continually top of mind. Gen Z-ers make up the majority of incoming classes, while Millennials now fill the ranks of young alumni. By understanding where the two groups diverge in their use of technology, your school can win big with both.
They have distinct expectations of your website.
Millennials: They remember the dark ages of dial-up, but smartphones took off when they were teenagers and young adults. Millennials inspired the “mobile first” mindset of web developers, so they expect the screen to scale to the size of their device. And they’ll get frustrated if they can’t use their phones to do everything that they can on their computers.
Gen Z: As our first digital natives, Gen Z’s expectations are even higher. A responsive site is mere table stakes to this group. To capture their attention, you need to wow them with something unexpected or personalized.
The brand opportunity: Study each group’s browsing behavior to determine what they’re looking for. To improve giving among Millennials, make it easy to donate on a mobile device. Engage Gen Z users by letting them create a personalized experience online, and then use what you learn to reach them through other media — like a viewbook that contains only the information they marked as interesting during their online visit.
Gen Z-ers are more selective with their posts on social media.
Millennials: #TeamSelfie. This group lives loud and proud on social media. As masters of self-expression, they happily share often, whatever the channel.
Gen Z: With a greater desire for privacy and control, this group is more circumspect. A member of Gen Z is likely to edit how much they share on each platform. They tend to be extremely curatorial on some, like Instagram, and more liberal on others, like Snapchat.
The brand opportunity: Appeal to each group on social media with these differences in mind. This might include the channel you choose, the tone of your post, and the call to action you include (if any).
Millennials are more selective with who they add on which channel.
Millennials: Instead of screening their content, Millennials screen who they allow into their circles on different platforms. Then they base their posts on the audience. For example, they might use LinkedIn to communicate with colleagues, Twitter to connect with strangers who have similar interests, and Facebook to share with close friends and family.
Gen Z: #NoFilter. This group doesn’t tailor their content based on the crowd. Even though they’re curatorial in terms of how much they post or reveal, the content’s subject matter is always transparent and authentic to the reality of their lives, even if it makes them seem awkward.
The brand opportunity: Echo what Millennials and Gen Z-ers want to see in themselves. Know where to be professional and where to be playful. When your Millennial alumni donate, will they share that fact with their colleagues or with their friends? Take a cue from Gen Z and be genuine with your posts. This generation can quickly sniff out inauthenticity, so tell your story in a way no one else can.
Moms are part of Gen Z’s squad. In Millennial circles? Not so much.
Millennials: After all, this is the generation that introduced “Friendsgiving” to the lexicon. They believe that friends are the family you choose, and in their minds, “their people” are just as important as parents or siblings, if not more so.
Gen Z: Because of the recession, shifting social values, and other factors, many members of Gen Z grew up among extended family or in nontraditional households. They value their familial relationships deeply. (Hey, parents, you’re cool again!)
The brand opportunity: Millennials made many of their closest friends in college. So while they may be reluctant to give now, remind them of your role in forging those lifelong connections to help build loyalty and positive feelings. As you reach out to Gen Z, remember it’s not just the potential student you need to talk to. There’s a much wider circle of influencers for this generation, and your admissions communications should reflect that.
Both generations want to be entertained, but they go about it differently.
Millennials: For Millennials, the ideal entertainment satisfies their instinct to multi-task. They’re not just watching, reading, or texting. They’re doing all three at once.
Gen Z: This generation may have the attention span of a goldfish, but that doesn’t mean they won’t spend more time with something — you just have to work harder to hook them. When they feel burnt out, Gen Z-ers are actually more willing to unplug and focus on something entertaining as an escape.
The brand opportunity: Shake up the way you tell stories. For Millennials, start by giving them something to talk about. And the needs of Gen Z might inspire you to try fresh takes on video and virtual tours, online ads, and immersive social media campaigns.