I’m a sit-down-and-let’s-talk-over-tea-in-my-living-room kind of person. I don’t have social media on my phone, and I often shut off my cell on Saturdays and on vacation. I don’t have perfect relationship with technology (far from it), but as my students are trying to figure out healthy rhythms with their devices, I’m often trying to figure out how to “tithe my time” to social media. Because I believe it matters. If we want students to show up at our events, and if we want to best use technology to reach them, we need to use and understand the platforms they’re on.
A recent New York Times Article on The iGen Shift quotes Corey Tressler, associate director of learning at programs at Ohio State University, who says that when it comes to students’ phones and devices, “It’s not really technology to them.” Social media is the air they breathe; they haven’t known a different way, “digital natives” as they are. So, how do we – as those who work with students – cut through the thick fog of the posts they scroll and offer a breath of fresh air? How do we best use social media to reach GenZers?
My cards are on the table. I may not be the most qualified voice on how to best use social media to reach GenZers, but this question came up in the Living Training Course, and I’d love to share some things I’m learning as well as hear what’s working for you.
As I was preparing to launch After College Transition, I learned from people like Jeff Walker, Pat Flynn and Donald Miller – these guys teach marketing principles, but their practices can be applied to the human experience in any sector, including the next generation of college students (iGens or GenZers). Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about.
Start a conversation. No one enjoys the noise of “Come to my thing!” but people often want to share what’s on their mind, especially if it’s related to a topic they care about. I had a team member who took on the lion’s share of social media posting for our events, and he often created posts that asked questions, invited a vote, or started a conversation. Let’s say we’re planning to host a workshop about preparing for that first job out of college. Instead of repeat posts about the details of the event, we could start with a question like, “What’s the worst job you’ve ever worked and why?” Or, we can post a short quiz, invite people to fill it out on social media, and then share the results. Inviting top 5 lists are also a fun way to start a conversation.
Deliver real value. If people are going to spend time and money on something we’re offering, they need to know we’re going to deliver value. We can use social media to deliver pieces of value in advance of the event, such as an article or PDF related to event we’re trying to market. A short video would be even better. In many ways, the online world is shifting from blog to vlog, and GenZers prefer interactive video to static print.* We can work to create to a crumb trail of value that leads students to right to the event we hope they’ll attend.
Share a story. We are wired for story. We don’t need to share an epic, but we can and should share short testimonies of changed lives. Stories inspire and also offer social proof. If we’re promoting an event and want our students to show up, let’s encourage them with stories of others who have gone before them. On our live video call last night, one participant talked about sharing part of a story…and then wrapping it up later. Cliff-hangers are a great way to keep people engaged. If you’re just getting started, make sure you capture stories from your current students. And some videos too!
According to the article, GenZers respond to specialized apps and highly customized options; however, they’re also interested in the person behind the social media posts. They want people who are real. Human. Authentic. We should use social media to engage our students, but let’s never stop there. The number one reason students show up at anything we have to offer is because a real person they trust invited them to be there. Social media can’t replace personal invites.
I’m curious, what’s worked for you or what’s failed? Leave a comment below about how you’re using social media to engage GenZers and what you’re learning.