According to Sarah Weise in her book Instabrain: The New Rules for Marketing to Generation Z, Generation Z is 2 to 3 times more likely to be influenced by a brand’s engagement on social media than by sales and discounts, making them the only generation to value social media over price when it comes to making purchase decisions. The same is true when it comes to selecting schools or programs within your school district.
This young generation has more influence over their parent’s decisions than any other generation before them. Their impacts over purchases include car purchases, home purchases, and selecting an educational institution. That is why it is so important to engage your students on social media. Your content influences them. Especially on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.
In this article, I will give you and your school district 15 social media hacks to engage your students, and influence them to look at your schools and programs.
15 Social Media Hacks to Engage Your Students
I know Millennials are the most talked about generation in the past decade. Still, Generation Z is the fastest-growing generation, and they make up one of your most influential audiences… your students.
Here are 15 social media hacks to use in your school district:
Generation Z Instagram Hacks
Instagram is the most used social media platform by Generation Z. Think about the next time you post content on your school district or your school account.
1. Select a Charity Using an Instagram Story Poll
If you are not using Instagram Stories, you should be. Teens gravitate to this content like a moth to a flame. The best part of stories is the tools you can use to drive engagement. Stickers play a significant role when you post a story. One of my favorite Instagram sticker options is the poll feature.
It would be great to use this as a tool to engage your students while donating to a great charity, with causes being an essential element to Generation Z’s culture.
Partner with local businesses and have students vote on a charity or cause they would like to donate money to. The winner of the Instagram poll gets money given on behalf of the students in your district
2. Instagram Student Takeovers
Let’s face it; most students don’t trust a social media account run by central administration. We are everything wrong with social media in their eyes. The only way we are going to gain their trust at first is if we give them the keys to the kingdom. Let them takeover over our social media.
For our social media takeover, we allowed a drill team from one of our high schools to post to our Instagram account during the day before the big homecoming football game. As a result, we increased our Instagram followers by 500 people in 24 hours.
During the day, the girls posted behind the scenes photos and videos as they prepared for homecoming. Their posts were authentic. Their posts were real, and so were our new followers.
3. Go Live on Instagram
Many of you have heard of Facebook Live, but did you know that you can stream live on Instagram? During your next student-centered event or during your COVID-19 campus closures, you can go live on Instagram.
Your broadcast will reach an entirely new audience you are not used to on Facebook Live. Get a student volunteer to be your student reporter, and give them the broadcast. Students will relate more to other students than a district administrator.
HootSuite has a great article on How to Use Instagram Live to Grow and Engage Your Followers
Generation Z YouTube Hacks
Your students are probably on YouTube most of the day outside of school. They love the platform. You need to be on YouTube, making content for this younger generation.
4. Let Your Students Have a Video Diary
A popular genre on YouTube is the video diary. A day in the life video by your students would work well. You could also have students film their field trips or the build-up before the big game. American Eagle did this very well last summer by having teens shoot their adventures on a week-long vacation.
The key is to have your students be the producer, director and star of the video series. User-generated content feels more authentic. It is content other teens trust.
5. Student Side Hustle Diary
Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars… capitalize on this.With more and more teens creating their businesses before they are out of high school, Entrepreneurship is an excellent topic for a diary. From sneaker flipping to selling vintage clothing,teens are making serious money with their own business.
Ask your teachers and principals for students that have successful businesses. I am not necessarily speaking of a lawn service or a babysitting gig. Find students who are doing actual companies like app-building or have a graphic design business. You will be surprised by the type of student-run businesses that are out there. Some of your students are making serious money. Five years ago we had a student in our district who paid off his parent’s mortgage by creating apps and selling them in the Apple App store.
6. Create a Student Only YouTube Channel
YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. Reports show that almost 90% of Generations Z interacts with YouTube daily. It has become extremely popular with teens and pre-teens. However, most of the content we produce on our district channels skew toward an older demographic. Why not engage your Generation Z with content geared to their interests by creating a student-only channel on YouTube?
Like our Spotify DJ’s, use your students to create content and host shows on your channel. You can set up your Youtube channel like a television station and set time to release new shows. You can also create specialized playlists to attract niche teen audiences from your schools. Let them be creative. Have them run it like a school newspaper or yearbook class.
Generation Z TikTok Hacks
The topic of TikTok has come up quite a bit with School Communication professionals I know. With much of the negative press and the newness of the platform, it can be scary to create content. Much like the early day of Facebook, the exaggeration of troubles of TikTok is much overhyped.
My district recently launched a TikTok account to test the waters on this popular Generation Z social media platform. So far, we have seen tremendous engagement with our students. We have a total of seven TikTok videos that have amassed over 24,000 views, 5,063 likes, and 2,300 followers. That is not too shabby for a brand new account.
7. Find Your Student Influencers
In my opinion, the key to performing well on TikTok is to find student influencers who will help your school district build your channel. It also creates a powerful connection with your students. Which of your students influence others? Who is a student social media leader in your community?
You would be surprised at the followers and clout our students have on this platform. Use them to create content on the platform or advise you of what works with the Generation Z audience.
8. Dance, Dance, Dance
Sometimes you gotta just dance, but probably not you.
One of the most significant categories for engagement on Tiktok is dancing. Choreographed dances set to trending music are hot right now on TikTok. Enlist your drill teams, cheerleaders, dance groups to create dances around trending music on the platform. It is the easiest way to gain followers and get more views on the platform for all of your content.
The easiest way to find trending dances is to search for trending hashtags or trending songs. You can also follow mega-influencers on the platform to see what’s hitting with Generation Z.
And I am sure your students will know the latest successful moves. Just ask…
Generation Z SnapChat Hacks
Snapchat is not as popular as it once was with teens, but that does not mean it is abandoned. Hundreds of millions of teens still visit the platform each day.
9. Create a Geo Filter for an Event
I know you might not be thinking of in-person events during the COVID-19 shutdown, but we all know they will come back. The best way we have found to engage our students digitally during our events is with Snapchat Geo Filters.
Geo filters are overlays Snapchat accounts can use that you setup surrounding a specific area on a map. For example, if you have your graduation at your school district football stadium, you can create a graphic for people who are located inside the stadium during a specific time period. You can customize your design, your location, your dates and your times.
We have great success at student-centered events such as pep rallies, concerts, graduations, senior walks and sporting events.
Generation Z Twitch Hack
Twitch is a video streaming platform that has been made popular by the rising interest in video games and eSports. Twitch has a tremendous user base that watches people play video games. The demographic between the ages of 16 to 35 watch an average of 20 hours a week of streaming esports. It is time for your school district to capitalize on this video game phenomenon.
You can use this popularity to stream students playing video games and promote your district simultaneously.
10. Stream a Madden Tournament with Your Football Team
Even if you are afraid to start streaming, I would secure a Twitch username for your district. In the next couple of years, it could be the go-to platform to interact with your students. And playing video games is the most engaging content on Twitch. And with sports being absent due to the Coronavirus, this would be a perfect time to stream a sports-themed video game using student-athletes.
Madden is a top-rated football video game on Xbox and Playstation. Recruit your football players and create a Madden tournament using Twitch. Streaming directly from the gaming system is very easy. If your district is not into football, you can substitute Fifa or NBA2K in its place. Whatever you choose, video games and eSports are hot with teens. Capitalize on the popularity.
11. Host a Student Run Show – IRL
Twitch is not all about video games. Hobby shows such as cooking, art or fashion are becoming more and more popular on the platform. These platforms outside the gaming segment are called IRL or In Real Life. Why not tap into these popular channels by creating a channel with students as the hosts.
Students can showcase their talents on this popular streaming network. Using students as the hosts, other students will be more interested in watching. And because it is on Twitch, it is something different that will appeal to the teen audience. Seek students who are doing something different yet trendy. You could create a show about sneaker flipping or a teen healthy cooking show. Use trends that relate to your schools’ programs, so students can seek your programs to learn more about the topics on your shows.
Generation Z Spotify Hack
When is the last time you bought a CD from a store? Most likely, your students have never purchased a CD. They are too busy listening to their favorite tunes on Spotify.
According to the company, Spotify is a digital music, podcast, and video streaming service that gives access to millions of songs and other content from artists all over the world. It is very popular with teens.
Essential functions such as playing music are free, but you can also choose to upgrade to Spotify Premium.
12. Student DJ Volunteers to Create Playlists
The beauty of Spotify for marketing purposes is that you can create public playlists with popular music. Why not curate these playlists using student disc jockeys? Find music-loving students in your fine arts programs to create a playlist for different occasions and music genres.
You can have your students create a “Music to Study By” for final exam times, or create a football kick-off playlist for each game. Let your students be creative and let them pick songs that are popular among Generation Z. Your playlist can build brand awareness for your students as well as your fine arts programs in your schools.
Generation Z Reddit Hack
Social Media Examiner states in a blog post that Reddit is one of the largest and most underutilized social media marketing platforms. As of this writing, Reddit is ranked the #6 most visited website in the United States (#17 globally), with an average daily user time of 11:29 compared to Facebook’s 9:34, according to Alexa.com.
Reddit could be an excellent opportunity for school districts to engage their younger audience.
13. Join the Conversation – Sub Reddits
Reddit has thousands of individual communities created around topics or interests. For example, r/education is where educational stakeholders can participate in meaningful and thought-provoking discourse about educational policy, research, technology, and politics. The group r/teaching has news, resources, and tips for teachers of all levels of education. Redditors can subscribe to the communities of their choice.
By finding topics that are popular with your students, you can contribute to those conversations on Reddit. You can explain how your programs and classes relate to their interests. It is also an excellent tool to determine what is trending with your students. What are their thoughts on topics? What are their interests that you can add as programs in the future?
14. Reddit Ads
Just like Facebook and Instagram, Reddit offers companies and organizations the ability to purchase ads on their platform. Advertise on the platforms they frequent.
Social Media Examiner recommends targeting Reddit ads by the community, whereas broad, digital display-style ads seem to see low engagement for their clients. You might need to do some trial and error to find the right ad placement and ad content to create.
Generation Z Influencer Hacks
According to reports, 82% of consumers are highly likely to follow a micro-influencer’s recommendation. That is a significant number! You are not going to find many marketing campaigns with that much influence.
15. Find Your Student Influencers
I have stated this before, but you must find students to help you implement your marketing toward your student audience. It helps build trust with your audience by making your campaigns more authentic.
Take the time to recruit passionate students. Recruit students who know the trends. You do not need the straight-A student or the captain of the football team. Find the students who stand-out in other areas of your school district.
It take a different mindset to market to Generation Z. I hope my 15 hacks to engage generation Z helped shape your future campaigns. Please let me know if you have any questions or need any help.