Gen Z is the Next Non Traditional Student: Move Them Down the Funnel with These 2 Tactics

June 2nd, 2021 by Jenna Movahed

Key Insights

  • Since Generation Z (Gen Z) is the next generation of non-traditional learners, it’s essential to provide accessible and relevant information to this new generation of life-long learners.
  • Two tactics in higher education marketing—Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation and Email Nurture campaigns—can help move prospective students through the funnel and one step closer to applying and registering.
  • Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation creates a friction-less conversion point for users at the consideration stage of the funnel.
  • Email Nurture campaigns allow you to send personalized, targeted messages to prospects in the consideration and decision phase of the funnel, addressing key decision points in their journey.

Woman working at a laptop in front of a window

Higher education marketing isn’t an easy A—it’s always evolving because the upcoming generation heavily influences the industry. As Gen Z is added to the typical prospective non-traditional student pool, marketing strategies must also change to appeal to prospective students in a relevant and engaging way.

One of the most prominent characteristics of Gen Z is their tech savvy. This generation was born into the interconnected world of the internet, smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices. Digital marketers targeting Gen Z must provide easily accessible information at their fingertips and across social media platforms to compete for their attention.

When first targeting prospective students, universities need to clearly display the attributes that make them different. Once the intended audience recognizes an institution’s brand and starts engaging with their social media and web content, it’s time to shift the strategy from brand awareness to the next phase in the marketing funnel: consideration, and ultimately through to decision (applying) and to registration.

During the consideration phase, the prospective student is more familiar with a school. They may schedule a virtual tour or download a brochure. Students may even start imagining themselves attending—but they aren’t quite ready to commit. Prospective students are likely still researching other schools and weighing their options. During this stage, universities need to provide the information prospective students are looking for. Universities can use first-party data, like past inquiries, to directly target and speak to prospective students in this stage of the funnel.

Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation Ads and Email Nurture campaigns can engage digitally savvy prospective students and move them through the marketing funnel to take the next desired action.

Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation Ads

What is a Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation Ad?

During setup, Facebook gives marketers the option to create campaigns based on objectives (i.e., goals). All campaigns can also be converted to Instagram (73% of Gen Zers actively use Instagram, while only 40% use Facebook).

Universities can select a Traffic campaign if the goal is to send their target audience from Facebook/Instagram to an external URL, like a blog page. This campaign would be most applicable at the top of the funnel.

In the consideration phase of the funnel, Lead Generation campaigns can be a convenient way to convert prospective students. Ads in Lead Generation campaigns look similar to other campaign ads, but instead of linking to a website outside of Facebook, Lead Generation ads send the user to an “Instant Form” directly in the Facebook (or Instagram) platform. Here, the user is prompted to fill out basic contact information.

Then, in the decision stage, when it’s time to focus on driving potential students to fill out applications, marketers can show ads just to people who have completed that lead generation form. It’s best practice to run this campaign with a Conversion objective to optimize for users to take specific action on their site, such as an application.

Why are Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation campaigns relevant?

These campaigns are very user-friendly because the form fills are pre-populated with the user’s Facebook contact information, a feature many Gen Zers have come to expect. In a few seconds, the user can click the ad, retrieve the relevant information, and send over contact information that creates a new qualified lead. It’s that simple. (With some custom configurations, that conversion can automatically input into an enrollment management system like Slate!)

Screenshot of Facebook ads campaign for higher education client

Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation campaigns can also help universities gain more qualified prospects. Users don’t want to give their contact information to just anyone—if they’re submitting their contact information, they probably trust the business.

It’s critical to target a lower-funnel audience to be most effective with this type of ad. Users who are already somewhat familiar with a university’s brand are more likely to be comfortable providing their information if they’re interested in learning more.

How do Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation campaigns produce high-quality leads?

When starting a new campaign, it’s common to feel like many of the prospects that come in aren’t high-quality leads. At first, it will take Facebook and Instagram’s machine learning some time to analyze and make changes to optimize a campaign to attract leads that fit neatly into a target demographic. Don’t be discouraged!

If lead quality is still an issue after a few months, adding the “high intent” feature to forms can help. This feature adds a review screen for users to confirm before submitting a form. Adding this step helps ensure the user is consciously aware that they’re submitting their information. But note, this “high intent” feature is only available for users on mobile devices, so it will limit placements. Before turning this feature on, assess what percentage of impressions and past form submissions are coming from mobile devices.

Email Nurture Campaigns

The second critical tactic to move prospects further down the funnel is an Email Nurture campaign.

What is an Email Nurture Campaign?

In a previous blog post about engaging prospective college students, we define an Email Nurture campaign as “an intentional and strategic set of messages sent to a prospect over a period of time to guide them through the decision-making process to an ultimate desired action.”

These email campaign strategies are built with conversion in mind and are sent to individual prospects directly, not to a bulk list at one time. The prospect’s action will trigger the type of email messaging sent to them. Each action the user takes will determine the next email they receive.

Graphic showing higher education marketing funnel

For example, let’s say Ann (Lead A) and Marcus (Lead B) are both interested in studying urban planning and have submitted an online form on a university’s program page to receive more information.

From that form submission, both Ann and Marcus will receive Email #1. Ann opens the email immediately and clicks through some of the included links. Based on her actions in that email, she might receive Email #2a one week later, which gives details about next steps and applying.

Marcus, however, did not interact with Email #1 like Ann did. He deleted it after opening it. Marcus might then receive Email #2b, which contains different content focused on re-engaging him.

Why are Email Nurture campaigns relevant?

According to Statista, 90% of U.S. internet users used email each month in 2019.

As a reminder, the prospective student is already aware of several universities and weighing their options at this point in the marketing journey. Targeted email allows a university to provide interested students with the answers they are looking for before they even search for them.

In a webinar, Blackboard reported that prospective students have new concerns and questions related to the pandemic, including potential economic fallout, changes to the campus environment, and job prospects after college. Prospective students have stated they would like to hear from admissions counselors at least once a week via email.

To address this, higher education institutions can implement an Email Nurture campaign to ensure prospective students are getting relevant information based on where they stand in their journey, in addition to personalized outreach from admissions counselors.

Facebook/Instagram Lead Generation campaigns and Email Nurture campaigns are excellent tactics for engaging with prospective students and providing them with the information they’re looking for, pushing them one step closer to applying to your institution.

Ready to start building a marketing campaign tailored to your ideal prospective students? Search Influence has helped local and national higher education clients create effective campaigns to target prospective students at all stages of the marketing funnel. Contact one of our experts to learn how you can enhance your current marketing strategies.