Colleges are now marketing to a generation that has grown up finding answers to virtually any question by searching for a YouTube tutorial. Now, Generation Z is taking its online resourcefulness to a new level as they enter college and the workforce.
The good news for housing officers? Awareness of this trend and a little preparation can help you harness the social connectivity of this resourceful group to promote your housing options as the ideal solution for campus living.
Generation Z has never known a world without the Internet. These digital natives are constantly looking for their own information and, as you might imagine, they’re going to expect Wi-Fi connectivity across campus so they can get it. For colleges and universities, ample high-speed Internet will be essential in creating a positive student experience, and to this generation’s ability to work efficiently.
But what they’re looking for online also could impact the housing experience that you provide.
Where they’re getting information
Generation Z is careful about the sources they go to for information. They’ve become skeptical of marketing messages—much like their notoriously skeptical parents, Generation X. After all, why listen to a paid message when they’re able to find authentic feedback to a product or service so easily online?
Micro-influencers—social media accounts with 30,000 or fewer followers—are growing robustly thanks to Generation Z’s reliance on their peers for insight. This reliance is due in part to their pervasive mistrust of corporations. That mistrust hits campuses in a number of ways. In recent years, for example, students have organized to protest dining and other service providers for a range of reasons. However, it also means members of Gen Z will turn to one another for insight they can trust.
This group knows when they’re being sold on something. They’re used to sorting through product reviews or interacting on Instagram where sponsored content is labeled. Because honest feedback from individuals is a higher priority for this generation than their earlier peers, they’re likely to follow input from influencers they trust. It’s why influencer marketing on Instagram is a billion-dollar business.
Why this matters to you
So, what does this mean for housing officers? For starters, it means you have to offer an authentically good housing experience to appeal to residents. Current residents are talking about their housing experience, and your future residents are listening. Your students are your most powerful marketers, but they’re also quick to jump on Twitter to complain. As long as you’re proactive on creating the environment they expect and responsive to complaints, you can steer the conversation around housing.
Housing officers can also encourage the conversations. Residential building tour videos posted on apps like Snapchat, where 45% of users are between 18-24 years old, can get students talking about a school’s competitive and attractive housing options. Creating such a story for your community, to which students can tag their photos and videos, can help further boost that sense of community for which Gen Z is looking.
As this generation continues to grow the micro-influencer industry, housing officers need to plan carefully how they’ll share their message—because today’s students are already communicating a message. With advance planning and rapid responsiveness, you can shape the conversation with tomorrow’s potential residents.
For more, download our Executive Guide: Is Your Student Housing Ready for Gen Z?