April 28

Connecting with Gen Z via Customized Community


In higher ed marketing, you’ve got to stay current with the latest sensibilities of upcoming students. 

It used to be all the attention was given to understanding and crafting messaging for Millennials. 

Now, Millennials are starting to take the reins of the modern workforce.

Which means that in higher ed marketing, it’s all-hands-on-deck for Generation Z (with Gen Alpha well on their way).

The potential for getting roasted by Gen Z is high if you aren’t adapting to the new expectations for higher education.

Facebook is in the past—students are looking for more. More community, mental health sensitivity, and customization. 

How can we provide that? 

On The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, we spoke with Adam Metcalf, Co-Founder at ZeeMee, to find some answers.

In this episode, he explains why community is the key to reaching Gen Z and how that unlocks a new level of engagement between schools and students.

Discovering What Gen Z Really Wanted

Right now, ZeeMee is a wildly popular social app for students who are searching for the right higher education institution for them.

But it didn’t start out that way.

We started ZeeMee about eight years ago. The vision at the time was to help students bring their story to life in the college application. So they were adding videos and photos, trying to highlight more about who they were and get outside of traditional metrics like summative exams. 

What we discovered is that a lot of students didn’t actually want to do that! It was supplemental to the application, and it took extra work. But what we did discover through that journey was that students were really interested in connecting with each other on Zeemee. 

They wanted to know who else is looking at this school, right? Not just who applied and who got admitted, but who else is actually considering this school? 

So about four years ago, we really dove headlong into creating communities for our college partners, where their students could get to know each other at the top of the funnel.

It was fascinating to hear the Zeemee discovery process, because that’s what we’re all doing right now: Trying things and discovering what Gen Z really wants.

What strikes me about Zeemee’s process is that they are uncovering something important about Gen Z – the need for virtual community.

The Gen Z Watering Hole

Zeemee is ranked in the top 25 of all social app downloads of both Google and Apple. 

Think about how incredible that is. 

That means Zeemee is in the top 25 list with social giants like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

More than that, Zeemee is only used for Generation Z students looking and talking about colleges

As higher ed marketers, we often talk about going to the watering holes where your students are.

Get your messaging where your audience is already hanging out.

At this moment, it seems to me that Zeemee is the watering hole for Gen Z. 

How Creating Community Fits Into the Funnel

Of course, talking about creating community is exciting, even if you’re not Gen Z. 

But how does this fit into the broader goals and strategy of higher ed marketing?

[As higher ed marketers], we try to get to the bottom of the marketing funnel and use our advocates as our voice. What we’ve found in higher ed is that every college is relying on current students [who’re at the bottom of the funnel] as that voice for advocacy, which of course is an important voice to leverage. 

And we’ve also found a lot of these admissions teams have done such amazing work getting advocates at the TOP of the funnel. For example, you have students that are applying to your school, it’s their dream school, right? They can’t wait to get there. [Normally,] a lot of schools wait to give these [prospective] students a megaphone when they’re actually students on campus. 

What we discovered at Zeemee is that you shouldn’t wait until they’re on campus, give them the megaphone now. Invite them into this communal experience with other students and allow them as prospective students to start talking about the brand and how excited they are to enroll. 

For us, we’re just trying to redefine what is that advocacy voice that we can really tap into in a communal way?

This can really be a game changer!

According to Adam, there’s no need to wait for the student to get to the end of the funnel to become a student brand ambassador.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Later in our interview, Adam explains more about how they use social media tools to create community among students at the top of the funnel. 

Listen to our interview with Adam Metcalf to get even more insights into:

  • Community building
  • Mental health awareness
  • Generational differences
  • Leveraging Gen Z’s communal way of thinking

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Featured image by Monkey Business via Adobe Stock

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