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The Glacier TeamJun 6, 2022 8:30:00 AM10 min read

Where Do High School Students Really Spend Their Time Online?

In today’s world, high school students are exposed to a variety of online activities. The internet is an ever-changing landscape that constantly evolves and gets better for users.  It doesn’t matter what type of device you use or which site you visit, new sites are popping up every day that cater to the needs and interests of the younger generation. 

So as a HigherEd marketer, where should you be spending your efforts when it comes to capturing the attention of youths? Read on to find out or listen to our Signals Podcast episode on this topic here! 


Table Of Content 

Usage Habits of High School Students

Content Consumption Habits of Today's Higher Education Students

What's Popular Among High School Students Online?

Implications For Higher Education Marketers

What Kind of Content Should Higher Education Students Focus On?

Search Behaviour of Gen Z

The Importance of SEO for Remarketing

Bottom Line


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Usage Habits of High School Students

Our recent study compared the usage habits of high school students in the United States before and during the pandemic. The study found that, on average, students spent 4-5 hours on social media before the pandemic. However, during the pandemic, the average amount of time spent online increased to 14 hours.

This was attributed to high school students needing to attend classes online and spending more time inside. In addition, with the rise of social media platforms such as TikTok, students are spending more time-consuming content rather than producing it.



Content Consumption Habits of Today's Higher Education Students

The way students consume content has changed dramatically in recent years, and higher education marketers need to adapt their strategies to keep up. Various studies have shown that today's students are more likely to consume content on mobile devices and social media than on traditional channels like print newspapers and magazines. 

When asked about where they remembered seeing an ad from a post-secondary institution:

  • 59% of high school students said they saw it on social media
  • 45% saw it on school walls
  • 42% indicated seeing it on a website
  • 13% saw it on TV
  • 10% saw it on a billboard
  • 8% heard it on the radio

This data shows that higher education marketers need to focus their efforts on social media and programmatic advertising, as these are the channels where high school students are most likely to see their ads. In terms of ad recall, brand awareness, lead generation, and other key indicators, the most effective platforms for higher education marketing to reach Gen Zs are TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook

Narrowing down the most effective platform to focus your efforts on will depend on your specific marketing goals. For instance, if you're looking to boost brand awareness TikTok and Snapchat are the best platforms to use. If you're interested in generating leads, Facebook and Instagram should be where to start. If you want to reach as many people as possible, a mix of all four platforms is recommended. 

Most people don't feel confident in where they are spending and what is resulting from it. As a result, it's necessary to test out campaigns on each platform to see what works best for your school. Higher education marketing is all about providing value to potential students. In order to do this, you need to understand what kinds of content today's students are looking for and how they want to consume it. 

Some of the most popular types of content among higher education students include: 

  • How-to guides: Students are always looking for information on how to do things, whether it's how to apply for financial aid or how to pick a major. Creating helpful how-to guides can help you attract students to your website and show them that you're an expert in your field. 
  • Comparisons: Higher education is a big decision, and students want to make sure they're choosing the right school. By creating side-by-side comparisons of different colleges and universities, you can help students weigh their options and make an informed decision about where to enroll. 
  • Student profiles: Another popular type of content among higher education students is student profiles. These can be either written or video profiles, and they offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to attend your school. Student profiles are a great way to show potential students the benefits of enrolling at your institution. 

If you want to reach high school students and improve your higher education marketing strategy, focus on creating content that will appeal to them. The three types of content listed above are a great place to start. 

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What’s Popular Among High School Students Online?

There is a wide variety when it comes to the types of content that high school students consume and the platforms they spend their time on. However, there are definitely some platforms that are more popular than others. TikTok is currently one of the most popular social media platforms with over 1 billion active users. In fact, 92% of Gen Zers in the United States use TikTok, and it is the most used social app amongst this group. 

Other popular content among high school students includes: 

  • Social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat
  • Music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music
  • Video streaming platforms such as YouTube and Netflix
  • Gaming platforms such as Twitch and Roblox

As you can see, there is a wide range of popular content among high school students. As an education marketer, it’s important to understand what type of content is popular among your target audience so that you create content that appeals to them. 



Implications for Higher Education Marketers

The online habits of high school students have implications for education marketers and admissions professionals. Post-secondary institutions need to take different approaches depending on the platform. For example, Snapchat is more of a communication tool, whereas Instagram and TikTok are more geared towards content consumption. 

Educational institutions should take into account the different online behaviours of high school students when crafting their advertising campaigns. Since Snapchat is more of a communication tool, institutions should focus on building relationships with potential students on that platform via DMs or SnapStories. While Instagram and TikTok, on the other hand, are more geared toward content consumption, institutions should create and share consistent content that is informative, relevant, entertaining, or engaging. 



What Kind of Content Should Higher Education Institutions Focus On?

As a HigherEd marketer, there are a variety of different content ideas and topics to highlight depending on your school and audiences. Some topics that tend to be important to high school students include, the types of programs offered, the cost of attending, the location of your campus, student life, etc.

  • Want to promote a cost advantage for your school? 
    • Create content highlighting the funding students could receive by attending your institution 
  • Want to showcase the various activities your school offers?
    • Create content that shows all the different clubs they could join 
  • What about student life? 
    • One of the best ways to showcase student life is to share content that is already being shared by your own students! When prospective students see content from their very own peers, they are more likely to relate to and engage with the post! 

The key is to know your audience and figure out what matters most to them when selecting which post-secondary institution to attend. With the right content, you can help connect your target audience with the education they need and deserve. Focus on these important topics as it relates back to your brand and make content that is educational, entertaining, and or inspirational. 

By applying this rule, we can use platforms like TikTok to engage high school students and go all-in with this strategy. This means dedicating resources to creating entertaining content, engaging with the community, and running ads. Higher education institutions that want to succeed on TikTok should focus on the following:

  • Creating a consistent brand identity
  • Producing consistent content
  • Engaging with the TikTok community
  • Investing in paid advertising

Each social media platform has its own “platform culture,” and there are even numerous sub-culture groups within the platform themselves. With such a vast variety of content creators, it is important to find your niche and search for the type of content creator that is related to your branding. This way, you can tap into their understanding of the platform culture and produce viable and useful content that will resonate with your target audience.

When advertising on these platforms, it’s important for the content to appear organic and authentic. That means you need to focus on creating content that is trending, relevant to your brand, and seamlessly blends in with the rest of your feed. Since users are more likely to follow trends, hashtags, brands and influencers than they are to search for content, it is important to retain their attention by being entertaining, educational, or inspirational. 

Some types of content that tend to do well on social media include:

  • Funny videos
  • Relatable memes
  • Dance challenges
  • Bite-sized educational content
  • DIY tutorials
  • Storytimes 

All of these types of content have one of these factors in common: they provide entertainment and are inspirational or educational, these qualities are essential for any social media marketing strategy and all can be used to promote higher education. 

Now that you have an idea of how to engage your audiences on social media, it is time to make sure that when they search for your institution, they have all the information they need in an organized and informative way. 

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Search Behaviour of Gen Z

As a marketer, it’s important to know your audience, and when it comes to Gen Z, that means understanding their search behaviour. Since Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with the internet, they, as a result, have a very different approach to finding information. Rather than relying solely on traditional sources like educators, libraries, or parents, Gen Z turns to the internet for answers. With resources right at their fingertips, they expect immediate results for what they are searching for. 

This trend is most apparent in Gen Z’s online shopping habits. They’re quick to make decisions and often buy products after searching for them just once. This is a testament to Gen Z that they will use search engines to solve their immediate problems. Search is the navigation tool for this generation, which means that if you want to reach Gen Z, you need to be visible in search results.

One way to do this is by optimizing your website for search engines. This means using the right keywords and phrases, and including a disclaimer in your data capture or lead gen forms. This will help you rank higher in search results and ensure that people know what you’re doing with their personal information.

Gen Z needs instant gratification, whether that be through making a purchase or finding the answer to a question quickly. They often don't appreciate going through obstacles that hinder or slow this process, such as submitting an email or not having a search bar on a website. This quickness of information should be a signal to marketers about how they should now react and approach these things. 



The Importance of SEO for Remarketing

HigherEd marketers are underestimating the power of SEO for remarketing. Search engine optimization should be a key part of any higher education marketing strategy, yet many post-secondary institutions are still not using it to its full potential. 

There are several reasons why SEO is so important for higher education marketers, but the most vital reason is that it allows you to reach your target audience more effectively. With SEO, you can ensure that your website appears at the top of search results when people are looking for information about your school or programs. This visibility is essential for driving traffic to your website and ultimately increasing enrollment.

Knowing your audience is also crucial for successful remarketing. Higher education marketers need to understand the preferences and habits of their target market in order to create compelling content and advertising strategies that will resonate with them. Since parents and students often have different needs and interests, it’s important to tailor your re-marketing strategies accordingly. For example, you might choose to target parents on Facebook with content about financial aid options while focusing on TikTok marketing for students interested in campus life. 

Your retargeting campaign should also be vastly different based on the platform, audience, and campaign type. Parents and students, for instance, will respond differently to ads promoting school tours than they would to ads about scholarships. 

There are endless benefits to using SEO for higher education marketing. Some key benefits include: 

  • Increasing brand awareness: One of the main goals of any marketing campaign is to increase brand awareness and reach as many people as possible. SEO can help you achieve this by increasing your visibility in search results. 
  • Generating leads: A lead is a potential student who has expressed interest in your school or program. SEO can help you generate leads by driving traffic to your website and increasing the visibility of your lead capture forms.
  • Reaching your target audience: Higher education marketing is all about reaching the right people at the right time. SEO allows you to cater your content and advertising strategies to specific audiences, ensuring that you’re targeting the right individuals with each campaign. 
  • Enhancing the student experience: SEO can also help you enhance the student experience. By making your website more user-friendly and informative, you can help students easily find the information they need when they are researching your school.

If you’re not using SEO as part of your higher education marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to reach your target market. Implementing an effective SEO strategy can help you achieve your marketing goals and improve the overall success of your college or university.

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Bottom Line

The bottom line is that Gen Z students have different expectations when receiving information from brands. They want quick insights that are easy to digest, and they want brands to be personable and have the ability to interact with them on their terms. Once they are aware of your brand, they want the information to be easy to find, so having effective web pages, and easy search options allow for better decision-making. 

By understanding the online habits of high school students, colleges and universities can better connect with potential students and improve their chances of conversion.



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