Up until a few years ago CSU’s social channels had a large overlap in its audience demographics. It is not the case today. We are seeing a sharper age-demarcation in our social media audience across channels.
A Pew Research survey of American teenagers aged 13 to 17 in 2015 and in 2022 confirmed the dominance of YouTube among teens. Instagram and Snapchat have grown in popularity and the decline of Facebook use among teens is sharp. The most remarkable social phenomenon, however, is the emergence of TikTok.
TikTok’s success led other social platforms to scramble and create similar spaces. Instagram and Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts and for a fleeting moment, Twitter Fleets are some examples.
As social media strategists, our endeavor is to fine-tune our content strategy as platforms evolve and new channels emerge. Based on the trends that we were seeing, we shifted our strategy to focus heavily on short-form vertical video and placing our students front and center in content creation.
The rise of TikTok is hard to miss. The raw, authentic nature of TikTok along with it’s trending audios and multitude of filters has resonated with Gen Z. The “For You” feed in TikTok is unique in that it serves personalized content based on user’s interests. TikTok’s use as a search and discovery platform is also increasing steadily. Earlier this year, Google shared that 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search. They go to TikTok or Instagram.
The post lifespan on TikTok may be small, but the search and discoverability aspect of the platform makes it an absolute-must to focus on from a higher education institution’s perspective.
Since the official launch of CSU TikTok in February 2022, we have steadily increased our TikTok footprint. We strategically took a non-manicured approach to TikTok. CSU’s TikToks feature four student content creators who post 4 to 5 times a week. Having a core group of student creators has helped us maintain that raw, peer-to-peer connection that the TikTok audience loves. Our TikTok channel receives around 130,000 video views and 12,000 engagements on average per month.
When it comes to gaining knowledge or making decisions, YouTube comes out on top for Gen Z. Our prospective student audience wants to see the campus before deciding on CSU. Understanding what our peers are doing on YouTube, and identifying our content gaps, our strategy now showcases campus spaces and students in action:
Green Spaces Tour
Students and Sustainability
It’s too early to say if our strategy-pivot is working on YouTube, but the signs are encouraging – we have increased our views from YouTube Search and Suggested Videos by 10% and 15% respectively.
YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. The biggest advantage in focusing on YouTube Shorts is that it taps into YouTube’s already-massive user base and reliable engagement performance. While we have only just tested the waters with a few Shorts, we intend to use this platform to highlight our campus life and offer byte-sized tours.
A Ram’s Life is our student-run vlog on YouTube where our student-interns regularly vlog about their experiences as students at CSU. Started back in 2019, it was our first major step in content creation for Gen Z by Gen Z. It currently has 12,800 subscribers and has garnered a whopping 2.4 million views till date. The start of the new school, we welcomed four new student vloggers to the team, some of whom were actually inspired to join CSU after watching A Ram’s Life vlogs. We are only expecting this channel to grow and keep adding value to prospective students.
Instagram is our biggest platform when it comes to reaching current and prospective students. Instagram Reels were a no-brainer, especially for a social media brand like ours that relies heavily on organic reach and impressions. Brands had been seeing a universal decline in overall organic reach and impressions since 2018. We were no exception. This coincided with the rise of TikTok and short-form vertical video. Since Reels’ debut in late 2020, we had been producing 1 or 2 Reel every month until the beginning of 2022. We decided to double down on our Reels production to the point that more than half our posted media in October comprised of Reels. And the results of this strategy-pivot are encouraging, too. We have managed to increase our average reach per post by 37% and average engagements per post by 50% over last year.