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  • Janine Mhlongo

How to Get Chinese Gen-Zs to Choose Your School



There are some new kids on the block - Generation Z has arrived on the doorstep of higher education and so has your new Gen-Z approved recruitment strategy.


Choosing a school is a big decision, and TikTok dances and Instagram polls might not instinctively feel like the best way to help students make it. It might not feel like your school fits in with other brands on Gen Z-approved platforms and your team might not know what those platforms are in China.


But with an understanding of what China’s Gen Z students want, more visual content than you think you need and an emphasis on authenticity, you can connect with China’s Gen Z - without alienating their parents.



Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z?


Synonymous with tech and concerns over screen-time, Gen Z were born anywhere between 1996 and 2015. Let’s take a look at Gen Z around the world:


  • Gen Z already represent over $140 billion of global spending power.

  • Among parents of Gen Z, 93% say their children influence household and family purchases.

  • Gen Zers are progressive, having grown up in a generation more diverse than any other. Their lives have been marked by social change, economic insecurity, and they are on track to be the best educated generation.

  • When it comes to making purchase decisions, Gen Z tend to evaluate their options before committing, and put a lot of stock in the opinions of others.

  • China’s Gen Z crave uniqueness and personalization in their purchases and experiences.





CHINA’S GEN Z


  • China’s Gen Z are especially tech-savvy. As the largest group of their age range in the world, they’ve grown up in a period of Chinese economic expansion which means taking rapid leaps in technology in stride.

  • China’s Gen Z wield their financial power differently: Chinese Gen Z make 70% of their purchases on a social media app, vs American Gen Z who only make 26%.

  • Chinese Gen Z are the largest group of their age range in the world, making up 15% of China’s total population.

  • They’re digital by design: According to Questmobile, China’s Gen Z spend an average of 6 hours a day (175 hours a month) online.


WHERE TO FIND THEM


Chinese Gen-Z aren’t using the same apps as Gen-Z in western countries. To reach Chinese Ge-Z you’ll need to market on China’s top apps.


Where They Aren’t: Only 2.3% of China’s surveyed Gen Z used international apps like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter .

Here are the most used apps amongst Chinese Gen-Z



  • WeChat: Think Venmo, PayPal, WhatsApp and Instagram all in one - with 1.24 billion monthly users, WeChat is ubiquitous with Chinese digital marketing.

  • QQ: China’s 2nd most-used social sharing app, according to a recent survey of the country’s Gen Z.

  • Douyin: Often called “China’s TikTok”, Douyin hails from the same parent company as Tiktok. It also hosts short-form video content and boasts an impressive 200 million daily users, of which 70% are Gen Z.

  • Bilibili: China’s answer to YouTube, Bilibili is a Chinese video sharing platform claiming 128 million Gen Z users across China.

  • Weibo: China’s version of Twitter, plus live streaming.

  • Kuaishou: A content sharing hub popular for its micro-influencers and high engagement rates, this platform’s content hub is similar to TikTok’s “For You Page.




Lying Flat: China’s Gen Z’s Success?


China’s Gen Z haven’t even hit the workforce yet and they're are already jaded by it. As China’s labor market shrinks, younger workers are working longer hours to bridge the gap. Disenchanted, they’re “lying flat” -a literal translation from 躺平(tǎngpíng) in Mandarin, which is a figurative call to reject the exhaustive working hours. Tang ping rejects society’s expectation of high performance and long hours, instead embracing more attainable achievements with memes praising acts of relaxation and rest - similar to American #selfcare proclamations.


Although recent Chinese policy encourages less hours spent on academics and more time on social activities, Chinese Gen Zers are clearly looking beyond the classroom for community and quality of life on campus.



WHAT MATTERS MOST TO CHINESE GEN Z WHEN LOOKING FOR A SCHOOL?


You already know what makes your school special and you already know why Chinese students should choose it. You know what to say, so Now, let’s look at how to say it to Gen Z.



PURPOSE V PASSION


Generation Z cares about the world and they’re more serious about doing their part in having a positive impact, more so than any other generation. They’re acutely aware of issues facing the world and they don’t hesitate to put their money where their mouths are - 55% of Gen Z consumers choose eco-friendly, socially responsible brands.


Your campus might house a well-ranked Business school or be proud of its Engineering programs, but thinking like a Gen Z-er points you towards your school’s sustainable entrepreneurship concentration or environmental impact technology program.


Although Chinese parents remain steadfastly STEM-focused, their kids are looking to balance parental priorities and passion. Highlight programs that fit the bill, reassuring parents of post-grad prospects, and students the fulfillment of seeing their impact on the world.


As a market, Gen Z expect to have meaningful connections with brands. The best way to do this is to develop a particularly deep understanding of how your audience uses technology. The key to making sure that your content fits seamlessly in with Gen Z’s? Influencers.


Student Recruitment in the Age of the Influencer



Gen Z are almost twice as likely as millennials to make a purchase based on an influencer’s recommendation. This is especially relevant in China, where word of mouth ("guanxi") is critical to success. Social proof strengthens your school’s credibility and educates a Gen Z audience - without seeming like you’re trying to.


Influencer content’s relaxed, easy-going style may contrast with “traditional” recruitment, but its informal nature makes it accessible not only to Gen Z, but also to recruiters - micro-influencers are already on your campus.


Look to Chinese student ambassadors or “Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)” with highly engaged social media followers. While influencers with followers in the millions are great for building brand awareness, you don’t need influencers with thousands of followers to promote your school to Gen-Z. Micro-influencers, such as your own students sharing content, are perfect for reaching Chinese Gen-Z. Since guanxi, or relationships, are so important to Chinese people, sharing content from real students will help Chinese Gen-Z feel like they have a more personal connection to your institution, building the trust and loyalty that Gen Z craves.




VISUAL CONTENT


As a smartphone vs television generation, Gen Z isn’t tied to a location or a channel. With content curated to watch whatever, whenever, wherever, making an impact on an audience with a famously short attention span can seem daunting.



56% of Gen Z want to connect with brands on Instagram, and with 25% of TikTok users in the 10-19 age bracket, these platforms are essential to connecting with Chinese Gen Z - but not all content is created equal.


Looking to connect with Chinese students who aren’t on Instagram or TikTok? These tips can all be applied Chinese social media counterparts.


Your school’s content needs to be bite-sized, attention grabbing, and dynamic. Visual content is perfect for this. Incorporating Instagram-like stories across Chinese social media platforms such as Duoyin ensures that your content is authentic and accessible as its seamlessly incorporated with the rest of Gen Z’s content.


Instagram and TikTok check many of the same boxes - short, fast, fun. Make sure you’re avoiding the "Boomer” faux pas of not formatting each video to its platform.


Chinese students seek out unique experiences, and your campus community can say a lot for itself in seconds:

  • Dorm decorating transformations

  • What does a Chinese student on campus eat in a day?

  • Get ready for [Big Campus Event] with me!


Students are already inundated with “serious” information about schools and while they decide between multiple campuses. As this careful audience weigh the pros and cons, show prospective students what their lives on your campus could look like and help them make a best-fit decision - in seconds.


INTERACTIVE


Gen Z aren’t content with scrolling - they want to engage. Voting, swiping, clicking - the longer prospective students are interacting with your content, the longer you have their attention.


Digital content that fits seamlessly into student’s social feeds hints to students that their transition to your campus will be similarly smooth. Casual interaction with social content is a great way for students to identify their personal brands with yours and assess if your campus speaks to their personality. Consider:


  • Instagram-style polls about annual campus events, area attractions, etc.

  • Asking followers to comment in response to a question

  • Encouraging followers to share their own content using a branded hashtag - this is especially great on graduation and acceptance days!


Bonus - all of these features will have the added benefit of providing data about your prospective applicants!



CONCLUSION


As the post-Millennials start to look for their dream destinations, schools need to keep up with a generation whose attention span seems, at times, limited to 15-second Duoyin bytes.


Marketing to China’s Gen Z is simultaneously frustrating and exciting, ambiguous and specific. They’re online more than any other demographic but using unfamiliar platforms, deserving of a high-quality digital experience but necessitating firewall compatibility and translation.


Similarly, China’s Gen Z students have endless choices and endless information, desiring unique student experiences but unsure of how to best make this decision.





 


ABOUT EDUFAIR CHINA


eduFair China is a free website and app connecting Chinese students with international institutions and first-hand resources about studying abroad. We aim to give students a more empowered approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.


Our platform features more than 1,200 organizations and reaches millions of students across China.


Click here to learn more about getting your institution online and how eduFair can help you reach students in China.





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