The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 10 months ago

Connecting w/ Gen Z via Customized Community


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? Our guest, Adam Metcalf, Co-Founder at ZeeMee, has the answers.

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

We discuss:

- Community building

- Mental health awareness

- Generational differences

- Leveraging Gen Zs communal leanings

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Higher Ed Marketer in your favorite podcast player.

You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don't a relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the height of marketer podcast. I'm choice singer and, as always, I'm here with my cohost Bart Keeler. Today, during the podcast we're going to have a conversation with Adam Metcalf. He's a cofounder of an APP called Zemi. In the conversation we're having with him is how to tap into and take advantage of Gen z's communal conversations in Bart. I think this is an excellent conversation. What do we have to look forward to today? You know, I really like this conversation. Adam is very articulate and I he's got such a pulse on what's going on with Gen z. You know just a couple things. Zeemi is ranked in the top twenty five of all social apps down the downloads of both Google and apple and so think about that. I mean you think about instagram and facebook and Linkedin and all you start name and off the top APPS that we all use, and to know that Zemi is in the top twenty five and to also know that Zemi is only used for generation Z students looking and talking about colleges and so as High Ed marketers we often talk about go to the watering holes where your students are, but I'm telling you, this is where the watering hole is. And so I think Adam does a great job of just kind of talking about Zee me, what it is and what it's not, what how it is evolved over time and how how even the way that we engage through social with a generation Z needs to evolve as well. So great episode it is, and although we usually try to be product or agnostic to any companies, it's just natural, as we talk about the benefit of what this APP does, that we talk about Zee me throughout the conversation. Right, okay, very good. Here's our conversation with Adam Metcalf. Today it's my honor to welcome Adam Metcalf, confounder and chief evangelist of Zemi, to the High Ed Marketer podcast. Thank you, for joining us, Adam. Yeah, Hey, thank you, troy, thank you, bar super excited to be on highered marketer. You guys put out such fantastic content and have some of the best insight and knowledge in the space, so it's an honor to be here. We'd say thank you very much and we really are honored have you so we can talk about how to tap into and take advantage of genes. He's communal conversations. Before we get into it, though, if you can tell us a little bit about yourself, about Zee me, and maybe we can begin the conversation of how Zeemi plays a role in that space. Yeah, sure, absolutely so. We started Zee me about eight years ago. In the vision at the time I was a former high school teach or the vision at the time was really how do we help students just bring their story to life in the college application? And so they were adding videos and photos and really trying to highlight more about who they were and get outside of you know, traditional metrics like summittive exams, like the sat and so, as an educator I was passionate about that. Will. We discovered is that a lot of students didn't actually want to do that. It was sample mental and the application. It took extra work and it really didn't provide a great deal of benefit to colleges other than it just allowed them to be a little more holistic in the application process. But what we did discover through that journey of the first four years is that students were really, really interested and connecting with each other on Zeemi and they wanted to know who else is looking at this school right not not only like who applied and who got admitted, but who else is actually considering this school. And 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. And so that's a quick, you know, eight years synopsis in...

...a few sentences there for you. That's really cool, Adam, and I think that it goes back to the whole notion. I hear so many people talk about this that it's all about relationships, and I think sometimes in Higher Ed we forget that it's not about the relationships. It is about the relationships between students and the school. But there's a whole lot more relationships to play into the decision process and I'm sure that's what you guys are finding. Yep, yeah, that's that's one harms. That correct party. So tell me a little bit about how you know when you start doing that. I mean how does that work in the in the traditional funnel? I mean certainly you know you've got these schools and there's this there's this community that's happening, that's talking about, you know, Xyz University and and how are the schools kind of, you know, being a part of that? You know, and what's that do for their brand? Yeah, that's a really good question. So, you know, just speaking to some of the marketers that listen to this podcast, I think traditionally in marketing, right, what we've we try to achieve as we try to get to the bottom of that marketing funnel and get our advocates as our voice, and that's obviously critical, right for any brand. What we found in Higher Ed is that oftentimes colleges, every college, is relying on current students. Is that voice for Advocacy? It's an important voice, right. Nobody debates that. That's not a good voice. It's a good voice, right. It's an important one to leverage. What we found is that you have a lot of these emissions teams. They've done such amazing work getting advocates at the top of the funnel. Right. So you have students that are applying to your school. It's our dream school, right, they can't wait to get there. A lot of those schools they wait to give that student a megaphone when they're actually a student on campus. And what we discovered a Zemia is don't wait until they're on campus. Given the megaphone now, right, invite them into this communal experience with other students and allow them as perspective students. So start talking about the brand and how excited they are to come and all, I went for this campus visit and it was unbelievable. And Man, I went for this preview day and I absolutely loved it. And you all visit this restaurant. And so you start to leverage this voice and it just gives you a step functioning on interaction engagement that's happening among your perspective students, a lot of whom haven't even applied yet, right, and so you're really just happen into that Voice of advocacy with peer to peer connection. So one thing that I did want to correct you know, I think that, you know, we as a company really want to correct in this space is this idea of peer to peer. So what's happened in Higher Ed is we've gotten really loose with that terminology. Right. So we say peered here and we may be referring to a junior in college speaking to a senior in high school, right, and I have a teenage aunt to myself. There is no teen in high school that considers themselves a peer with a student in college. It's two different phases of life, right. So when we talk about peer to peer at Zemi we're talking about a high school senior to a high school senior. That's a voice they're listening to a lot. When we talk about junior to junior in high school, that's peer to peer. So for us we're just trying to redefine what's peer to peer. Redefine, you know, what is that advocacy voice that we can really tap into and then do it in a communal way. And I know that's something we're going to talk about here in a second. But yeah, that's great and I think that I just want to clarify something too, because a lot of schools might be listening to this marketers and they're like, Oh, yeah, we've been doing this since, you know, two thousand and ten when we have our facebook groups, and you know, when they get accepted, you know, they get put into the class of two thousand and twenty five and all that kind of stuff. But this is different. I mean this is this is people that are talking to each other that some may have applied, some maybe haven't. So you know, just kind of clarify that for us. Yeah. Yeah, so a good point, Bart and a few things there. So first and foremost facebook, right. So the challenge with facebook is only three percent of Gen z identifies facebook as their platform a choice today. So a lot of students they don't even have facebook until a college asked them to get the admitted student community to join the midded student community. Then they create a facebook account. And then what do they do? We all know this. They immediately bounce right like okay, I'm going to snap chat, I'm going to Instagram, I'm going to discord, whatever... may be. They immediately bounced because lit literally grammar and graph around their great time on great ground. So there's no longer the privacy aspect to that there's no exclusivities and you know, and so all of that is missing from facebook. And so I think that, you know, where a lot of schools have come over to Zeemi is like. You know, they saw this. They saw a precipitous decline in adoption on facebook, precipitous decline and engagement. So the second piece of that is obviously facebook is not a good play anymore. But second to that is you don't have to wait till they're admitted. If you're waiting to their admitted, you waited too long. Gen Z is so communal. They do everything together. They watch Netflix together, they play multiplayer video games together. They absolutely, one hundred percent want to connect at the top of your funnel together. Right. They'll start connecting as juniors, they'll start connecting as seniors and they'll make friends on Zemi and average eight communities where they're chatting and talking with students from all these different schools, a lot of schools they haven't even applied to yet, right, and so they're getting a taste of this school through the Lens of perspective students that are looking at that school. And so if you're missing out on connecting those students, I mean you're leaving months, if not years, on the table of potential potential connection points around your brand, and so it's really super critical right for colleges to move it up the funnel and allow those connections to take place much earlier on. That's great. So help me understand. How are these students finding one another? Are they finding one another with the help of the school, or are they know? Are they downloading Zeem me on their own? Does a school say hey, get on see me. How does this work? Yeah, great question, Troy. So, number one, Zee me, by God's grace, has become a top one hundred social APP across the country. So we're often ranked as top one hundred most downloaded social APP the United States. We recently just hit top twenty five. We were number twenty one most downloaded social APP in the world, and so that's on, you know, same scale with snapchat and other APPs of that caliber, and so that's been a great source of organic downloads for Zeemi. Number two is going to be students are sharing this with one another, right, so students are telling each other all you got jump on Zeemi. Like you can meet other students that are looking at the same schools you can find roommates, you can do, you know, live events, all these various things that go on within the APP. And number three, the colleges and Zeemi or working together to invite their students in. Right. So we want their prospective students to know, yes, there's a community right for this school and we want you to jump on that school and connect. And I know you know Biola Bart you had mentioned before. Right. So biola is going to send out invitations to students and letting them know, hey, we have a community on Zemi, right, and Zeemi will also come alongside the college and getting sms out to the students invite them into that community so they can meet together. But the school doesn't have to be affiliated with Zeemi for these conversations to go on. Correct. Yeah, so one of the things there, troy, we found is that you have to have an open community, right. So if you have a close community where it's a school just inviting a student to a specific APP or to a specific community that you can only join if you're looking at that school, the problem is the students won't join because they're looking at, you know, eight or more colleges before they even apply, and so you're not going to join like a specific APP for that. So on Zemi it's open. You can follow any school that you want. If the school's partnered, we make it very clear in the APP that this is official partners Zemi. If not, we have so many students now, we have over a million students now. We don't want to block those students from them. Will connect and chat and engage with one another, and so they can chat and engage around any college that they want. If the school partners right, then we're turning on that community for them. They're getting their current students in there with video that's dropping into the feed. There's all sorts of different chat groups that you can open up and customize. Their running live events in there. You can put all your class schedule, your classes in there and students can match on their classes. Students get their roommates and we're also providing those schools, you know, predictive deposit scores as well, based on social engagement. Right. So that's where a lot of these schools finds immense value and Zeemi not just the connections that are taking place, but being will get a sense of the social aspect that's happening here. Right, not just traditional metrics.

So they came from this zip code, so they have a likelihood of depositing based on this metric, but they're actually engaged with other students. They're making these connections, right, and so that's a big piece of what we do as well. That's great and and you know, we kind of mentioned earlier. You know, what's unique about generation Z and you talked about three percent kind of use facebook as their choice, which doesn't surprise me. I think that's really, really good to say, and I think also you talked a little bit about the communal nature of it and and I think that we're seeing that in the in the research. And you know, I've got I've got four generations. He's in my home right now and stale. I've seen that myself. Don't be and so yeah, but but tell me a little bit more about you know, let's let's kind of unpack that a little bit, because I think that sometimes, as High Ed marketers were still kind of relying on the same siload enrollment practice as whether they're emails from the CRM's, the texting, the mailers, school visits. Tell us about how this fits into all that. You know what somebody might say, is the traditional, you know, comflow. Yeah, and I love your word of that, that terminology siload that you use Bart, so what that is. And I think that this is where that paradigm shift is happening. Right. It's so, so important. Traditionally and Higher Ed. What have we done right, because the technology ton't necessarily exist to connect students before. At the top of the funnel. What we've done is we get great comflows going out of the CRN. Right, we have post going on social media and, you know, a lot of schools got into text message you over the last three to four years. Lots of various things that we're doing. Might be sending, you know, a color to the house, right, just various touch points that we're doing in the marketing to get in front of students. All really good things, right. I mean I don't think anybody's coming and saying, Oh, don't do any of that. Right. There's obviously a lot of value that they can driven from that. The challenge with Gen Z is they're so communal right. So if your approach to Zent Gen z is the same as it was to millennials, it's the same as it was, you know, the previous generations. You're going to have a problem because what happened is Gen z began to experience everything together. Right. So, like I said before, if you're watching Netflix, you're oftentimes watching it together. You're not even in the same house, right. You're literally binge watching shows with your friends together. You're playing multiplayer video games together, you're doing all of these things virtually together. But in admissions, we've kept it the same. Right, it's been actually, we're just going to do this between the school and the student. The student has no idea who else is in this funnel, at the top of the funnel as a prospect right, or even as an applicant. They don't know. Unless they have a friend like they literally don't know who else is in this experience. They understand. Yeah, when I get this email from a school, right, other students are getting this email, but you haven't connected the pieces for them to where you actually drop them into a community where they experience together. Why is that for it? So not only just Gen z expect that, right, and you're not delivering that if you don't have a community at the top of the funnel. But to you're actually driving up the amount of engagement interaction that you get. So, say Kara is interested in Elon University right when she was interested in Elon before are. What Elon used to do before Zemi is they were sending her, you know, an email from the crm. They're sending your text message. Kara was experience in that and a psiload fashion. What you loan then did is they created a community where they invited in Kara, they invited in everybody else, and now they post something in Zemi and say hey, everybody, just wanted to let you know we have a preview day coming up. That generates all this conversation. The previously was not generated in your piload calm amongst all the perspective students. Oh, you guys have to check out this preview. This is going to be incredible. More so than that, now Kara gets up at seven am and she says hey, how's everybody's Day going? Right? We see that in Zmi all the time. You've created an organic space for students to connect and engage that you're literally not doing anything. You don't have to do it. You don't have to come up with what's the next event we have to hold? How do I what's the next com we have to send to them. They are literally driving conversation organically seven right. So, I mean some of these students is literally chatting at three Am and you're like what are you doing up and they're just talking. Today they're they're sitting in their classrooms and they're texting each other on see me right and like... the class and it's happening all day long. And all of our college partners, we have a hundred, forty college partners today in universities. They'll tell you this. They see this in the APP. They're like, oh my goodness, I cannot believe you know, the last week we had twentyzero messages sent, you know, in a seven day period among students. But for Zemi, you just couldn't create that, right. There's no way to create that. You had to wait until students were admitted connect them on facebook. But again, the challenge there is that that adoption as fallen off significantly on facebook. You're not getting at the top of the funnel, and so that's the difference between Pilod enrollment practice and what we now call communal or collective enrollment. Okay, well, let me just clarify this because I mean, as you're talking through this, I'm sure a lot of people are like, oh, that sounds really fascinating. I wanted to point out because I think this this is this is happening every school. Your network contains all the schools and I'm guessing North America if it's just in there, and so students can join those networks to talk about that. Yes, but you've got a hundred forty colleges that you're partnering with. So if I'm a highered marketer, let's say I'm a vice president of enrollment, I'm listening to this show and I'm like, okay, so you're telling me that I have maybe five hundred and ten thirty a hundred students on there talking about my school, but I'm not there and I don't know what they're saying and I don't know what what's going on. Yeah, yeah, no, it's a great question and yes, that's correct. So we have one two hundred active college communities. So we have a hundred three college partners. We have one hundred active college communities. That means they're students that are following and chatting up with one another, making friends at over one hundred schools today on Zee me. And so you know, interestingly enough, right, like when instagram came popular or snap became popular, colleges rush there. And that what a lot of schools will find is next to have more students on Zemi following them than they do on Instagram, right, that they do on snapchat. Why is that? Well, Juan, it's very organic. has become very popular. But why is it valuable to them? Is the only reason you're on Zee me is to connect with other students they're interested in that school. You don't go to snapchat because, oh, I really want to meet students that are applying at this particular college. I mean, there's no way to even know that, right. You don't do that on instagram. I don't put instagram. They have those accounts for different purposes. Often Times that's because of existing network. Right. Zeemi is about future friend network. I'm going to zee me to discover who my friends are going to be. Right. Eighty nine percent of students today Gen z expects to have made good friends before they even get to campus. They expect that made good friends before they even get to campus. Right. I mean when we got into school, guys, it's like, look, I'll make my friends when I show up and I get in the dorm and I figure out who my roommate is right, like right, wow, eighty nine percent expect to make good friends before they get to campus. So as a marketer, as a VP of enrollment, you have to be in the business of helping these students make friends. That's really important. Yeah, well, that's that's great and I'm you know, I've played around a little with the APP a little bit and I even see that some of the the personalization that's so important to gen Z so everybody has the profile, they can upload their profile photo. There's all kinds of things involved with that. So I really like what I'm hearing on that. So I think that's that's pretty, pretty good stuff. Yeah, thanks, bar and that's a piece that's been so popular at Zemi, to be honest with you, is the the profile is so robust. Right, students are able to add in their fun facts, they're able to add in all their interests and passions, and that's one of the things that's so valuable is z about Zeemi. I'm not coming on to Zemi to watch a feed of somebody's instagram feed. You know, they got to the beach and they want to show off. You know that instagram highlight. Real I'm going to zee me because I'm literally just trying to make friends. I'm I'm entering and Hey, I'm into backpacking, I'm into camping, I'm into whatever it may be, model United Nations, and I'm matching with those students based on those interests, in the passions and making real friendships. Very cool. To help idementify why students are organically attracted to Zeemi, could you kind of explain to people how Zemi is different than some of the other... media platforms, and then also if you could describe the concentration on mental health? Yeah, yeah, thank you so much for that question, Troy. So, first and foremost, sixty four percent of GEN Z is how to take a break from social media because of mental health. Sixty seven percent of all college students have reported feeling very lonely over the last twelve months. Along right, so we have a pandemic of mental health in the United States, one that you'll find Gen z very you know, anxiety, isolation, depression, we all know this, right. We've seen rising rates of this. Obviously the COVID pandemic has, you know, exacerbated that, but it existed before that and it's existing after it, right, so or during it as well. And so I think that it's absolutely critical that we come up with new paradigms in social to help students have healthy mental habits. Right. So the focus on Zene me is less about what we call performance culture. Right. So, instagram, snapchat, you know, Tick Tock, like a tick tock. If you're funny and you're Hilarious, you're going to be popular, right. Often Times on Instagram, if you can show this amazing life, right, and you're fit and you look good like you're going to be popular, right. And so there's this performance culture that we have and it has a psychological impact on our youth and on ourselves, right, has an input, psychological and pict on everybody. So one of our focuses that Zeemi is really how do we combat isolation, depression, anxiety? We understand we're not the solve all for you know, anxiety, depression and you know stress about students. But what part can we play and helping to alleviate that? And so for us it's not about the highlight real right, it's not, hey, add in all those photos and get your followers. It's about look come into the APP. All we want you to do is make friends. We want you to make friends, we want those to turn into irl. We want that to be in real life relationships as you transition to campus and you actually meet for the first time in person. And so what does that look like? So when I come into Zee me, right, it's not about, Oh, here are my photos and everybody, you know, look at me and I hope you follow me. It's I'm entering in my interests, in my passions, and then Zini is letting you know, hey, we found a new friend for you today, right. They're also looking at the same school, Right. So you're getting that push notification on your phone and so you're able to match that student and you're able to discover those friendships, and so that's just been really important. You'll see this happen on Zimi all the time. It happens in the group chats, right, whereas you're just saying, oh my goodness, I did not know that everybody's so cool. That is appoint to the school. I've made more friends here on Zeemi, you know, than I have in the last seventeen years of my life. I mean you'll see comments like this right and it's again, it's just it's so organic and it's just so driven by look, let's match people based on the fact that they're human beings and they share similar passions and interest that's really, really cool and I love the fact that you're sensitive to that mental health issue and I love the fact that it's not a performance based type of thing. You know, I see so many students getting stuck in that with with instagram and and other social networks where it's all more about you know, how do I how do I pose? How do I do that? But to me, you know, your whole irl that in real life type of thing. It seems like this is a much more of a texting type of place that they that they're used to doing with other friends, but this is a chance for them to make new friends. So that's that's really cool. Thanks, Adam. Yep, yeah, thanks bar. That's correct. As we wind up the show, we always ask this question of our guest. Adam, if you could give us a takeaway or an idea that a marketer that's listening to this episode could implement right away or maybe even provoke thought of how they could benefit from it in the near future. Yeah, that's a great question, Troy. So, June twenty nine, two thousand and seven, it was a day that forever change our society, right. That was the first day that the IPHONE was released. That day on, everything is changed. If our practice is a marketing if our practices and emissions have...

...not been revolutionized since two thousand and seven, then we have significant problems, right, and we're going to encounter more and more problems. So, first and foremost, you have to have to have to hits students in their phone, right. Every student has phone today. There's literally spending hours upon hours on their phone and marketers clearly know this. Right. This is not new. But you need to be able to capture that in such a way that allows those students to connect, right. So I think that and that technology needs to be built native mobile and I think that's one of the things that I see in this space a lot is, you know, there's things that happen where a company creates a website and they do what's called an APP rapper right in an APP rapper is actually just taken the site itself, wrapping it to an APP. It means you don't actually have ISOS engineers, you don't have android engineers, so you're not really creating a native mobile experience that students one hundred percent expect and they will know the difference, right, they will absolutely know the difference and they will roast you. Right. So you have to be really careful. You know, Gen Z, you have to bring high quality and you have to partner with teams. I think that are just delivering the best to Gen z. The second piece to that that I think, is the paradigm shift here, is collective enrollment. All right, so really getting your mind around this communal, collective paradigm. and Are we presently in a PSILO comflow? Right? Are My perspective, students connected within one another. If they're not connected with one another, you have to change that. You really have to change that. Gen Z absolutely desires that, they're demanding that and you need to create a paradigm in which they can connect at the top of the funnel. And so I would encourage any marketer, any VP of missions, anyone that's working in emissions at all or at a college and marketing. How do we create that experience? It's collective, right, and how do we move into that direction. So that would be, you know, my advice. They're from a marketing side. Powerful advice. Thank you very much for that, Adam. For those who would like to contact you for more information about the subject today, what would be the best way for them to reach you? Yeah, just email me, Adam at zemcom. Feel free to go to zemicom. That's our student facing site, so you can see what we hold out there to students. On the APP store right we have seven thousand plus five star ratings now by students and so the APP is super highly rated. You can check it out on the APP store or go to colleges at zemcom, which is specifically for colleges, and you can learn what that partnership looks like. So would love to chat with anybody's interested. Thank you, Adam. It's been a wonderful conversation today. Yeah, thank you so much, Troy. Thank you, bar just love all the work that you to do and, you know, humbled and honored to be considered for the PODCAST. So thank you so much. Thanks. Thanks for that, Adam Bart. Do you have any last thoughts? Yeah, I just wanted to just point out a couple things. I mean, I think that this is, you know, a lot of times we talked about I've had people ask me, you know, how do you know where the ball is going to bounce? You know, we talked with John drebs from Loyola a few few episodes ago about, you know, planning for the next big thing and what those things are. I think what people need to understand is that there's a ball bouncing over there and Adam just told you where the balls bouncing. And so, you know, I while we were on the on the conversation here, I downloaded Zeemi and I was looking at some of the other schools that I'm working with right now and that I know are challenged right now and in some of the in the way that they are, you know, doing enrollment right now, and I looked him up and I'm like, I know that they're not a Zemi client because I work with them, but I but I notice. I'm like, okay, we've got a couple hundred students in here that are talking about the school and I'm like, I don't think they know that. And so that's where I think that a lot of you are here listening to this. You might do the same thing. You might just download the APP just to kind of, you know, pull up your fault, follow your college and and see how many people are talking about it and you're like wow, I need to be a part of this, and so I think that that's something, you know, we try to...

...real carefully not to, you know, promote different businesses and things like that. This is a tritty, much a agnostic type of podcast, but I do think that there's a lot of really important things going on here, that there's there's a community. Give Zemi's in the top twenty five of all social APPs being downloaded by generation Z your perspective, traditional Undergrad students. You need to know that. I'll constantly talk to student talk to schools about be at the watering holes where your students are. Well, there's a huge watering hole right here and you need to kind of figure out if this is where you need to be. So that's that's I can get excited about that, but that's that's some thoughts, Troy. Yeah, so good Bart. Yeah, thanks for share enough. Yes, Bart, thank you very much. That brings us to in the our episode. The High Ed Marketer podcast is sponsored by Kaba solutions and education marking in branding agency and by Think, patented a Marketing Execution Company specializing in personalization and customization, a student search and outreach programs. On behalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (92)