Digital Marketing

Social Media in 2023: The Top Platforms for Higher Ed

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The social media landscape—specifically for higher education outreach—can sometimes feel uncertain at best. As marketers, we find ourselves wondering where to invest our time, content, and resources to effectively engage our incoming class. With constant changes to platforms themselves—and the dreaded algorithm—it can be harder than ever to feel like you’re reaching the right students.

Based on your institution’s geographic location, organizational structure (e.g., faith-based private school, state school, etc.), and desired audience, you have several options for reaching Gen Z and beyond. Below is a high-level overview of the social media landscape.


Of teens 13-17 use YouTube

View rate + the highest click-through rate for our partner's using TikTok video

More engagement when our partners use persona driven marketing strategies


YouTube is the longstanding leader in video content—recent findings from Pew Research indicated that YouTube is used by 95% of teens ages 13-17. It’s likely that your institution is using YouTube in at least some capacity, but in terms of advertising—this is one channel you want to prioritize. The platform is a sure-thing when it comes to reaching targeted audiences; there are many demographic groups, interests, and affinity segments to choose from.



This is one platform that many of our partners have had continued questions about. With some college campuses—and states—choosing to block this platform, it’s tough to say what the future holds for TikTok. Regardless of what’s to come, TikTok continues to hold a favorable place for Gen Z. Your institution does not actually need a TikTok account to advertise on the platform. Our TikTok videos work—partners have seen a 90% view rate, plus the highest click-through rate for any video strategy.



Snapchat is much less complicated when it comes to advertising. Not only does this platform reach a wide audience of teen and young adult users, but it consistently competes with TikTok for preferred social media platform for Gen Z (after YouTube). It drives high engagement as it is both a content platform and a communication platform. Snapchat is very friendly when it comes to targeted audiences like custom and lookalike strategies.


Meta—owner of Facebook and Instagram—continues to come under congressional scrutiny for their influence in the lives of teens, their algorithm, etc. As a result, Meta has continued to limit targeting tactics; new restrictions limit some targeting options for teens under 18. Can Meta now capitalize on TikTok’s public perception challenges? Instagram reels, which can be easily adapted from TikTok content, could provide the short video streaming outlet teens have so readily adapted on TikTok. Overall, our partners have seen success on Facebook and Instagram with ads that reach Gen Z, and perhaps just as importantly, the rest of their households.


With Twitter being under new ownership, plus deep staffing cuts that reduce security as well as content moderation, there’s a lot of uncertainty around this platform. While not the top platform for Gen Z, our partners have found success in reaching graduate prospects, parents, alumni, etc. on Twitter. We’re watching this platform as we know there are many changes to come.


Key Takeaways and Recommendations

The Digital Solutions team at Encoura recommends an omni-channel social media content and advertising approach that thoughtfully reflects each platform’s ability to reach your known cohorts and builds your brand’s value with future cohorts. While organic social media drives engagement on each of the platforms above, paid social moves the intended prospect off the social platform and onto your institution’s website.

Furthermore, paid social media not only increases who you can reach in a sophisticated and targeted way, but also engages them on your website in order to earn higher conversion rates than organic social media content delivers. According to Eduventures Prospective Student Research™, an institution’s website consistently ranks as one of the highest performing sources of information for prospective students.

As an additional resource, I encourage you to watch our recent webinar, Digital Predictions for 2023: Video First Strategies Win Students and Families. In this webinar, I covered the importance of video for strategic social media engagement and how to personalize social media content to best connect with Gen Z.

You’re not alone when it comes to running your social media ads. Our Digital Solutions team is ready to partner with your institution to run—and create—ads to grow and shape your next class. Use the link below to choose a time that works best for your team.

Request a Meeting with Our Digital Solutions Team Leverage Social Today

Vice President, Digital Sales at Encoura
Contact Jason Stevens | Learn More About Digital Solutions from Encoura



Discover turn-key solutions and targeted digital media strategies in addition to your traditional engagement methods to help you navigate the ever-changing digital landscape

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