Communicating with Generation Z versus Generation Alpha

10 min read

Sara Anderson
Generation Z and Generation Alpha will probably never know what a fax machine does or have a landline in their homes. A world without smartphones sounds prehistoric.
Both generations are tech-savvy but have glaring differences. To better market to them and communicate with them we first need to understand the key differences.
First, you need to understand their demographics to leverage your messaging with personalization, nurture the student journey, and help you connect to our world’s future.
Who is Generation Z?
Gen Z, also known as “zoomers,” is the group born between 1997 and 2015. According to the Pew Research Center, they’re on track to be the most educated and the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history.
They are also digital natives who have little or no memory of the world before smartphones. In fact, 99% of them own or have access to a smartphone.
Who is Generation Alpha?
Gen Alpha - or ‘screenagers’ - is the generation born in or after 2010. Right now, most are under 12. But soon, in just four years, the oldest of them will be entering college, and within those four years, they will outnumber the Baby Boomers.
According to McCrindle’s latest report, by 2025 this generation will have more than two billion — the largest generation in history.
They will be the most digitally savvy generation ever. It's no wonder: screens were placed in front of them instead of pacifiers.
How do their differences impact how to communicate with them? 
1. Personalization 
Gen Z still gets excited when an email pops up with their name in the subject line. They probably forgot which college knew they were a student-athlete or interested in Greek life. Although your CRM knows, Gen Z is blasé about this. It's not a total shock for Gen Z to get personalized emails, SMS, and direct mail, but it's still a nice surprise.
However, they expect more personal contact with a college (either in-person, email, or by phone).
Generation Alpha takes it a step further. They have been shaped in an era of customization and personalization – especially when it comes to technology.
They have everything they need at their fingertips and are used to devices greeting them by name and memorizing their preferences.
While for Gen Z, the personal touch may be a ‘nice to have’, for Gen Alpha, personal touches are a given.
2. World awareness 
Sustainability and climate change are world issues that Gen Z pays attention to. This generation is often overwhelmed with complex political and social problems.
Generation Alpha is expected to be growing up faster because of their heightened awareness of the world around them. Unlike the generation before them, Gen Alpha is more hopeful, according to Alida.
They have a window to see different perspectives across the globe and can see innovative ideas take shape in real-time. Gen Alpha feels empowered to act because technology allows them to.
What does this mean for you? Gez Z wants to know how you offer a practical, real-world education. What hands-on experience will they have?
Gen Alpha wants to know how their education will make a difference in the world. What clubs and organizations will help them do this? Are your programs focused on equity and inclusion?
3. Parental influence
Gen Z is more likely to have a college-educated parent, with 44% of those ages 7-17 living with a parent with a bachelor's degree or more education. They may be more tech-savvy, but their parents tend to have more experience in financial decisions, making the college decision one they both own.
Gen Alpha’s college choices can also be shaped by the choices made for them by their Millennial parents. According to McCrindle, their formal education has never been equaled in the history of the world, with a predicted one in two Gen Alphas obtaining a university degree. Parents play a crucial role from the first touchpoints, and your messaging should not forget them.
4. Individualizm 
The best way to communicate with Gen Z is to celebrate the individual - showing prospective students how they can personally fit into your campus. They have already established who they are, so need to know if you are a good fit for them.
To market to them, colleges should publish real images of real students (not stock photos) across social media. Organic content, carousel ads, and, most importantly, videos will get their attention. Testimonial videos are key but need to be genuine.
For Gen Alpha, they are the future and know the impact they will have, so they will want to know how the individual benefits your college can provide to them. 



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Main differences: 
1. Money-driven versus championing change
 Generation Z has seen first-hand the economic pressure that spiraled during their early years when their Gen X parents struggled with employment and finances. They are brand loyal and inspired by Instagram, but when it comes down to it, they want to save money.
The best way to reach Gen Z is to focus on the long-term value and the return on investment of a college education.
For Gen Alpha, higher education is a gateway to more meaningful work. What they want most in a career is flexibility. They have watched their parents change careers during a pandemic and maybe saw them leave the workforce altogether. They have learned from home and seen how technology can breed flexibility.
2. Generation Alpha's jobs don't even exist yet
According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of kids starting school today are predicted to end up working in entirely new job types that don’t yet exist. While technology is replacing jobs, it is also creating new ones.
They are learning skills in robotics, coding, social media marketing, app development, data analytics, and cybersecurity. Because of this, they are constantly upskilling and retraining to remain relevant to the evolving world. They need to be reassured by you that their degree will land them a practical job and one with a future.
3. Passive versus engaged social media 
Even on social media, Gen Z’s consumption is largely passive. Instagram and YouTube don’t require much action. According to the US internet population statistics, 81% of users on YouTube are 18-25, making it the largest audience on the platform. Videos should be a key part of your marketing strategy.
Gen Alpha has been raised on responsive technology that no longer asks them to passively consume. They are co-creators of almost every platform they have touched. TikTok is at their fingertips, and your recruitment efforts can use it to stir engagement.
4. Expectations of immediacy
Gen Z and Gen Alpha rely on tech, but their expectations of what the digital world can do for them are different.
Gen Z better understands the human side of technology, and answers don't always come in seconds.
But "screenagers" live in a world of 24/7 expectations and always-on tech. This means you must respond to any inquiries quickly. Social media teams should incorporate response timelines into their best practices. Chatbots are another way to connect with prospective students, with 24/7 response systems to keep the connection alive.
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