We’re seeing a consolidation of a trend towards Gen Z social media disengagement as this year begins.
We began commenting on this 4+ years ago when others were saying ‘No, no, try Instagram’… but I think many are now noticing the same trend. ‘Try Instagram’ is not the answer (and TikTok is just not the same thing at all—see below).
—FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM: It’s the norm to see a first year or second year’s Facebook profile with nothing but some birthday greetings and a Grade 12 Leavers’ Dinner photo. Instagram, for most, is little better.
—YOUTUBE and TIKTOK are not really, properly speaking, ‘social media’ but largely used as passive entertainment delivery. More like Netflix than Facebook.
—PRIVATE MESSAGING TOOLS like Discord and Facebook Messenger are used, but again, aren’t really ‘social media’, so much as another version of email/SMS. These groups/channels often have short life cycles… and ‘ghosting’ questions/requests is pretty standard behaviour for many Gen Zs.
1. I think increasingly we need to remember how we did marketing pre-social media… personal networks, word of mouth, noticeboards and fliers (a bit), through churches and youth groups (for reaching Christians).
2. But with many students spending less time on campus, we need to do marketing like a pre-social media CHURCH PLANT, rather than a 1990s CU: don’t rely *too* heavily on stalls/fliers/on-campus presence.
3. I *think* we need to think about and talk about Facebook and Instagram with our Gen Zs as ‘marketing and networking tools’ rather than ‘organic social media platforms’. They’re just the digital version of handing out fliers and sticking up posters. We train them to help us do that well… but we are no longer leveraging an organic online community.
4. Keep an eye out for whatever new things may evolve, don’t rush at new fads, being part of the early-majority rather than early-adopters is a more efficient use of time/energy with emerging technologies.
Losing cold-contact promotional opportunities aren’t a big problem
The vast majority of those getting substantially involved in many of our CUs over the last two decades (not FOCUS groups) probably did so because of a significant amount of personal connection.
If we had the data, we could probably chart a decline in the amount of cold-contacts getting meaningfully involved in our groups…
So that means decreased opportunities on some campuses for cold-contact evangelism, fliering, stalls etc is not necessarily The Problem. Many of us weren’t most effective because of those things anyway.
We are now doing campus ministry in a city instead of in a village
he bigger issue for some of our campuses, is that we are no longer doing evangelism/training in a virtual VILLAGE/TOWN (the on-campus, full-time, school-leaver population)…
We are now doing evangelism/training in a CITY (the size of the whole catchment area for the majority of the students we are hoping to engage).
(Side point) Talk-to-video content makes for poor marketing content
Talk-to-camera video content is not engaging by and large. Unless you are SUPER engaging, or you have a ‘following’ (whether a loyal congregation, or an online audience).
For promotional video content to work it needs to be under 90 seconds and a form of entertainment—showing, not telling.
Get a bulk SMS platform
If you haven’t sorted out a bulk SMS communication option, you really should do that before Semester begins. More important than Facebook (and email) for reaching Gen Zs.
Analogy between 2020s campus ministry and 2000s suburban ministry
There’s probably some loose analogy to suburban churches whose areas become increasingly commuter-suburbs. The decline of ‘the neighbourhood’ and a population engaged in work/leisure outside of the suburb meant relying on community fairs, doorknocking and letterboxing become less effective. How did suburban church adjust? What can we learn, by loose analogy?
Think of your campus as an affinity-group not a geographical location or community or lifestyle
It might be helpful to think of your campus less as a geographical location or a community or a lifestyle… and think of it more as an affinity group.
How do we choose what things to read/do/attend/listen to? Apart from spontaneous impulsive action, we usually do it because it intersects with several affinities (my age/sex/ethnicity/preferences/allegiances/work/leisure)…
So even if I don’t spend much time on a UTAS Campus, and don’t engage much with a UTAS Community… things associated with UTAS may engage me because it is one of the affinity-filters that help me sift the world for meaningful information.
We Christians sometimes do that with denominational stuff, don’t we?
Podcasts, YouTube and TikTok are more national/global rather than local strategies
In my mind, it’ll be a few national/global voices who’ll have an impact with Tiktok and YouTube… a bit like the way podcasts are now, too. There’s no big need or strategic value to every ministry having its own podcast or YouTube… unless your local community happens to actually really engage with it. I suspect that’ll be the exception rather than the norm.