Three ways to keep ‘Millennials’ engaged

Follow these tried-and-true tips for communicating with Millennials, or next-generation students who have grown up with technology

Growing up when online was always “in,” Millennials constantly consume information and media.

At more than 80 million strong, the Millennial generation is the largest age grouping in American history.

Growing up when online was always “in,” Millennials have earned a distinct reputation for the way in which they constantly consume information and media. Texting, search engines, online portals, chat, mobile and social media have all empowered the next-generation student to obtain information without ever having to speak with someone on the phone or in person.

Colleges and universities today face a serious challenge: They must offer services, support, and information that are readily accessible on a growing list of “round-the-cloud” engagement channels. Higher-education technology must be relevant and seamless across whichever channel each student prefers to engage.

Follow these three tried-and-true tips for communicating with next-generation Millennials:

Focus on engagement.

Because Millennials are more immersed in technology than those in other generations, they search for and request information online first. And in the same fast-paced way they text, tweet, post information on Facebook, and communicate on the go, Millennials expect an equally fast response. Higher-education institutions must present information to Millennials in a way that grabs and holds their attention, while quickly answering their question.

Colleges and universities, no matter how large, should keep website content organized, brief, and easily digestible and add screenshots, video, and engaging multimedia whenever possible. A common question for Millennials is, “What’s in it for me?”—so make your content worth their time. The more accessible your web and mobile portal is, the more likely they are to engage with your site and return to it seeking answers in the future.

Build an online knowledge base.

When it comes to building a website that holds valuable answers and content that is easily and readily accessible, most institutions fall behind. Seventy-one percent of 16- to 24-year-olds and 65 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds search for a solution online first. Self-service knowledge bases across web and mobile properties can ensure questions like “How do I change my login password?” are addressed with just a few clicks.

Knowledge bases must go further than well-organized and current content, however. Your student service and support knowledge base should contain video and other useful content that is best suited to command the attention of higher ed’s younger, multi-tasking audience. Brochures, forms, how-to videos, and FAQs can help round out your content—offering quick answers to pertinent questions.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 66 percent of students turn to search engines first when looking for educational information. This high percentage reveals how vital it is that a university uses its knowledge base effectively to support internet searches. Support your student body by becoming a go-to resource for any questions that arise.

Support the “Just Google It” approach.

The expectation of today’s students that “I want it my way, and I want it now” means that when they search for information, they aren’t going to search for long. The more well-organized and searchable your website is—not just in-site, but on Google and Bing—the easier it will be for students to find the information they need and remain engaged.

To support students’ searches, make sure your content is indexed; use keywords, image titles, and article titles to your advantage in this sense. Be sure the content featured on your site is aligned with what students want to read and the most common search terms.

Welcome to their world

Growing up in a world where technology has never stopped evolving and where communication is constant and instantaneous, today’s students maintain an expectation for information and support in real time. Higher-education institutions must support students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni on a global, social, and real-time scale.

But it doesn’t end with the Millennial generation. In fact, each generation that follows will be even more connected and will expect even faster and more accurate information and communication. Students enter the university environment because they are ready to grow and learn. Your institution’s web and mobile site should enable these constantly connected knowledge-seekers to get the answers they need, while still fostering a do-it-yourself environment.

Duke Chung is the co-founder Parature, a leading multi-channel customer service software provider whose higher-education customers include the Wharton School of Business, St. Joseph’s University, Georgia State University, Blackboard, Thomas Edison State College, and Sotheby’s Institute of Art.