Student Lifestyle Report 2023 - Media & Social

Thursday 13 April 2023, Money

by Nicola McClymont, Customer Success Director, Legal & Security

Student Lifestyle Report 2023 - Media & Social

It’s time for another instalment of the UCAS Student Lifestyle Report for 2023. Chapter 3 of the report is all about media consumption and social usage.
Nicola McClymont, Customer Success Director, Legal & Security

If you haven’t already signed up, you can register to receive for Chapter 3 here, before the full report is published in April.

When I first joined UCAS, social media was in its infancy and streaming didn’t really exist en-masse.

Netflix was still years off its UK release and AOL had just bought Bebo for $850 million. Bebo!

But even then, we knew that these were two industries heading for lofty heights – especially amongst the increasingly online-centric student market. It was Millennials who took us into an age of digital nativism, but it’s Gen Z who have really embodied that term.

Since then, online media of all kinds has exploded. We’ve watched Facebook unseat MySpace, to then be dethroned itself by Instagram. We’ve seen mail order subscription services transform from door-to-door sales into two clicks of a button. And streaming has gone from cat-video-watching to Oscar-winning films.

But today, for the first time, we’re seeing things slow down a little. Not through lack of innovation, not through lack of choice, but through the growing expectations and astuteness of this generation of students. Today’s students are more morally and ethically demanding, as well as being more financially literate at a time when the cost of living is rising. They want more privacy and control from social media platforms, voting with their feet if it’s not forthcoming, and they’re more selective about the recurring cost of luxuries like streaming and subscriptions.

The findings in Chapter 3 of our Student Lifestyle Report paint a picture of cutbacks and cancellations:

  • In social media, students are using fewer platforms and with greater care. They’re increasingly choosing to participate in the more intimate circles offered by providers like WhatsApp, and less in the radically public world of Facebook.
  • In streaming, they’re conscious of those repetitive direct debits and are choosing to sacrifice the privilege of using multiple services at once, or any at all.
  • In subscriptions, cancellations of services like Graze and Birchbox are rife. A third now don’t use any subscriptions, which is up from a fifth last year.

For brands who hope to continue engaging with students through social media, streaming, and subscriptions – I’ll say three things:

Firstly, there was no precedent for this before the cost of living began to rise. I expect this to be a temporary reaction to a temporary phenomenon, one which will right itself when the economic climate improves.

Secondly, trust and authenticity are the keys to pick the locks that seem to be restricting social media at the moment. Students put their faith in us – they trust us with their data more so than they do their banks, they see us on par with the NHS, and above the BBC. We’re protective of this and we only partner with brands which can offer them positive choices. It’s these kinds of partnerships – based on authenticity and trust – that will help you keep your market share and your relationships during the turbulence ahead.

And thirdly, that turbulence and those downward trends by no means constitutes the loss of opportunity in these arenas. It may mean more competition, it may mean more price sensitivity, and it may mean new thinking is required to capitalise on a less engaged market – but it’s not the end of engagement.

Netflix’s introduction of advertising is, in fact, an example of greater opportunity to engage through streaming. And if you can showcase your sympathy to the privacy plight in social media, by choosing your platforms correctly and designing your creative properly, you may even be better off than before.

To read more, download Chapter 3 (Media & Social) of the UCAS Student Lifestyle Report 2023 from tomorrow. It’s got the answers and analysis you need to plan your Gen Z engagement throughout this year and next. If you haven't already, you can sign up here and you’ll get it straight to your inbox, along with each chapter as it’s released and the final report in April.