In October 2020, The Black Sheep carried out a national survey targeting college students to understand their media consumption habits when it comes to social media platforms. Primarily, what apps do students use, and most importantly, why. These results help those targeting the Gen-Z audience understand how to reach this audience and on which platforms. 

Overall, we received over 2,300 responses spanning 50 college campuses, providing a substantial sample size for the data. 

Year in School


2313 Responses

50 Different Schools

Top Schools

Boston U 17.9%

UCLA 11%

U of Delaware 7.3%

Florida State 6.4%

Ohio U 6.2%

Phone Operating Systems

How they’re consuming media    

Platforms Used

Percent of students who regularly use each platform and comparison to the previous 2 years ranking

There are 3 clear tiers of social media use – the top 2 that everyone uses all of the time (Instagram and Snapchat), the middle 4 that roughly 40-60% use (YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook), and the bottom 3 that are more niche platforms used by those with interest in the content there (Reddit, Pinterest, Twitch).

Though the ranking over time has changed, it’s a relatively small change for Instagram and Snapchat. The more dramatic changes can be seen in the over 20% drop in Facebook use, over 40% drop in Twitter use, and over 30% increase in TikTok use in the past year.

Keeping up with Friends

Given COVID-19, students are using virtual platforms to keep up with friends even more than before. Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular platforms for students to keep in touch with friends outside of their standard circle. In the “Other” category, students also mentioned texting, Discord, and WhatsApp.

Ad Interaction

Percent of students who click on ads at least monthly and those who never click on ads by platform as a percent of students using that platform.

Primary Use

Use of each platform with percentages based on the number of students using that platform, ranked from entertainment, keeping up with friends, news, sports, celebrities, and other. In the “Other” category, nothing substantial stood out but Politics, Art, and Business were mentioned.

Where Instagram is mostly used for keeping up with friends, Twitter and TikTok are mostly used for Entertainment. Instagram and Twitter users still have more diverse reasons for using the platforms, where 89% of TikTok users use the platform for Entertainment, and all other reasons were hardly mentioned by respondents. Of these platforms, Twitter is the only one that had a decent reporting of News for a primary use (24%).


How often they watch their friends’ stories

The Discover Page

How often they watch

What they watch


How they spend their time

Of their time spent on Instagram, students spent 47% on their Feed, 21% on Stories, 20% on Discover, and 12% other.

Types of stories they watch

Brand, business, influencer, and celebrity stories mentioned most by students 














David Dobrik



Emma Chamberlain



Chrissy Teigen



What they watch

Sharing videos with others

How often they share videos

How they share videos


How often they post videos on TikTok

How often they watch videos on TikTok

How much time they spend on TikTok when they use it

Students primarily use TikTok for entertainment. Less than 3% combined TikTok usage is for news, sports, following celebrities, keeping in touch with friends, etc.

TikTok is an interesting platform because most students use it daily, but never post, so TikTok ads that appear native to the feed by replicating popular styles or themes will be viewed by students. Although, as noted above, only 10% of TikTok users click on ads at least monthly which means that TikTok will be a stronger platform for brand awareness, and not as successful in lead generation.


When it comes to reaching Gen-Z, we all know being on social media is critical. What’s more important, is knowing which platforms should be used for which specific reason. If you’re craving brand awareness, Tiktok is the way to go. If you want students to click over to your site to learn more, focusing on Instagram or Snapchat can help. As Facebook and Twitter fade in popularity among Gen-Z, other niche platforms may offer an opportunity that may have been passed over previously. Creating content that is native to each platform also ensures a level of authenticity that is needed to relate to this audience.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Black Sheep and how we can help your business, contact us here.

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