Gen Z Undoes Social Media


For the past few years marketers have been fixated on millennials. Analysts have sliced, divided, reviewed, and cut up every habit that millennials are said to exhibit to better target, market, and communicate business messaging to them. No matter where you fall in the marketing spectrum, you’re likely tired of hearing all the millennial language.

Well savvy marketers have looked beyond the millennials and are preparing for Gen Z. In a New York Times article, Gen Z is said to have beginnings ranging from the mid-90’s to mid-2000’s. While most millennials saw the advent of social media, Gen Z was born into it and they’ve adapted very well to using it. An article from Your Story says it best when it states that “they are the ones most hooked on to social networking today, and as a result, they are starting to come out as a much bigger, emerging market.” Some may even go so far as to say that they are the first true digital natives.

Breaking The Rules

Since social networks have become the norm, it’s easy for users to identify how each channel is intended to be used. This identification is also encouraged by two things, how others use it, and the tools available for the platform. This sets up a sort of “standard” for the various social networks, and while most use them as such, it’s not surprising to see Gen Z using the tools in unique ways that fit their lifestyle. It’s not about how Gen Z fits into the network’s plans, it’s how the chosen network fits into Gen Z’s plans, and sometimes that will uncover some unique habits.

When we spoke to a few kids from the Gen Z demographic, they were anxious to share their use of Snapchat and how much they love the channel. Snapchat was originally created to capture moments in time that “friends” could view and then that content would disappear. Users can create stories, and that content lasts a bit longer, but generally, it was watched and gone. But after Snapchat updated most of its features, Snapchat became Gen Z’s go-to app for communication on top of content curation, cutting out middlemen apps like FaceTime. Personal connectivity is paramount to Gen Z’s mobile experience–they want to see their friends as they talk online, and having a go-to app where they can do it all has made them gravitate even more to Snapchat.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon for Gen Z to hold competitions over how many consecutive responses they can make with their friends on the platform. A little known feature for many is Snapchat’s streak feature which counts the response streaks of users and awards trophies for milestones. The group we spoke with are competitive with their streaks and look to one-up each other, simply for the sake of bragging rights.

Brand Avoidance

Gen Z seems averse to following brands. They simply do not want to be sold to. The idea of having ads frustrates them and they ignore them all together. The brands they do choose to follow are typically ones that give back to the community in some way, or are making a positive impact in the world around them. To them Snapchat is not a place to follow brands, just friends. When speaking about brands and celebrities specifically, Instagram was mentioned as the place they would do that. They appreciated the visual nature of things, and that text was not the primary source of engagement. Brands like Ivory Ella, who donates to Save the Elephants, is an example of a brand they like to follow. So if you’re selling something that does not have a greater cause behind it, Gen Z will take longer to decide if they will ever follow you on social.

Think they are following celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Kevin Hart? Nope. In Gen Z’s eyes, celebrities are those that they follow on YouTube, which is still a main attraction for this age group. They enjoy following real people that feature their lives and travels, and offer hacks, tips, hauls, and the such. These are the real celebrities in their eyes, and why events such as VidCon are so popular year after year.

A New Approach

So where do you stand with Gen Z as a brand? Are they attracted to what you do? This is a digital savvy audience that relies on word of mouth recommendations, digital presence, and impact on their communities and the world around them.

It’s no wonder that companies are already focusing on this audience because many will need to redefine their approach to win them over. Millennials were already doing what they could to avoid ads all together, but Gen Z just doesn’t give them a second thought. Telling your company’s story without being heavy handed with the sales pitch is even more important with this emerging demographic.

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