Generation Z, also known as the “mobile-only” generation, are our future thought leaders, consumers, and professionals. They are the future of the marketing and advertising audience, yet marketers and advertisers still lack the knowledge required to engage with them effectively on social media. Unlike their Millennial, mobile-pioneer counterparts, Generation Z are mobile natives. Growing up with what is essentially a computer in their pocket since the day they were born; Gen Z baffles marketers with their habits, wants, and needs. Forcing them to completely rewrite the rulebook on how to engage with consumers on social media. As professionals who make a living from marketing to the right audience, knowing what these new rules look like is essential to running a successful social media campaign.
It’s no secret that social media has grown exponentially since the rise of apps, such as: Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Targeting Gen Z on these mediums will be the crux of your social media marketing, but before doing so it is important to understand the general misconceptions most marketers have about Gen Z. Below is a list of the most common:
Treating Gen Z like Millennials
The most common problem plaguing marketers and advertisers alike is their desire to treat Generation Z like Millennials. Communication teams have spent years and millions of dollars researching Millennial behaviors and habits to effectively market to them. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Gen Z. However, this is not completely the marketer’s fault. Gen Z’s young age and emerging spending habits are yet to be thoroughly analyzed because most of them are still teenagers. Although, regardless of information available, it is wrong to assume that Gen Z will respond like Millennials to your marketing efforts.
Gen Z has a short attention span
Many marketers are convinced that Gen Z has a short attention span and therefore fail at engaging with them successfully. This is a dangerous misconception to believe. Gen Z is a generation that knows what they like, and it is the job of the marketers and creative teams to identify innovative ways to grab their attention. Essentially, marketers must learn to adapt to their needs, not the other way around.
Gen Z is a single cohort
Advertisers like to categorize Gen Z in a singular cohort because that’s how it has previously been done with other generations (Roberts, 2016). Doing so, however, would be a disservice to your team. Generation Z are a multicultural diverse group of people. It’s important that marketers keep this in mind when creating communication objectives. Grouping Gen Z into one category based on age alone will not suffice. They are culturally diverse and they want to engage with brands that reflect their diversity.
So how do you combat these commonly made mistakes, you might ask? Below is a list of best practices and characteristics that set Gen Z apart from other generations, along with specific solutions that can be easily integrated into a business communication plan:
Generation Z views social media as a place to consume and connect, not to share (Google, 2016). Generation Z, although still very young, are proving to be a self-aware generation. They recognize when an ad or brand is being targeted to them, yet they aren’t reluctant to engage so long as the message being targeted resonates with their personal values. This is one of the reasons Snapchat has become the most popular app amongst Gen Z users. People using the platform don’t necessarily share personal content as much as they consume it. Gen Z is especially keen at recognizing sponsored content, but unlike previous generations, they’re okay with it (Johnson, 2016). Sponsored content on apps like Snapchat are actually part of the reason Gen Z is using the app. They are eager to learn about new products, and lucky for you they are turning to social to do so. Therefore, as a social media marketer, creating quality content that truly resonates with your audience will be the best tool when engaging with Gen Z.
Solution: Finding innovative ways to deliver your content is key. The introduction of features like filters on Snapchat and Instagram stories has made this especially easy for advertisers to get creative. Telling your brand’s story using similar features will resonate well with most of the Gen Z generation. Constantly find new ways to create engaging content. Keep coming up with new ideas to keep your social channels feeling fresh and how to hook your audience in the right way (Chong, 2017).
Social media is a lifestyle, not just entertainment (Granados, 2017). Generation Z’s consumption of media has turned into a fluid everyday activity, which is one of the reasons marketers are having such a hard time targeting them. Yes, we know they use their cellphones more than any other device and we know that Instagram and Snapchat are the platforms they find the coolest, but Gen Z has proven to be a multitasking generation. Spending an equal amount of time across multiple mediums at the same time. In response to this behavior, marketers should consider investing time and effort researching the different behaviors displayed in each medium. This will ensure Gen Z successfully interprets the content being produced on each social channel.
Solution: Generation Z uses each medium for different reasons, which is why it is essential that businesses post across multiple platforms and vary the content found on each medium. Having a fundamental understanding of social media tactics will guarantee your businesses’ success when engaging with Generation Z.
They have high hopes for the brands they choose (Google, 2016). Gen Z is made up of culturally diverse people hungry for information and they are turning to the brands they look up to, to learn about the products they want to purchase. They trust those brands to deliver quality information. Therefore, it’s just as important to find the right people to deliver that information as it is to have accurate and entertaining content. Gen Z values stimulation and connection and are known for being the most informed, involved, and empathetic generation (Google, 2016). But how do these facts translate to social media engagement? The answer: social media influencers. Gen Z’s gatekeepers.
Solution: Investing in social media influencers is the key to engaging with Generation Z on social media, and is one of the main reasons they’re relying on brands as a credible source for information. Connecting with bloggers, YouTube stars, and Instagram personalities and implementing those influencers into your social media marketing will create loyalty towards your business among the Gen Z generation.
When engaging with Generation Z, marketers must keep in mind the misconceptions that so commonly hinder social media marketing objectives, and in an effort to combat those misconceptions it’s important to understand the true values of Gen Z, and to use those values as the compass that will guide your social media marketing habits. Essentially, as social media marketers it is our job to continue learning about this “mobile-first mindset” generation everyday in order to continue being seen as social media thought leaders in the eyes of the consumer.
Chong, K. (2017, July 14). The Social Media Habits of Generation Z. Retrieved from https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-gen-z/
Granados, N. (2017, June 20). Gen Z Media Consumption: It’s A Lifestyle, Not Just Entertainment.
Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nelsongranados/2017/06/20/gen-z-media-consumption-its-a-lifestyle-not-just-entertainment/
It’s Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool [PDF]. (2016). Google.
Johnson, L. (2016, September 28). 3 Things Brands Should Know About Gen Z—and They’re Not All
About Snapchat. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from http://www.adweek.com/digital/3-things-brands-should-know-about-gen-z-and-its-not-all-about-snapchat-173785/
Roberts, J. (2016, June 30). Debunking the four myths of Generation Z. Retrieved
October 23, 2017, from https://www.marketingweek.com/2016/06/30/debunking-the-four-myths-of-generation-z/