As marketers, we’ve focused on Millennials a lot over the past few years. But it’s about time we pay attention to the next in line: Generation Z, or Gen Z, is fast becoming a force, with their spending power currently valued at $44 billion and growing (Forbes).
Born between 1997 and 2010, Gen Zers now total 65 million in the United States—about one quarter of our population—and account for 40 percent of all American consumers (Fast Company). Understanding their social media consumption habits is critical to marketing success—not only today, but for years to come.
Here’s great insight from Social Media Today that captures a striking difference between two modern demographics: While Millennials before them championed the “cord-cutting” movement, switching from cable to online streaming services, Gen Z was never connected to the cord in the first place. Instead, Gen Z users have grown up as the first truly digital natives, with YouTube and TikTok as their preferred method for content consumption.
Where previous generations struggled to draw the line between “real life” and social media, Gen Z has never had that issue: To them, social media is real life. Tech-savvy and socially deft, they have their fingers on the pulse of what’s real—and they’re quick to cast aside content that isn’t authentic. The good news for marketers: Gen Z doesn’t use social channels primarily to interact with their friends—more than 90 percent are consuming branded content on social media.
Almost half of Gen Zers are online for 10 or more hours a day (Media Kix). So if your target audience includes the younger generation, social media is where you need to be—but which channels? Here’s a look at how Gen Z is currently using social media:
YouTube is Gen Z’s top channel, in part because they’ve grown up with it (YouTube was founded in 2005). Data shows that 85% of teens now consume content on YouTube, while the average time kids spend watching online videos has doubled in the last four years.
Informative content wins. This demographic looks to YouTube as a valued and trusted educational resource:
- Nearly 60% of Gen Zers prefer learning on YouTube over learning through apps, textbooks, or group activities (Pearson)
- 80% of teens say YouTube has helped them become more knowledgeable (Ipsos)
Gen Z tunes in to decompress and escape everyday stress: Short, 2–4 minute videos with no goal and no marketing push have racked up record views. What’s more, today’s teens are highly sensitive to content that doesn’t make them feel good: Positive, uplifting messages and storytelling resonate with this group.
Vlogging on YouTube is another trend worth noting: As endorsements by influencers are now considered to be more trustworthy and authentic than those from celebrities and sports stars, the rise of micro-influencers continues to gain momentum.
TikTok surged in popularity in 2019 (and shows no signs of slowing), particularly among the Gen Z demographic. With its quick, fun, engaging style, the TikTok platform is the leading channel among Gen Z for short-form video sharing. TikTok content combines trending video and memes in a short, 15-second clip. And because all video is shot and presented in vertical format, it underscores the importance of feeding video to Gen Z that’s aligned for how they watch, as opposed to re-purposing existing video content.
SnapChat has seen a rise in the consumption of its Snap Originals content—like its widely popular Discover series—which are shot vertically, and episodes average only five minutes in length. Snap reported that total daily time spent watching its Discover content had increased by 40 percent year after year. Take note of this trend: If you’re looking to connect with younger audiences, shorter, purpose-created content is the way to reach them.
No matter which social media platform you choose, creating short, authentic, engaging video is the key to connecting with Generation Z. If you’d like to talk more about your social media strategy, connect with me on LinkedIn.