The Social Media Habits of Generation Z

By Kaylynn Chong

Forget avocado toast-loving Millennials. They’re old news. We’re here to talk to you about the new young generation: Generation Z.

Who are they? Generation Z is anyone born during or after 1995—they grew up with the devices, apps, and social media networks that we use today.

They’re reported to have $44 billion in purchasing power, making them the next big target for brands. Here’s what marketers need to know about this group.

What social marketers need to know about Generation Z

They lead secret lives

Concerned with keeping their online personalities under wraps in fear of being discovered by their parents (or rejected from Harvard), Gen Zers know the importance of managing both their public and private identities over social media.

They use aliases—shortened versions of their name—to keep from being searchable online. Teens have even established “rinsta” and “finsta” Instagram personas—rinsta being a “real” account and finsta being a “fake” or “friends-only” profile.

Finsta is where Generation Z share bad selfies and funny memes.

Key takeaway: Since audience research is key to developing buyer personas, brands must find other ways to engage this younger generation to learn more about them. Consider using messenger apps where the interactions are more private and personal (one-on-one), in the same way Adidas uses Whatsapp to build dedicated communities or “squads” who love their brand.

They’re resistant to advertising

Less than 25 percent of Gen Zers have a positive perception of online ads, according to a report by Millward Brown. And while they are more positive than other generations towards mobile rewards video and skippable pre-rolls (which, according to the Millward Brown study, achieve net positive scores of 41 and 15 percent respectively), Gen Zers are especially negative toward invasive ad formats like non-skippable pre-rolls and pop-ups (-36 percent and -42 percent respectively).

So who do these teens trust? Gen Zers look to YouTube stars, Instagram personalities, and other social media influencers when it comes to purchasing decisions. They’re not looking to anyone with a large following either—they respect qualities like authenticity and philanthropy in the influencers and celebrities they follow.

Key takeaway: Connect with influencers or trusted figures in the community in order to reach Generation Z. When choosing someone to represent your brand, keep in mind that this group doesn’t appreciate ads that depict perfection. They want more representations of reality, and they want to celebrate diversity and inclusion.

They’re easily bored

Gen Zers have an average attention span of eight seconds, according to a report by Sparks & Honey. By comparison, the attention span of the average millennial is 12 seconds. This makes Generation Z one of the hardest demographics to engage—they’re already used to skipping ads and are more likely to switch between multiple devices to divide their attention.

Key takeaway: Keep coming up with new ideas to keep your social channels feeling fresh and how to hook your audience in right away. Look to other brands for inspiration to make sure your social media content never goes stale.

For other tips on creating engaging content, check out our article Not Sure What to Post on Social Media? 10 Content Ideas That Work.

They want to be engaged

More than any generation before them, Gen Z is open to sharing their opinions.

In IBM’s report on Generation Z’s consumer behavior, 42 percent said they would participate in a product review. Gen Zers want to be a part of collaborative communities where ideas and opinions are easily exchanged. That means they’re open to engaging in conversations with businesses.

This is great news for brands looking to gather insights from their Gen Z customers with tactics such as social listening, surveys, and social media polls. But keep in mind that things like social media fails might be easier to come by with a demographic that’s willing to share their thoughts on just about anything and everything.

Key takeaway: With 85 percent of Generation Z learning about products through social, you can bet this generation is critical of the product information, customer support, and overall content brands are sharing on social media. If you’re lucky, a bad experience with your brand might end up like 10 Risky Brand Comebacks on Social Media That Worked—but don’t count on it.

Connect with Generation Z—or whoever your target audience—using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can easily manage all your social channels and engage with your audience across networks.

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