Social Marketers Target an Unlikely Powerhouse Demographic: Teens

For brands looking to grow their customer base through social media, opportunities don’t come much bigger than Generation Z. This group of consumers born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s are now teenagers. In the United States alone, they number 60 million and wield an estimated $44 billion in spending power (or, if you factor in their influence on their families’ spending, more like $200 billion). Most importantly, they’ll make up 40% of all consumers by 2020. Clearly, Generation Z is the next purchasing powerhouse.

Tapping into such a massive customer base has to be high on the priority list for social marketers. So how best to connect with Gen Z?

They are a new generation in every way.
For starters, don’t lump them in with Millennials, the generation that preceded them; they’re very different. Having grown up in the post-9/11 era and during the Great Recession, these kids are seen as less coddled and less entitled than Millennials (with a deeper interest in social and humanitarian causes). They also spend far greater time on social media. Millennials spend about an hour a day on social, while 44% of Gen Z check it hourly.

And speaking of social media, here are a few other things to keep in mind if you’re pursuing the Generation Z market in their natural habitats.

Not all social networks are created equal.
Gen Z uses various social platforms for very different purposes. To see their hopes and dreams, check out Instagram. To catch their real-life moments, look to Snapchat. They rely on Twitter for their news and get updates on Facebook. But they don’t post much on Facebook; not only is it for “old people,” but Gen Z understands that the internet is forever, so they’re more wary of posting on perma-sites like Twitter. That’s why they’ll often use aliases or create separate accounts, even on Instagram (or “finstagram”)—just to be safe. They much prefer ephemeral offerings like Snapchat, for just that reason.

Social plays different roles in their shopping journey.
Just as they use disparate networks for info gathering and social sharing, so does Gen Z use social media for their product purchases. A whopping 85% of this audience learns about new products through social, and they’re 59% more likely than older consumers to connect with brands via social. But how each individual network breaks down is interesting. Gen Z discovers new brands on Instagram (45%), then they turn to YouTube to learn more about a product, at double the rate of Millennials. When they’re shopping at real stores, they’re more likely to document the experience on Snapchat.

Share what you care about.
Don’t bury the lede—you only have seconds to capture their attention with a quick, compelling story; teens are eager to check out the next message and move on. In that time, be clear about what you stand for. Ideally, they’ll see your brand as being involved in social causes that mirror their interests. As a generation that’s highly interested in racial, gender, and income equality and environmental issues, these are consumers that are willing to put their money where their mouths are.

Speak to them using faces they’ll relate to.
Use real people, not models, in your campaigns. Gen Z is a group that trusts social influencers as much as mainstream celebrities. Remember, they live most of their digital lives on their smartphones; it’s where they consume the majority of their entertainment. They watch two to four hours of YouTube per day (and 50% can’t live without it), as compared with less than 30 minutes of traditional television in that same period. It’s no wonder they relate more to those they’re watching on Snapchat and Instagram Stories than the faces that grace movie and television screens.

And through it all, even with an abundance of stressful news bombarding us on a regular basis, Generation Z remains an optimistic bunch, with more than half of them believing they’ll be better off than their parents. The confidence of these young consumers should resonate with companies, reminding them that the future is indeed bright, especially for those quick to embrace this generation and engage its early adopters. From our place on the digital front line for some of the world’s leading brands, we know how important this demographic will be in the very near future.

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Talk Back

Posted on March 9, 2018

Did you know that 1978 was a mini baby boom year? That”s because a lot of baby boomer women gave birth that year. So gen x can”t be defined solely as a period of time when the US birthrate was in decline. Another interesting fact about gen x. Before gen x was called gen x, it was called the baby bust. It was renamed gen x many years later probably by statisticians. Oy, vey. Where would we be without statistics? Probably doing something else.

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