Earlier this year, I had a first-year Drake University student shadow me to learn more about my role as a social media specialist. One of the first questions I asked him was, “So, what social media channels do you use?” I thought I’d know the answer, only being a handful of years out of college, but I was schooled very quickly. I recognized most of the social media channel names he rattled off, but others were completely foreign to me. To say I felt a little dated is an understatement.
I suppose I could have seen this coming. My nephew Jordon, a member of Generation Z, turned 16 last fall. I confess that I have no clue about what social media channels are “in” in his world. What I do know is that he has grown up in this world not knowing what it’s like to live without social media. Jordon had toy cell phones as a baby and was a mere 4 years old when Facebook was founded. When social media took off in the early 2000s, my generation flocked to platforms like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
These memories are lost on Gen Z. According to Forbes, it’s the first generation of consumers to have grown up in an entirely post-digital era. They are certainly unique when it comes to social media use. Gen Z tends to flock to newer channels with increased anonymity — such as Snapchat, Instagram, Whisper, AfterSchool, and Bubble — and they don’t like to broadcast to the masses:
“Gen Z continues to be choosier when it comes to where and how they are sharing content — making it extremely important for brands to understand social media through a Gen Z lens if they hope to reach these up-and-coming consumers.”
Carefully cultivated social media groups present marketers with an even bigger opportunity to leverage influencer marketing. 83 percent of those in Gen Z are willing to trust information about products from other shoppers on social media over advertising. Brands will have to work even harder to immerse themselves in these communities to make a real connection. Because Gen Z considers their use of social media to be more selective and personal, they expect their interactions with brands on those channels to also be similar in nature.
Learning more about Gen Z and their approach to social media channels has been an interesting process for me as both a marketer and as a member of Gen Y. For years I considered my generation to be “social media natives,” but for no longer. All hail the true social media natives: Gen Z!