5 Secrets to Building a Gen Z Following

Just when you got the hang of marketing to millennials, up springs a new generation. Generation Z is coming of age, and they will soon hold more global buying power than their predecessors, so figuring out what makes these youngsters tick is a worthwhile endeavor.

When exactly the generational divide occurs is up for discussion, but analysts typically place Gen Z birth years between 1995 – 2010. That means this is the first generation – currently ranging from pre-teen to recent college grad – to not have not experienced life without Internet. Digitally connected, almost from birth, they expect brands to not only provide great products, but to also tell the story behind the products, too. Connectivity in every respect is key.

But buckle up for a fast ride. If you thought reaching millennials in 12 seconds was tough, Gen Zers only give you eight seconds to pique their interest. Culture decries these shortened attention spans as a problem to overcome, but Product Marketing Manager Jeremy Finch says research indicates otherwise. What post-millennials have done is adapt to information overload with “highly evolved ‘eight-second filters’” –  simply a necessity of the era. As Finch writes, “Gen Z have a carefully tuned radar for being sold to and a limited amount of time and energy to spend assessing whether something’s worth their time. Getting past these filters, and winning Gen Z’s attention, will mean providing them with engaging and immediately beneficial experiences.”

The good news is over 90 percent of Gen Zers consume social media content and 65 percent of those follow brands online, so gaining exposure is not typically a obstacle for brands. The challenge lies in creating messaging that resonates. According to a study entitled Meet Gen Z: The Social Generation, “Gen Z consumers want to see themselves represented in branded social media content. They have come to expect that the brands they buy from reflect their style, personality, and life stage - and social media content must do the same.”

The study drew several conclusions, and our social media aggregation and display strategists recommend the following practical applications.

1. “Have a social mindset.”

    Post-millennials routinely cite online activity and what happens “in real life” as synonymous, or at least significantly blurred. This is a generation that joyfully documents the minutiae of each day, and those digital habits can easily translate into social proof for brands. Nothing is more influential to young people than candid, compelling content created by consumers just like them, so acquiring and re-using UGC will be the key to brand success.   

    The most sophisticated brands are already trending this direction, with live social walls at sporting events, concerts, and even retail displays. Even academic institutions recognize that old recruiting techniques no longer work. Prospective students are tuning out carefully-crafted pitches, in favor of more trustworthy UGC. Want massive lifts in engagement and conversion? Think social.

    2. “Make a positive brand experience a priority.”

      This starts with a marketing strategy that serves the best interests of consumers. With teens checking their smartphones approximately 150 times a day, Forbes concludes, “It’s critical for businesses to make their mobile experience seamless and engaging, as this is where the younger generation is spending their time.”

      That’s right. Even when shopping in-store, Generation Z (also dubbed the iGeneration) are on their phones. They’re logging into brand accounts to scan items, virtually “try-on” products, create wish lists, and track rewards, and probably uploading selfies from the dressing room, too. The brands of the future will put the Gen Zer’s needs at the center and keep their attention wherever they are with a highly-personalized, unified shopping experience. Some have already begun. Check out: “9 Explosive Examples of Omni-Channel Marketing in 2018

      3. “Represent your audience.”

        This is a generation eager to see their values and personality reflected in the brands they follow. Content marketing that integrates fan content with brand messaging can be extremely profitable if done well, but it is so important to first dig into the conversation. Social media aggregation makes it easy for brand managers to research what Gen Zers are saying about related brands, products, and ideas and allow those social signals to spur next steps. Just watch out for the “7 Stupid Ways Marketers Get Social Content Marketing All Wrong”. 

        4. “Be a valuable information outlet.”

          As the Meet Gen Z report indicates, “Gen Z is turning to social media not only to research, but also to purchase products. Brands that are a reliable source of product information…will be well-positioned to engage Gen Z.” No surprise then that shoppable social galleries are becoming hugely popular. The ability to share, recommend, and show e-commerce products to peers gives young people the opportunity to be a part of the brand story. Since Nielson reports 92% of people trust personal recommendations over all other forms of advertising, organizations will need to be increasingly intentional about featuring authentic UGC, like customer photos and reviews, in order to gain bigger conversions among Gen Zers.

          5. “Don’t limit your presence.”

            Perhaps the biggest takeaway for marketers is to recognize that this mobile-first generation adopts new technologies quickly, and creates and consumes social media as part of their lifestyle. “There are a host of social platforms that are soaking up their time,” the report concludes. They have no patience for institutes that ignore their preferences, so organizations that “create an opportunity to share their brand story uninterrupted” have a huge leg up. Remember, Gen Z was born social, and as your emerging brand ambassadors, they expect proactive communication.

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