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Social Media Marketing to Gen Z Is Changing Brand Promotion

by | February 8, 2023

TikTok and Instagram were only the beginning. New social platforms attract young users. Here's how to keep up with social marketing to Gen Z.
social media marketing to gen z

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Gen Z is the first generation of digital natives. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z’ers were born into a fully digital world. Meanwhile, the generation born between 1981 and 1996 — Millennials — can remember a childhood without social media or digital devices. Social media marketing to Gen Z can be a real challenge unless you find the right approach.

Gen Z audiences switch between many social media sites and devices. They have high standards for technology and types of content they want to see. 

How Gen Z Spends Its Time and Money

A young woman customer with pink hair in a clothing boutique.

Generation Z is an engaged user base with money to spend. Even small businesses can reach this diverse generation through digital marketing. About 98% of Gen Zers own a smartphone and, according to Forbes, this younger generation spends about four hours a day checking popular social media platforms. 

What’s more, this generation is worth a reported $360 million in spending power. While their older counterparts tend to use traditional methods to shop online, Gen Z audiences approach online shopping almost exclusively through social media. Consider this:

  • 97% of Gen Z shoppers use social media to inspire their purchases.
  • Gen Z shoppers show more interest in brands and products recommended by online influencers.
  • 30% of Gen Z shoppers expect a seamless digital checkout.

Want to create effective marketing for this diverse generation? Brand values and identity are a good place to start.

Getting Behind Gen Z 

Diverse young adults

To market to Generation Z audiences, you need to know who they are and what they value. Gen Z and Millennial consumers often get lumped together, but there are several important differences. 

  • Gen Z has the highest rates of racial and ethnic diversity. More than half of the Gen Z population identify as Black, iIndigenous, or a person of color (BIPOC), compared to only 38% of Millenials. 
  • Gen Z is more likely to have a higher education degree. Nearly 60% have a bachelor’s degree or another college credential. 
  • Gen Z is more likely to share their values online. Many identify as more liberal-leaning. Generally, they prefer to engage with online brands and influencers who match their ideals. 

Stunning Visuals and Video Appeal

A woman watches a video on her cell phone.

Long gone are the days of slow dial-up internet endured by previous generations. Gen Z expects high-quality visuals and video content. Most prefer video content on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Social media marketing to Gen Z means using the right social networking sites and posting the right content. Even though Facebook has the highest number of users worldwide, its advertising results rank lower than newer social networks. 

For the first time, a social media platform is competing with Google for the top-used search engine. TikTok now rivals Google as the most used internet search engine, despite not classifying itself as such a tool. 

TikTok’s similar search technology allows users to search for content the same way they do on Google. Additionally, Google now allows video content to populate search results using a similar ranking system as websites. The popularity of video content makes it more likely to be seen in a search result than a traditional site.

This is because a majority of Gen Z lean towards short form video content. Along with TikTok, content like Instagram stories and reels and YouTube videos rank high. That’s because:

  • Video appeals to people with shorter attention spans. 
  • Short-form video converts information into highly digestible content.
  • Video content is easy to share across platforms and messaging apps.

Authenticity and the Power of Personality

A woman with big personality in round, white sunglasses.

Before you start making videos, get to know your brand’s personality.

Gen Zers value authenticity and ethics more than any generation before. It’s easy to write off social media engagement as entertainment, but it keeps Gen Z connected and involved. 

Gen Z needs to know your brand’s personality and values before they engage. These shoppers need brands to live by values they project. False allyship or activism will ring false. 

So, how do you stay true?

  • Authenticity in language. Do your captions and comments use the same terms and slang Gen Z uses? Are you still using periods in your text messages? Just. Stop.
  • Brand personality must always shine. Younger consumers shop brands that match their interests. They disengage when that personality fades. 
  • Really mean what you say. Don’t just pretend to value diversity and activism. You will alienate one of the largest group of shoppers in the world. Almost a third of Gen Z consumers purposefully unfollow or stop shopping with brands whose stated values don’t match their actions.
  • Sustainability matters. Nearly 79% of Gen Zers rank a brand’s sustainability as important. Find ways to manage your brand with an eco-friendly angle.

Brands That Did It Right

Closeup of Levi's Jeans

Here are examples of brands that use their values well:

  • Levi’s — The blue jeans company launched a campaign called Buy Better, Live Longer featuring the brand’s sustainability practices the brand uses. 
  • Calm — When professional tennis player Naomi Osaka left the competition to protect her mental health, this app-based meditation aid donated $15,000 to an organization prioritizing mental health through athletics. 
  • Burton Snowboards — During Pride 2021, this company encouraged LGBTQ+ winter athletes to share their stories. Burton posted photos and videos that showcased diversity in winter sports. 

Market to the Gen Z Masses

A large group of Gen Z consumers

Ready to develop a social media marketing strategy for Gen Z? Understanding their age group, online habits, and values is only half the battle. Despite the time they spend online and their spending power, many digital marketers still consider this audience a difficult target to hit. 

Here are a few suggestions for brands and businesses looking to market to a Gen Z shopper:

Use Preferred Platforms

The most used social media platforms are TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. More than half of Instagram’s users are under 35. TikTok’s user demographic has grown to more than 800 million people worldwide.  

Showcase Your Brand’s Personality

Are you funny? Engaged in world issues? High-energy? Know who you are as a brand and tell your story with every post. Putting personality first helps strengthen organic content. Wendy’s, the fast food chain, has leaned heavily into the humor side of its brand personality. Users regularly reach out to Wendy’s on Twitter and Instagram, hoping to get one of the brand’s trademark snarky replies. 

Find a Way to Take Action 

Not only is it good for the planet and for humanity, but finding ways to be a sustainable brand that’s committed to real activism means better business returns. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking to the streets. Simple steps like these can also work:

  • Transition away from styrofoam.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs. 
  • Use an electric delivery vehicle. 
  • Donate a portion of proceeds to a local cause. 
  • Attend a fundraiser. 
  • Donate to a local cause. 

The more time a brand puts into goodwill marketing, the more authentic it’s likely to be. 

The singer Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand is known for developing race-inclusive, high-quality makeup products. Her #TheNextFentyFace initiative asked brand users to post themselves wearing the product to appear in a future campaign. This encourages diverse models, showcased the product, and created free digital advertising for the brand. 

Create High-Quality Video Content

Shoppers are twice as likely to purchase products after watching a video advertisement. Quality video content can also improve a brand’s Google ranking. 

Use reels, TikToks, or YouTube videos to spread the word about products or events. Using effective SEO, videos can boost a brand’s search rankings and be posted across platforms. 

Work With an Influencer

Brand trust is especially important to Gen Z consumers. It’s also an integral part of building a customer base. Influencer marketing brings a personal touch to a brand’s image. Nearly half of Gen Z’ers purchased products at the recommendation of an influencer they trust. Consider using local brand reps and influencers to reach a wider audience. 

Don’t Forget the Entertainment

Just because a brand is focused on a digital marketing strategy, doesn’t mean the content can’t be entertaining. 22% of Gen Zers say they unfollow brands every week when the entertainment edge is lost. 

Post content consistently. Enlist a brand rep or influencer to help keep content regular and engaging. Being involved with local or worldwide causes is not only good for the planet. It’s an easy way to build a content calendar.

We Get Gen Z

If you want to build a loyal customer base, consider social media marketing to Gen Z. College Marketing Group helps brands build a strategy that works. With years of marketing experience, CMG can boost your digital marketing and increase sales.

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