How Gen Z is using social media

February 18, 2024
Hot topics 🔥
Marketing Trends
David Roman
How Gen Z is using social media

As of the start of 2024, there are 5.04 billion active social media users on the planet – that’s 62.3% of the world’s population. 2023 welcomed 266 million new social media users, translating to roughly 8.4 new users every second.

For brands, this presents a wealth of opportunities to reach new audiences and drive brand awareness to the masses. However, the world of social media marketing has been rocked by the latest findings that show a decline in social media usage from a significant demographic – Gen Z.

We’re witnessing a shift in how social media is utilised and perceived, partly as a result of ethical dilemmas about social media usage and its effects on society. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for businesses and marketers aiming to effectively engage with this demographic.

So, what’s going on with Gen Z’s appetite for social media?

Understanding Gen Z

Gen Z, also known as Zoomers, describes the generation of people born roughly between 1997 and 2012. The cohort succeeding Millennials make up approximately 30% of the global population, making them the largest generation globally.

They’re highly diverse, digital-native, and characterised by their fluency in technology and social media as they didn’t exist in the pre-internet age.

Gen Z is often associated with traits like individualism, authenticity, and activism. They prioritise authenticity in their interactions and are quick to discern disingenuous content. They’re predominantly socially conscious and actively engage in advocating for causes they believe in, such as environmental sustainability and social justice.

Gen Z’s reliance on mobile phones is unparalleled as they are not just tools for communication but serve as extensions of their identities and gateways to the digital world. From browsing social media to consuming content, mobile phones are integral to Gen Z’s daily lives.

Gen Z has a distinct preference for platforms that offer visual, interactive, and short-lived content such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. They enable them to express themselves creatively, connect with like-minded individuals, and stay updated on trends and pop culture.

The key takeaway is that Gen Z has its own unique approach to social media and is rejecting older social media platforms in favour of new ones that better suit its preferences.

Unlike the trends of Boomers and Millenials, Gen Z uses social media for two primary purposes: entertainment and communication. They use different platforms to satisfy these needs.

For entertainment, 68% of their time is spent on TikTok and YouTube as these platforms are used as the generation’s television to consume content from selected creators. For sharing and communicating, they use newer platforms such as Discord, Snapchat, BeReal and IG stories which account for 19% of their time.

Interestingly, Gen Z is spending more time on social media than before but they are posting significantly less due to the high competition of algorithm-backed influencer/brand marketing.

Gen Z’s preferred content type

Gen Z gravitates towards short-form content that is visually engaging and easily digestible. Formats like memes, GIFs, and short videos are the most digested content type, reflecting their preference for quick and entertaining content.

While they appreciate authenticity and humour, they also value content that aligns with their interests and beliefs.

Remember, these people were born into the era of fast internet, instant messaging, and streaming services and don’t know the pain of waiting a week for the next episode of their favourite series to air on network television.

As such, they expect instant gratification across every daily touchpoint of their lives not as a result of demand but rather because of the impact technology has had on our lives.

What Gen Z values most in social media content

Authenticity is extremely important for Gen Z and is considered a defining characteristic of what the generation seeks in the brands they support and the content they consume.

They are drawn to content that feels genuine and relatable, proudly repellent of traditional marketing and hard sale approaches that previous generations have had to endure. They realise that they play a key role in the global consumer market and demand that brands adapt their strategies to appeal to their interests.

Weary of polished marketing campaigns and false narratives spun by profit-hungry executives, Gen Z simply wants honesty and transparency for the content they consume. This is why Gen Z favours user-generated content (UGC) over branded content for ultimate authenticity.

Additionally, humour plays a significant role in their online interactions, with memes and viral challenges shaping the cultural landscape of platforms like TikTok.

How brands can connect with Gen Z

Engaging with Gen Z requires a nuanced approach that aligns with their values and preferences. Don’t be misled by clickbaiting headlines about Gen Z causing the ‘death of social media’ because this is false.

In reality, the average Gen Z spends more than 3 hours on social media every day so there’s ample opportunity to reach them.

Here are some key considerations for brands looking to connect with this demographic:

  • Community-driven approach: Gen Z is deeply ingrained in various online communities and subcultures. Brands can tap into these communities by understanding their interests, values, and language. Building authentic connections within these communities fosters trust and loyalty among Gen Z consumers.
  • Social awareness: Gen Z is socially conscious and expects brands to share their values. Companies should be transparent about their social stances and actively support causes that resonate with Gen Z’s concerns, such as mental wellness, diversity, and sustainability.
  • User-generated content (UGC): Given Gen Z’s preference for authenticity, incorporating user-generated content into marketing strategies can be highly effective. Encouraging user participation and showcasing real-life experiences resonates with Gen Z’s desire for genuine interactions.
  • Influencer marketing: Influencer marketing can be used to augment user-generated content marketing strategies. Around 40% of social media users follow influencers, and 30% have purchased a product or service after seeing an influencer post. Brands can leverage an influencer’s captive audience to drive brand awareness in a way that is authentic and resonant with Gen Z.

Wrapping up

Understanding how Gen Z utilises social media is essential for brands seeking to connect with this growing and influential demographic. By embracing authenticity, engaging with online communities, and championing social causes, brands can forge meaningful connections and thrive through real connections with their audience.

David Roman

David is one of our marketing gurus. He loves working with content but has a good eye for marketing analytics as well. Creativity is what drives him, photography being one of his passions.

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