Nothing if not social. Photo by George Pak.
Whether they’re referred to as “teens” or Generation Z, their world can seem opaque to brands, whose efforts to reach them sometimes fall wide of the mark. BETC Fullsix delved into Gen Z’s attitudes and media consumption. Here are ten points we found compelling.
They consider “content creator” a viable career option. We all know teens are digital natives. But social media prominence feels far more accessible to them than TV or movie fame did to earlier generations.
They have a love-hate relationship with social media. They consume media all the time – at mealtimes, in the bathroom – and often on multiple screens at once. But this doesn’t necessarily make them happy. Many are turning their accounts private, reining in their consumption, or taking long breaks from social networks to study or escape.
They know how to tame algorithms. As social media experts, they know exactly how algorithms work – and how to manipulate them. “When I watch something I like, I watch it a second time. That way, I know it will appear more often.”
They seek comfort zones and comfort viewing. Some are using platforms like Discord as “safe spaces” where they can hang out with genuine friends instead of chasing “likes”. They use classic content like Disney films and “Friends” as anti-stress supports. Many are nostalgic for the 1990s, a decade they didn’t experience (but when social media didn’t exist).
They use social media as educational tools. Nearly half of Gen Z use TikTok or Instagram for search, rather than Google. From documentaries on YouTube to teachers and experts on TikTok, they use socials as sources of general knowledge, inside information and news.
They are allergic to hypocrisy and clichés. Diversity in films and series is fine, as long as it’s a natural part of the story and not a box to be ticked. Teens hate screenplays that target them, without understanding them.
They appreciate originality and authenticity from brands. Don’t be late to a social media trend. Or if you are, try to add something new. Express a clear identity that’s in line with your brand values. This audience appreciates eye-catching graphics and strong aesthetics. Anything niche or “underground” can get their attention.
Collaborate, don’t influence. Young audiences are increasingly separating “influencers”, who they compare to billboards, from “content creators”, who deliver content with high production values. They understand and even appreciate it when a creator has collaborated with a brand to produce an outstanding film, podcast or experience.
Humour is a great way of reaching them. Comedy is among the most popular content on TikTok. Gen Z loves to laugh – and brands that don’t take themselves seriously, to the point of self-deprecation, will win points.
Don’t try to ape the “codes” of a platform. When you have an original idea, you don’t need to stick to the codes of TikTok or any other social. Throw out the codes and stand out instead. Gen Z tend not to “follow” brands – but they will watch your content if it’s well-crafted.