There’s been so much hype around millennials and Generation Z over the last year, especially with the rise of TikTok during the pandemic. But if you’re like me, you may feel a little conflicted about which generation you fit into. I am what they call a “cusper,” born in the mid-’90s and caught in the middle of these two generations.
“Shoutout to my fellow cuspers just casually watching Gen Z and millennials fight online because we aren’t really either.” – Angelica Martinez from BuzzFeed
As an older sibling to my Gen Z sister and coworker to my millennial colleagues, I see both sides.
For example, a few of my so-called millennial traits include: growing up watching VHS tapes, going to movie stores with my dad, doing the Macarena in gym class, using my home phone to call my friends, having intense poke wars on Facebook and playing Webkinz for hours on end. On the flip side, I was too young for MySpace, I never had a flip phone (slide phone people, where you at?) and I don’t remember a time without access to the internet.
When it comes to my Gen Z traits, I find these more difficult to recognize, perhaps because they haven’t become the past yet and I am still watching the generational shift happen. But, here are a few I thought of: being a digital native, understanding modern-day memes, thinking TikTok is “educational,” preferring mobile interfaces, not being afraid to show my face online and purchasing products after being ~influenced~ on social media.
So why does this matter all that much? Well, for one, it’s fun reminiscing about these old trends from my childhood. It is also interesting to acknowledge the huge cultural shift that I have experienced through my life. Lastly, having that understanding of millennials and Generation Z has been extremely beneficial for my job.
[Read More: Content Marketing for Generation Z]
Us zillennials, those stuck in the middle of these two age groups, have the edge when it comes to social media and marketing. Our unique position allows us to connect with both generations. In this post, I’ll share some of my top insights when it comes to understanding Generation Z on social media.
Know Where to Find Them
Gen Z-ers are social media natives, so it’s no surprise that they spend hours of their free time on social media. I mean, I am right there with them. We’ve all seen Generation Z take over TikTok, but this isn’t the only social media platform you’ll find them on.
As a Gen Z-er’s big sister, I can attest that Instagram is still huge for this group, it’s just much more casual than it used to be. It’s common to see Gen Z-ers posting more frequent, less curated content, especially on Stories. Snapchat is also a key player, still being used more often than texting for this group. Generation Z is also obsessed with YouTube, and they are killing it. From slime videos and try-on hauls, to workout programs, house tours and financial advice, this group knows how to stay entertained and educated.
So, this goes without saying, but if your target market is Gen Z, you definitely want to check the box for these four platforms. Don’t do it just to do it either; you may need to rework your social strategy so your brand can show up naturally in these spaces.
[Read More: Nimble & Authentic Social Media Marketing]
The Power Exchange
Generation Z is a passionate group. Whether advocating for social justice issues, being vocal about their beliefs or finding ways to make the world a better place, Gen Z is paving the path for change. Social media is giving this generation more opportunity to harness power than previous generations. Gen Z creators on TikTok are a perfect example of this. With the ability to reach huge groups of people in a matter of minutes, creators are putting everything out there. It gives individuals with any size following a voice. And trust me, they want to feel heard!
On the flipside, Gen Z expects companies to do the same. If your company is quiet about something that matters to them, they are going to take note of that.
Entertainment is Becoming Educational
Social media is no longer seen as just entertainment, it’s a way of life for Generation Z. Take the news, for example. How many Gen Z-ers do you think are watching the nightly news? I’ll take bets on this one. Not many, and it’s because they hear the news on TikTok or Instagram. Live video and the ability to share content at the tip of your finger has amplified the spread of news on social media. In fact, a lot of times the story will be all over social media before it even hits the actual news channels!
I am not saying that Generation Z doesn’t use social media for entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I also scroll past hundreds of videos that I put in the bucket of “the random content I never knew I needed to know.”
But my point being: Gen Z uses social media so much more holistically than generations prior.
Let’s say I discovered a new restaurant in Minneapolis because it popped up on my TikTok For You Page. Instead of Googling the restaurant, my first instinct would be to go to their Instagram and check out pictures of their food, the vibe of the restaurant and where it’s located. Yes, I am a cusper, but I am guessing this differs from a lot of those who are in millennial or older generations. As a company, you have to think in this holistic mindset when it comes to what a customer will want to know and feel when reviewing your company’s profile on social media.
New Ways of Doing Things
Gen Z is discovering new creative ways of doing things and companies are catching on. Who knew you could find your company’s next employee on TikTok? It probably sounds crazy to all of the Gen X and Baby Boomers of the world. Heck, it probably even sounded silly to me at first, but it’s really not that far-fetched. Platforms like TikTok allow people to break normal standards of creativity and show their personality, two things that a resume doesn’t achieve but that hiring managers want to see.
When scrolling through TikTok this spring, I came across this video for Free People’s TikTok Casting Call. They were looking to find a group of passionate creators to add to their FP TikTok team. When companies post this type of content, it shows the company is willing to evolve and put themselves out there.
@freepeopleFree People CASTING CALL Wanna work with us? It’s your turn to be in the spotlight. Details down below.#FPCastingCall#muse#fashion#model#you♬ heavy in my mind – Jurk
Transparency, Openness and Community
Gen Z has decided that everything doesn’t have to be picture perfect anymore, and they are also first to welcome raw and real content. The popularity of live video has diminished the stigmas around being perfect — because at the bottom of this, we’re all just looking for the human in each other. Older generations may perceive this content as unprofessional or careless, but it’s really just the opposite. Gen Z-ers are more emotionally aware, valuing transparency and individual quirks, all in hopes of creating human connection and community.
[Read More: What is Brand Empathy?]
With that being said, they are still very conscious about their personal brand and what they put out on the internet. So from a company’s perspective, you can do multiple things to connect with Gen Z on a deeper level. Think about how your campaigns can support their personal brand. Also, think about how your company can be more transparent and open on social media.
The Evolving Influencer World
Influencers don’t bother Gen Z-ers like they do other generations, but that’s because the influencer game is changing. Gen Z-ers are smart, so as a company, don’t hide the fact that you’re using branded content as ads. Gen Z-ers know when something is sponsored, and it doesn’t really bother them. As a company, just make sure you partner with creators who genuinely LOVE your brand.
If companies are offering brand deals to creators who are already posting about their brand or product, the creator’s followers are more likely to be cool with it. In fact, their followers are more likely to enjoy and engage with the content because it’s being posted by someone they follow and trust. If it’s a micro-influencer, even better. Their followers realize that the creator isn’t being paid millions of dollars for the partnership, so the product and brand must be something they actually want to share. Sure, there are still plenty of big companies who want to partner with huge influencers or creators. But for the most part, micro-influencers are winning the game because Gen Z knows these influencers are more niche and actually likely to be advocates for brands they enjoy.
An example I saw of this was with Hannah Schlenker, the TikTok star who made Aerie’s Crossover Leggings go viral. Aerie took notice of her love for their new leggings, and decided to make her the Aerie Crossover Expert!
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Are you ready to connect with Gen Z?
Generation Z and millennials no longer have to live on separate islands, thanks to us cuspers! I hope this post helped you see through the eyes of Generation Z and gave you a few ideas to help connect with them on social media. Contact us if you want to brainstorm about ways to connect with this creative and social-savvy audience!