For some brands, marketing to Generation Z can seem like a daunting task.
The reality though? Figuring out how to make your marketing click with a younger crowd is easier than you think.
Let’s look at the characteristics of this generational group also known as “digital natives.” Gen Zers are progressive, more racially and ethnically diverse than the generations before them, and on track to be the best educated generation. This generation also avoids labeling themselves, is radically inclusive and takes time to evaluate all of their options before committing to a purchase.
Understanding what makes this younger generation tick is a must if marketers want to take advantage of Gen Z’s massive spending power. And having a pulse on what young consumers want not only opens brands up to new business but also ensures they aren’t missing out on key social media trends.
10 social strategies for marketing to Gen Z
Historically, marketing to younger customers has been tricky.
Demographic data can be difficult to track. Marketing trends come and go.
That said, the outspoken and chronically online nature of Gen Z makes learning their buying behavior much less of a guessing game.
Treating Gen Z like a singular block is a surefire way to come off as out of touch. It’s also key that brands learn to bridge the gap between Gen Z and other generations, including Millennials. For all the similarities the two generations share, connecting with members of Gen Z starts with understanding their distinct online behaviors and social preferences.
With that, let’s dive in!
1. Emphasize eye-catching, visual content
When it comes to social media, 81% of Gen Z say Instagram and YouTube are their preferred social networks of choice. And when asked which networks Gen Z wants to see brands use more of, 56% said Instagram while 38% pointed to YouTube.
Video and stylized visual content should be a top priority for catching the eyes of younger customers. In the wake of so many new apps, social features and creative filters, anything that’s considered static or “boring” won’t stand a chance with “Zoomers.”
2. Experiment with interactive content
When it comes to capturing Gen Z’s attention on social, research suggests using a combination of creativity and interactivity.
In other words, younger customers want to do something—tap, swipe, click—when they land on your posts.
Anything you can do to encourage interaction or conversation on social is a plus. For example: consider using interactive features like polls that do double duty of learning about customers and winning their attention, too.
A Twitter poll is a quick and easy way to encourage engagement among your followers and also inspire new ideas for future content.
If you could ask for advice from another social marketer, what would it be about?
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) June 29, 2021
Instagram features like polls, stickers and sliders can provide additional interactive pizzaz to your Stories and in-feed posts.
Interactive content is also helpful in encouraging customers to make purchasing decisions. Brands like Topshop, that share a significant Gen Z and Millennial customer base, feature quizzes on their sites to help shoppers identify the styles that speak to their personality. The combination of interactivity and personalization is key when speaking to younger shoppers who want to support brands that value them as individuals.
3. Tap in their FOMO with time-sensitive posts
When marketing to Gen Z, consider how you might tap into your audience’s fear of missing out (FOMO).
Instagram Stories, for example, allow brands to drive time-sensitive engagement and become a constant fixture in their followers’ feeds via notifications. In addition to Stories, Instagram released a new feature called Drops, helping brands create buzz for upcoming launches that are available only for a limited amount of time.
D ✨R ✨O ✨P ✨S ✨
Every week, you can shop new drops right on Instagram. You can also see upcoming ones and sign up for reminders.
Go to your shopping tab and tap "Drops" 🛍
— Instagram (@instagram) June 18, 2021
4. Leverage tags for engagement
Tagging also plays an important role in marketing to members of Generation Z. For example:
- Encouraging followers to share user-generated content (e.g. customer photos) coupled with a branded hashtag
- Enabling customers to tag themselves at a brand’s physical location
- Asking customers to tag their friends and family to invite new potential followers to a brand’s social feed
Uniqlo, for example, has a dedicated Instagram Stories highlight that shows off customers who use the hashtag #Uniqlo or #LifeWear.
Brands with a physical location can capitalize on Gen Z’s desire to be seen “in the wild.” This speaks to the importance of not only having a hashtag for followers to promote but something on-site worthy of snapshotting. For example: Disney Springs has a constant flood of customer photos to promote to their followers, thanks to their variety of hashtags.
Even something as simple as asking for a tag is enough to encourage a meaningful response from younger consumers. As part of its promotional strategy, North Coast Festival in Chicago shared a tag-a-friend post giving followers a chance to win a three-day general pass.
[ 🚨 ] Coasties! We’re excited to finally bring y’all some good news! Check the images, and join us for the return of #NorthCoast!
Tickets & on-sale info ➡️ https://t.co/5rTwQ9oUm1
— North Coast 🌈☀️ (@northcoastfest) March 25, 2021
5. Showcase your brand’s sense of humor
This might sound like a no-brainer, but the majority of Gen Z want to support brands that they see as “fun” and “cool.”
That could explain why humor and meme-centric social content is so popular among the younger crowd.
Tell me I'm wrong. Blank one is for you to do. pic.twitter.com/S0UfM9iCwP
— Pop-Tarts (@PopTartsUS) September 3, 2019
The challenge for brands here is keeping up with the speed of the internet. Brands trying to post a months-old meme risk coming off as out of touch. Similarly, not all industries have the benefit of being able to play the role of a comedian.
What matters most is for brands to have a distinct voice, showcasing the human side of their social presence through authentic interactions that don’t sound like something totally suit-and-tie. When interacting with customers, brands should strive to be organic and unpredicted, rather than templated.
Dave’s Double definitely worth more than that https://t.co/phwoucLSNO
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) October 23, 2019
6. Respond to followers in a timely manner
Giving Gen Z followers your undivided attention goes hand-in-hand with boosting brand loyalty. And considering 47% of consumers define a best in class brand as one that offers strong customer service, timely responses are an essential part of any brand’s social strategy.
hi there! you should receive an email with a tracking number once the package ships. if you haven't received this, shoot an email to contact(at)jenis(dot)com and they'll help you out 🧡
— Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (@jenisicecreams) July 14, 2021
A brand’s responsiveness doesn’t just nurture customer loyalty; it also supports financial goals. Sprout research shows that 41% of Gen Z consumers say they would buy from a brand that delivers timely, responsive customer service over a competitor. With tools like social listening, brands can ensure they never miss a keyword mention or meaningful customer interaction online.
7. Amplify your brand’s beliefs and values
Data from our Brands Get Real report shows consumers have high expectations when it comes to brands taking stances on social issues. This is particularly true among Gen Z consumers, who are three times as likely as other generations to say a brand’s purpose is to service communities and society.
From championing diversity to raising awareness for social issues and beyond, brands are increasingly wearing their beliefs and values on their (social) sleeves.
Thank you to everyone that shared their personal stories and experiences about, "why LGBTQ+ visibility in the Outdoors is important?" Head over to the Burton Blog to read more of the responses we received from our LGBTQ+ Community: https://t.co/p2J9gdz2bv pic.twitter.com/9fGnmxRXaI
— Burton Snowboards (@burtonsnowboard) June 28, 2021
Brands taking bold stances is becoming more of an expectation rather than an exception to the rule. This boldness seems to correlate with Gen Z’s desire to be heard and express their beliefs. Of course, brands should always be mindful of how they present their stances on social issues and do so in an appropriate manner.
Mental health is health. 🎾
To support Naomi Osaka’s decision to prioritize her mental health, Calm is donating $15,000 to @LaureusSport in France, an organization doing incredible work in the mental health space to transform the lives of young people through the power of sport. pic.twitter.com/C53ptXsks5
— Calm (@calm) June 2, 2021
8. Embrace customer feedback and reviews
Sometimes the best thing a brand can do to encourage purchasing behaviors is to say nothing at all. According to Sprout’s Digital Natives Report, 82% of Gen Z shoppers will buy from a brand after reading reviews from other customers on social media.
Incorporating customer testimonials into your social strategy can help build your brand’s online reputation, educate potential new customers and strengthen credibility through social proof. Five Guys, for example, often shares user-generated content and reviews from happy customers on their timeline.
To encourage reviews, consider reaching out to customers you already know enjoy your products or creating feedback templates to send after a purchase or experience. Make it as easy as possible for customers to leave feedback and don’t be afraid to respond to a review, whether it’s positive or negative. To simplify the process further, a review management tool like Sprout enables you to manage and monitor reviews across multiple business pages and platforms.
9. Meet your audience where they live
The Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate revealed that 78% of Gen Z consumers have increased their social media usage. With a social commerce strategy, brands can capitalize on impulse buyers and meet young consumers directly on the platforms and apps they already use. Patagonia, for example, uses its Product Pin boards to serve as a product navigation tool for potential buyers, giving customers the option to click through to make a purchase.
Equally impactful is livestream shopping, or the buying and selling of products during a broadcast. While this ecommerce strategy is fairly new to the U.S., brands with a presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram or TikTok may want to look into how they can leverage their livestreams to support business goals.
10. Give consumers what they really want
Above all, Gen Z shoppers want brands to demonstrate they really understand customers’ wants and needs. Data from the Index shows 50% of Gen Z consumers are more likely to buy from brands that communicate this understanding over a competitor.
For brands, this could be as simple as letting consumers know their voices are heard, or as significant as releasing a new product, experience or piece of content based on consumer feedback.
I love how @MarvelStudios gave the Internet what they wanted. #Zemo dancing on a loop for a whole hour on YouTube. That’s content we love to see! #TheFalconAndTheWinterSoldier pic.twitter.com/MGQXIt9PLG
— Devonta White (@FitFlyFellow) April 9, 2021
A social listening tool can help brands more easily discover the trends that captivate Gen Z consumers, eliminating any guesswork and ensuring every post is bound to resonate. With the data and insights gleaned from social, marketers are well positioned to create content that’s guaranteed to keep followers engaged and strengthen customer relationships.
How are you marketing to Generation Z?
Marketing to younger customers might require a bit of finessing, but doing so isn’t reserved only for the “hip” brands on social media.
More visual content? More authenticity? More back-and-forth conversations with customers?
Hey, those all sound good to us.
By taking the time to learn about Gen Z’s preferences and what makes them unique compared to other generations, brands stand to build valuable relationships that benefit all parties involved.
Ready to take your Gen Z marketing strategy to the next level? Download the Digital Natives Report today to learn more about the needs, interests and values of this young, social media savvy audience.
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