Social media professionals are coming to the point at which they have to start seriously considering the preferences of “Generation Z.” People finally seem to be getting over the habit of using “Millennial” to describe anyone younger than themselves, now that the older Millennials are pushing 40. That puts the tentatively-named Generation Z somewhere around an age range of eight to 22 years old. Some of them are full-fledged consumers, but for the most part, there’s still time before social media professionals have to have them all figured out.
Of course, people are already working at it. And there are interesting trends emerging from studies of social media activity and brand awareness among children and very young adults. CNBC recently examined some of these trends and talked directly to members of Generation Z about them. The article offers only the slightest hints of a strategy to social media professionals. But still, it’s something to build off of as we wait for Generation Z to become the core demographic of tomorrow.
Every new generation poses a challenge to marketers who have established their own habits. And Generation Z is certainly no exception. But that challenge can give way to opportunities if you’re willing to change things up. The CNBC article couldn’t have made that any clearer. It directly quoted one high school student as saying that his generation is “obsessed with brands” and is “like sheep [who] flock to whatever seems coolest.”
Of course, trying to appear cool is often a minefield for social media professionals and other types of marketers, especially once they’re beyond the age at which it comes naturally. But on the plus side, the student’s commentary suggests that if social media professionals can just establish a little popularity for their clients, there’s a strong possibility that that popularity will snowball throughout the younger generation.
That seems all the more true in light of other quotations from the CNBC article, which suggest that Generation Z may pick up on brand messages without even being consciously aware of it. “Sometimes I don’t realize that’s not a person’s account,” one young person said about ads that show up in the middle of non-commercial Instagram Stories. This goes to show that marketers might have success with the younger generation by shifting away from traditional forms of advertising and trying to reach consumers in much more subtle ways.
Fortunately, social media professionals have been moving in that direction for a long time. In this sense, maybe generational shifts in consumption and online behavior don’t have to be that confusing after all. Generation Z is largely following trends that Millennials and Generation X have been promoting. So as long as long as advertisers and social media professionals have been paying attention, they should be able to segue pretty easily from the old into the new.