Social media marketing through the lens of Gen Z

Young consumers lift the lid on the best way to reach their generation via social channels.

Brands are continuously growing their presence on social media in order to connect with audiences, particularly younger ones.

Social media has become an indispensable part of Gen Z’s lives, making it the perfect platform for brands to reach this demographic. However, it's not as simple as hopping on an app and posting content.

This generation is hyper-exposed to social media and can sense when brand content is outdated, out of touch, disingenuous or trying too hard. Another important factor is deciding the right social channel to utilize, which determines whether Gen Z will even see or interact with it.

Here are some Gen Z thoughts on the best ways to reach our cohort on different social media channels:

For a generation turned off by marketing that is too obvious, TikTok is the perfect platform. The algorithm on this app creates a “For you page” that creates a feed of videos catering to all your individual interests. Not only does this make the app addicting, it also causes a majority of this age group to have it downloaded, with 60% of all TikTok users being Gen Z. If someone recommends a product they bought and loved in a video, it’s nearly impossible to resist the temptation to go buy it because of the personal nature of the interaction. Instead of it coming over as a company pushing a product, it is someone you relate to telling you why you should buy it — most likely something you would love because of how specific the algorithm is. The algorithm also makes it easy to go viral on TikTok, causing products to immediately sell out. A perfect example is Aerie’s crossover leggings, which were sold out for months after a video of them went viral. The #AerieLeggings hashtag has more than 12 million views on TikTok.

Instagram is the go-to app for Gen Z to share and consume content. The format of the app, which is designed for sharing photos with captions, allows users to share photos that express who they are through an aesthetically pleasing feed or an array of pictures. Gen Z is very active on the app because it allows them to see what both their circle and also their favorite celebrities are doing. The presence of “social media influencers” is very present on this app. These influencers post sponsored content in a way that aligns with how to best market to Gen Z. The influencer will post a photo with the product or service they are marketing in a way that fits their personal brand so it appeals to their audience. These influencers accumulate millions of followers who are fans of them and their lifestyle. So when they recommend anything, the audience will likely listen. A good example of this is the fashion industry, where paid Instagram influencers act as localized models for brands. This creates an extra level of connection between the brand and the customer, as an influencer is more relatable, interesting and personable than an anonymous model. Instagram’s new reels feature is also exploding online, seeking to mimic aspects of TikTok’s “For-you-page’’ through similar algorithmic functions. The presence of Instagram DM group chats are also very prevalent within the app, allowing content to be easily spread within group chats.

Twitter is an interesting platform for Gen Z users. While they may not have a Twitter account of their own or post on the platform at all, many Gen Z-ers see “trickle-down content” on other social media sites that links to Twitter posts and accounts. Articles, memes, screenshots and announcements posted to Twitter are often spread on other platforms with a much higher frequency compared to its competitors. On Instagram, you’re much more likely to see a Twitter screenshot than Facebook, LinkedIn or Reddit, possibly due to the bite-size style of content on the platform. So, content posted on Twitter can reach a Gen Z audience if done properly. One unique method of attracting Gen Z on Twitter is the cult of personality route. Brands such as Wendy’s, Denny’s and Ruffles attract large youth engagement by building a cult of personality around posts on their social media.

Advertising on LinkedIn may reach a Gen Z audience but this cohort is unlikely to interact with branded content on this platform. LinkedIn may be one of the best platforms to connect with an older Gen X to mid-millennial age range, which makes up the majority of social media users in the business space. For this generation, LinkedIn is mostly used as a marketing tool for self-branding. This is the space where you post all your accomplishments to make you look desirable to future employers and interact with others to grow your network. Some Gen Z users may even associate branded content on LinkedIn as fake or disingenuous due to the connection between LinkedIn and the corporate world. It is also important to note that not many people in Gen Z actively scroll or browse through content on LinkedIn, so it would be easy for content to be missed, ignored or deemed irrelevant.

If a company’s goal is to target a younger audience, Facebook is not the platform. It is hardly utilized by Gen Z, and when it is used it's to share content with the older generation or join a Facebook group. For example, if you post a picture on Facebook, it's because you want your parents and older relatives to see it. Someone in this age group rarely, if ever, scrolls through their Facebook feed because the content has an older generation appeal. Another problem with Facebook marketing is that it is too upfront. The ads on the app just feature a product, which you can click on to purchase. This is not a good incentive to purchase something for a generation that buys things based on trends or recommendations from people they trust, such as influencers.

This story first appeared on PRWeek US.


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