So You Want to Reach Gen Z: Perspective

Perhaps your business is searching for young professionals to add to your team. Maybe you just want to learn more about ways to gain some exposure in the campus student market. I’ll give you two words: social media. If there’s anything the global pandemic wrought by COVID-19 has taught us, it’s that becoming virtual is the new norm. Thus, the key question isn’t, “Should I be on social media?” but rather, “How do I leverage social media to create a trustworthy, positive perception of my organization?”

Social media is what Gen Z, those born after 1996, grew up with; it’s our muse, our form of political, artistic, literary, scientific and personal expression and experimentation. Here are a few rules we would like to see brands follow: 

1. Make your organization’s information as accessible and interactive as possible.

This means any published photo should have alt text for people with disabilities. It's the right thing to do, but it also ensures everyone takes away a positive user experience. We want to have a conversation with your business; despite the stereotypes against Gen Z, we value social connection. If you're new to alt text, check out this link.

2. Act as a thought leader within your local community. 

People want to see positive, informative content. What news is relevant to your industry? If you’re a nonprofit, share some inspiring stories. If you’re a local ice cream shop and you tell me what your trending flavors are, or share a Buzzfeed-like quiz for me to guess what flavor I want, your brand’s name is likely to stick around for some time. You might just see me pop over at your ice cream shop later that day!

3. Post diverse content with a reliable message.  

This standard is pretty simple. We are the most diverse and educated generation in history. It’s obvious to us when a brand is apologizing for its mistakes but not taking action to amend them. MarketDive reported that  “82% of [Gen Z] says they trust a company more if it uses images of real customers in its advertising, while 72% said they're more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes.” Authenticity is key: what do you want us to think about when we hear your brand name?

As for my personal social media digest, I tend to use Instagram the most. In fact, in my experience at the UW-Madison, it’s the #1 social media app I see other students using. Even waiting in line for a muffin in the Business school, Gen Z-ers naturally fidget with their phone, DM friends with memes and reshare Instagram stories. 72% of teens use Instagram, according to Pew Research Center. Since countless young people want to be thought leaders themselves, your organization should share content that’s understandable and easy to repost. 

Check out Bumble’s Instagram for a good example of a consistent aesthetic: https://www.instagram.com/bumble/

The organizations that actually grab my attention are those that interact with users like me. For instance, informative graphics explaining actions your organization is taking to support marginalized communities is a great way to distinguish your business and its ethics. Several Gen Z-ers want to work somewhere with a safe, comfortable workplace environment. Discover influencers who can continue conversations about your events, in addition to Instagram Live stories, polls, gifs and hashtags.

Videos also catch the eye. Don’t be afraid to invest in long-form marketing videos that convey your goals, services or products and values. Incorporate them into your social media plan. 85% of teens use YouTube, according to Pew Research Center, and it’s no wonder: videos feature people, and people foster community. Take a risk and make your videos as engaging as possible!

Though the U.S. is considering a ban of Tik Tok, it remains a great social platform for advertising. The app is home to Generation Z. Over 40% of TikTok users are aged 16-24 and 90% of those users visit the app at least once a day, according to Forbes. Its plethora of fifteen second meme, fashion, music, dance and cooking videos, among others, prove it’s a gamechanger in the social media world. It’s addictive. Tik Tok has a “for you” page as well, making it easy to target specific audiences with the content they wish to see. Maximizing the app's tools will maximize your organization as you learn more about our generational issues, engagement and humor. 

Of course, any Facebook business page is necessary for a business large or small. Ask questions, be creative and feature your members or staff in and on stories. Research why some articles you post perform well and others don't. See what your market is interested in learning, and feed them the information. Given your most loyal, active members or users will want to feel appreciated, it's best to amplify their voices.   

On to Twitter! Though this social platform is where many people like me get their news, it’s another platform to share your organization’s views. Write succinct captions and communicate actions taken to support social justice. 72% of Generation Z believes that racial equality is the most important issue today, according to the World Economic Forum.

Finally, leverage LinkedIn! The networking app is becoming increasingly popular for young students like me to connect with professionals and search for internships or job opportunities in the Madison area. As more organizations offer ways to work remotely, it’s also effective for expanding your business operations across the country.

Overall, Gen Z is more progressive on social issues and sees comfort in relatable content. In order to reach us, you must better understand us.

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