In this LinkedIn Live, Tribal Chief Sarah Goodall talks to Luan Wise, marketing consultant and founder of thelighthouse.social, about the use of social media by Gen Z and how brands should be encouraging social media usage with all of their employees.
Luan shares that 87% of Gen Z spend more time on social than other generations, yet being the least likely to follow a brand, brands need to recognise that Gen Z predominantly uses social media as a search platform to educate and learn.
So how can brands use social media effectively across the generations?
You can watch the full interview here, listen to the recording on our podcast, or check out the summary of what they discussed below.
Who Are Gen Z, And Why Should Brands Be Paying Attention?
Generation Z are those born between 1997 and 2012 and are currently entering the workforce. Gen Z often take on social media roles (or are pigeonholed into them) due to being a generation that has grown up with technology and no limitations on information.
“Gen Z’s are using social media as search tools and a place of discovery, to the point where Google will now see social media platforms as a competitor.”
Luan explains how in early career roles such as researchers, Gen Z are using platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok to get news, information, discover brands, and work out which products to buy.
It’s not just Gen Z moving into the workforce. B2B marketers must understand that Gen X and Baby Boomers will move out of buyer roles. Therefore, brands need to recognise how to communicate with Gen Z.
Traditional advertising won’t get you far, according to Trust Radius, Gen Z prefers social-media-based videos and influencer marketing. Luan shares that 79% would purchase after an influencer recommendation, and Sarah and Luan agree it will only get bigger.
Are Older Generations “Too Old” For Social Media?
Luan had some interesting thoughts on whether other generations were too old for social media. A research project she is doing with Warwick Business School around social media and usernames posed the question: “I'm too old for social media. Do you agree or disagree?” with 27% agreeing and 60% disagreeing.
What Luan has found is that it’s the technology gap that causes the biggest problem.
“I was with a comms team training them on social media, LinkedIn specifically, and there were different generations in the room. Amazingly the intern stood up and said, ‘yes, I know how to use social media, I know how to make things happen and how to use it technically, but no one has told me what I need to say’. I love the fact that the intern asked the right questions."
“She'd been given the role, but no one had briefed her on what to do with this piece of technology. So that's where the gap is. Gen Z know the tools, and they don't fear using them, but they don't necessarily know the what or why of comms, or the business context of it, whereas established comms people know what to say but have a fear of social media.”
It’s this technology gap that brands need to recognise. They could greatly bridge the gap if they combined the confidence to communicate that older generation employees have with the Gen Z social media knowledge.
As Sarah and Luan discuss, social media used to be 100% of one person’s role but is evolving to become 1% of everyone’s role. This is where employee advocacy is important. Brands need to be empowering their employees to tell that story.
Luan follows this to share how Millennials and Gen Z both need to have trust in a B2B relationship, which will come from authenticity, people, and employees.
How Should Brands Respond To Social Media Usage For Non-Gen Z’s?
Often non-Gen Zs feel fear and overwhelmed over new social media platforms such as TikTok. They would rather do two things really well and embed them rather than add new things. Whereas we have seen repeatedly, Gen Z employees getting pulled into the spotlight on platforms such as TikTok, which can reflect on the brand.
“It's about engaging with those influencers and creators as well as the end customer. It's about those generational differences. But coming back to marketing fundamentals and saying, you know, generation is only just part of your audience persona, it is just one channel. What brands need to do is understand all this stuff and talk to their existing and potential customers and see where they fit and how they feel”
What brands should be doing is teaching their employees the dos and don’ts of social media. Providing training on privacy settings, so they know what they share and to who.
As Luan demonstrates, a person can have a professional profile on LinkedIn, yet a Facebook profile that shows they’re a fan of Jack Daniels.
If businesses provide training for their employees, as they would if they wanted them to use specific software such as Word or Excel, then they could empower all employees, including the non-Gen Z, to use social media well.
This is also important for protecting the brand’s reputation. For more on this, read our essential social media guidelines for employees.
Which Social Media Channels Do Generations Lean More Towards? And Will This Pattern Shift Over Time?
Different generations prefer different social media platforms. According to a survey by Sprout Social, 92% of Baby Boomers surveyed have a Facebook account, whereas Gen Z opts for Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Millennials and Gen Z are also big video consumers. So, YouTube and TikTok are huge platforms for these generations.
Luan explains how social media channels are adapting to compete with each other. Let’s take YouTube, for example. More than half of Gen Z use YouTube daily, often for ‘How to’ content. YouTube has released YouTube Shorts to compete with TikTok’s short video model.
Although Gen-Z may not be searching these platforms for B2B content, their understanding of the platform will reward businesses who invest in YouTube, TikTok, or both (Source: Trust Radius).
Key Takeaways And Predictions For Next Year
Luan points out that Gen Alpha will be at an age they can join social media next year.
“Gen Alpha are turning into teenagers next year. So, in a year, we could be discussing what Gen Alpha is up to, or in five years’ time when they turn 18. I think it is for all generations, but every generation will have different life experiences, understanding, and familiarity with tech. And I think it's about separating social from life and technology and fears and how we live.”
Luan’s predictions for next year:
- There will be trends around using social as a search tool.
- Features and support for creators and ways they can monetise.
- Served content from people you aren't following - As Tik Tok already do, Meta/Facebook are following this. Getting your followers to see your content will be more challenging as a brand. Social will be about discovery, so how could you get people to discover your content and work their way through the marketing funnel?
It’s important for brands to recognise that social media is not simply for Gen Z, but the key is understanding how each generation uses each platform. By bridging the technology gap in a company and utilising the skills offered by generational employees, brands can teach their employees how to use social media to increase their brand awareness and effectively reach their target audience.
If you’d like to watch or listen to the full interview, it’s available here.