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Has social media changed who we are as people?

Data from the ONS reveals that 1 in 5 adults claim that they don’t drink, but among young people this rises to a third. Why? This goes against almost every stereotype of youth culture and binge drinking.  If this seems like something has changed, that is because it has; compared to just a few years ago the number of youth teetotallers has risen by 40%.

In her presentation at Marketing Week Live recently, Tash Walker, Founder and Chief Strategist at The Mix, made the case that those born since 1998, the Generation Z, have been shaped – for many of them from birth – by a near constant exposure to social media.

Driven by a deep awareness of the perils of internet infamy, teenagers aren’t drinking because they value control above all. If you are out of control you might make a mistake and share something inappropriate. From Justine Sacco’s inappropriate tweet which spiralled out of control, to cyber bullying, this is an entire generation who knows that the internet has a long attention span, and that deleting an account absolutely does not remove your presence online. Because of this, they live in a constant state of crisis management.

For brands this presents an interesting, but complex proposition. These are the first true digital natives, often interacting with up to 9 social media platforms daily. They are there. They definitely share. But their motivations are so different to the previous generations, and marketers need to take this into account.

The Mix’s research reveals that Gen Z are hesitant, fearful and cautious – and as a result they value comfort and security. So how are they so different from Millennials? And how can marketers embrace this?

Millennials adopted technology, whereas Gen Z have grown up in a technological age

Generation Z is very open to new technology, and they adopt it in much larger numbers than any of the older generations. Marketers will have heard of Snapchat and Instagram, not to mention Periscope, and can see how young the platform’s average users are. However, chances are that Gen Z are already using other technologies and platforms out there that marketers have never even considered. Take, for example, the Rabbit, a Netflix screen sharing plugin – which according to one of The Mix’s interviewees lets people watch TV with friends across the globe and makes it feel ‘like we’re virtually together’.

Marketers should be making use of Gen Z’s habitual relationship with social media, making repetition and consistency key. With only a small window of time to get their attention, messaging needs to be concise across all platforms, and imagery and video are vital.

Generation Z fears standing out, while Millennials fear missing out

Kim Kardashian has said ‘I’m not a celebrity. I just really like sharing things’ – a millennial statement for a Gen Z age.

Gen Z doesn’t want to create or lead; they’re not interested in being the first. Micro brewer’s beware, these consumers are not interested in individuality or being the ‘first adopter’. Instead they share content that is mutually approved – what you are doing, rather than how you feel. They share memes because it is somebody else’s joke. They love to share food, because it has become a viral phenomenon. To quote Tash ‘experiences are as valuable as their share-ability’.

There is huge follower potential in this group, if marketers can harness Gen Z’s positive response to shareable and shared content. They value recommendations from their peers above almost anything, meaning marketers should be looking to mass market campaigns incorporating influencers.

Gen Z values brands that comfort and provide security, while Millennials want brands to be new and niche

The Mix found that, more than anything, big and mass is comforting for Gen Z. One 17-year-old interviewee even spoke about his preferred fabric conditioners – an unexpected revelation from such a young man! However, he likes a particular brand because it makes him feel homely. For this group, big is safer than small. They have completely redefined the notion of rebellious youth. Their rebellion is digital conservatism: following, not standing out.

Gen Z will respond well to marketing that taps into value, making life better and helping. Marketer will succeed if they position their brand as familiar.

How do you feel marketers should adapt their strategy for demographic groups? Join the debate by tweeting @Fieldworks.

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