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For marketers aiming to reach Gen Z, teens and adults born between 1996 and 2010, according to McKinsey, there’s much to learn from where the group spends their time online. Gez Z is expected to see the fastest rate of social network user growth: nearly 4% compound annual growth rate from 2023 to 2027. Brands looking to reach this younger demographic need to understand that Gen Z is the first truly digital generation. Beyond being tech-savvy, these users tend to be more progressive, diverse, self-aware, and socially conscious. They’re unafraid to break free of their predecessor’s traditions and beliefs. 

If you’re tasked with learning more about how Gen Z spends its time online, here are some important statistics to consider, as well as tips to reach them on social media.

The platforms Gen Z favors

Insider Intelligence July 2023 report shows Gen Z is still spending much of its time on TikTok and Instagram, drawing approximately 80% of the cohort’s social network users. Snapchat has gained ground, too. Snapchat boasts even more Gen Z teen users (ages 12 to 17) than Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 24).

With experts forecasting that 80.9% of Gen Z will be on Instagram by 2027, the platform will boast the largest user base from the generation. But don’t rule out TikTok. Although the forecasts for 2027 expect the platform to host 71.9% of Gen Z users, TikTok will likely still hold the title for capturing Gen Z adults’ time, as it does now. 

Beyond TikTok and Instagram, Gen Z continues to surprise analysts with its hesitance to leave X (formerly Twitter). While other generations are expected to see a 9% decrease in users on the platform, only 2.4% of Gen Zers are likely to drop the controversial app. Why? Gen Z sees X for its entertainment value, including “Twitter humor” and nonvideo memes that later go viral on other platforms. 

Still holding the interest of Gen Z, YouTube and TikTok are where most young adults start their product search. IZEA’s 2023 Trust in Influencer Marketing report found that social network users between 18 and 29 are more likely to turn to YouTube (40%) and TikTok (42%) when researching a product than they are to start their search by asking family and friends (25%).

More 18- to 29-year-olds turn to Tiktok than family and friends

The takeaway

What does this all mean for brands looking to reach Gen Z? For now, leave Facebook for older generations, keep your posts entertaining (or newsworthy) on X, and focus your campaign on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Tips for brands looking to reach Gen Z

Now that you’ve confirmed where to reach Gen Z online, here are some tips on marketing to the digital-native cohort.

Put authenticity at the forefront

While Boomers and Gen X grew up in eras with slick, sales-heavy TV and print advertising, Gen Z has learned not to fall for “old-school” tricks of the trade. 

To build trust with this younger demographic, campaigns need authenticity, and brands need to ensure transparency by insisting on clearly disclosed paid promotions and sponsorships. 

Look for ways to incorporate user-generated content, including reviews, unboxing videos, DIY projects, and before-and-after photos or videos to turn your happy customers into authentic promoters on your brand’s behalf. 

Position your brand as an authority

Transparency doesn’t always equate to humility; just be sure you’re positioning your brand, its employees, or influencers as experts — because they are. 

Look for opportunities to create tutorials, infographics, or Q&As. Don’t be afraid to include statistics or to discuss the science, technology, or reasons behind any product improvements or upgrades. It will not lend credibility to your position as an authority who stays up to date on research, but it will also demonstrate your willingness as a brand to explain why you chose to make changes.

Remember, your brand’s authority should include answering questions in the comments of anything you post, so plan to designate someone knowledgeable to respond and engage with consumers on social.

Highlight your brand’s values

As the most diverse cohort (other than Gen Alpha) in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender identity, these young adults can see through performative posts.

Rather than jumping on every social movement that holds importance to Gen Z, focus your attention on causes that align with your brand-identified values. Make sure that your website clearly expresses these same values to demonstrate authenticity further.

Invest in influencers 

Gen Z puts its faith in niche and mid-size influencers, more so than with celebrities or advertising, perhaps because the experience is more akin to taking a recommendation from a close friend.

Find content creators that not only produce good material but also can show proof of good engagement with their followers. After all, your brand’s relationships with consumers start with connection and end with trust, and the right influencer can provide both.

Although most Gen Z are now adults, brands should avoid making assumptions that apply to their parents and grandparents. Get to know this target audience on a broad scale to help you determine how to educate, inform, and entertain them on a small scale. As long as you stay true to your brand’s values and voice, provide information or entertainment, and comply with transparent disclosures, authenticity will carry far with Gen Z.


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