7 Ways To Engage Millennials and Gen Z On Social Media In 2018



As 2018 approaches, it’s only natural to wonder how social media will continue to evolve, and how to use these innovations to appeal to the lucrative millennial and Gen Z demographics.


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Social media has gone through a lot of changes in the past year. Twitter rolled out #280characters. Instagram allowed for multi-photo posts. Augmented reality (AR) and photo filters continue to evolve. And everyone competed for eyeballs with ephemeral content, that is, short-lived stories and video.

As 2018 approaches, it’s only natural to wonder how social media will continue to evolve, and how to use these innovations to appeal to the lucrative millennial and Gen Z demographics.

For those not in the know, Gen Z is the generation born after 1992 who grew up in the digital age, compared to millennials who are the children of baby boomers and remember (even if only briefly) an age before the internet.

Gen Z is entering the workforce and has immense buying power ($44 billion). Marketers need to take the characteristics of this generation into account, while still targeting the now-aging but larger demographic of millennials.

In terms of social media consumption, millennials spend an average of six to seven hours per week on social media, whereas 44 percent of Gen Z check their social media at least hourly.

Here are some interesting personality comparisons between both groups from Ryan Jenkins by way of Inc.:

Millennials Gen Z
Optimistic: All thanks to their Boomer parents, still desire the lifestyle of their parents. Realistic: Grew up in a recession and the 9-11 era, not as coddled, and harder to sell to.
Collaborative: More likely to assemble desks into a circle. Independent: More likely to want their own workspace.
Digital Pioneers: Witnessed the rise of the internet and mobile devices. Digital Natives: Born into the Digital era.
Public: Facebook-using folks who put their whole life on display. Private: More cognizant of privacy, tend to prefer timebound content sharing.
Formal Education: More likely to have a post-secondary degree and student debt. On-Demand Learning: More likely to pursue online or piecemeal learning.

Here are some social media trends to look out for in 2018 and how you can use them to entice both millennials and Gen Z.

1. Better Personalization

All the major social media networks are actively improving their analytics to allow for better personalization of advertising and content.

It’s notable that 74 percent of Internet users get fed up with a site or network when sponsored content has nothing to do with their interests.

Right now, “personalization” is still often equated with creepiness – ads that follow you all over the internet after you’ve looked at an item or abandoned a shopping cart.

This is starting to change. Using deep learning, Facebook is working to improve its algorithms to account for a user’s passions, browsing habits, and changing interests. Instagram is even starting to use image recognition to determine your interests from photos (as well as any brands that appear in them, of course).

Instagram image recognition learning algorithm

We may not have reached the peak of personalization algorithms, but you can start creating more personalized content now. Be creative in how you adapt your offers or ad campaigns for different audiences, rather than reduce Gen Z and millennials into a bucket. Try creating variations of ads with different copy or imagery to reflect the audiences you are targeting. If it resonates with the viewer, it’s much more likely to get a click.

2. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Using Ephemeral Content

Available for a limited time only!

Ephemeral content such as Stories or Snaps are only available for a limited time after they’re published. Live video may be recorded for posterity, but only by watching it live can you interact with the host of the video and other viewers. Brands, influencers and celebrities alike use ephemeral content to encourage consistent social engagement.

SnapChat was the king of this type of content, but has seen a decline since Instagram and Facebook both released their own ephemeral content feature called Stories. Instagram Stories has 250 million daily users as opposed to Snapchat’s 166 million. That said, SnapChat still dominates the youth market. Approximately 72 percent of Americans aged 12-24 have it on their phone, compared to 66 percent for Instagram, and 46 percent of Snapchat users in the United States don’t use Instagram.

While millennials grew up with social networks like Facebook that encourage you to keep a record of your life online, Gen Z engages a lot with SnapChat and Stories as it allows them to engage with their friends privately with no paper trail. This way they can ensure they won’t leave an awkward photo to be dug up years later, or face the scrutiny of their parents.

Brands have been doing a lot with social media stories. On Instagram, Cheerios sent out personalized compliments to their users, and Loft used Stories to encourage viewers to tag their friends in a style challenge.

Loft tag a friend instagram stories

For an example of a brand going outside of their comfort zone to entice a younger internet-savvy crowd, look no further than Marriott on SnapChat stories. Rather than promote their hotel, they ran a campaign where they did a tour around D.C. with hilariously captioned images.

Live video is a fantastic way to earn engagement with fun content, and be authentic on social media. Spend time with bakers in the Dunkin Donuts test kitchen, or watch ASOS employees dress a dummy in 100 garments in just 30 minutes.

Our first-ever LIVE tour of the DD test kitchen + a big announcement for engaged Valentines!

Posted by Dunkin' Donuts on Thursday, February 11, 2016

There are plenty of opportunities to boost your brand using ephemeral content, but the key is to be authentic. Traditional ads won’t cut it here. You need to find ways to engage and relate to your audience.

3. More (Quality) Video

As traditional cable continues to see a decline in engagement, social media video is continuing to rise at an impressive rate. As of this year, video streaming represents 74 percent of all internet traffic.

A whopping 95 percent of Gen Z watch YouTube, and 50 percent of the survey group said they could not live without it, as compared to different social media networks. Fifty-four percent of millennials visit YouTube at least once a day.

Facebook video garners a lot of engagement, with 100 million hours of videos watched every day, but this is still a sliver compared to YouTube’s 650 million hours. At any rate, that leaves a lot of potential for brands to get in on the action.

Videos for brands on social must be entertaining or inspiring in order to win over younger viewers. HubSpot has great roundups of amazing social video campaigns for both Instagram and Facebook.

A well-produced video campaign on YouTube can go viral if it touches the heart-strings, such as Unicef’s Unfairy Tales animated series raising awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.

If you’re posting your video on social media, consider adding subtitles, as nine out of 10 Facebook videos are watched without sound.

4. Unsurprisingly, Mobile is Still King

It’s official: 80 percent of social media time is spent on a mobile device. If you’re not already, you need to be thinking mobile-first when planning your content.

Make sure that you optimize your post or ad copy and images for mobile – minimal copy and simple, but colorful images make your messages more enticing when a user is scrolling on a small screen. You must also ensure that the pages you link to are responsive or optimized for mobile.

Mobile responsive site

Image credit: Mashable

Remember, the average attention span of Gen Z is eight seconds, so if you want to grab their attention, you need to make sure you test vigorously to see what works for your brand.

5) More AR Than You Can Shake a Stick At

Augmented reality, or AR, uses live footage taken on your phone and enhances it or adds 3D elements to the environment using technology. The most famous example is the Pokemon Go app which swept the world last year, but AR features are making their way into social, as well. For example, the ability to take a selfie of yourself as a White Walker from Game of Thrones on Facebook:

Facebook Photo Filter Game of Thrones

Some of the more recent AR trends on mobile include Apple’s new animoji, and Google’s soon-to-be-launched AR stickers for photos.

While creating your own filters and AR characters won’t be within the scope of every marketer, if your brand is known for being fun and at the forefront of internet humor, make sure you keep up to date with the newest releases, and see if you can make them work in your own marketing.

6. Influencer Marketing That Adds an Air of Authenticity

What an age to be alive, where anybody can become a celebrity. Many brands have been thrown for a loop by the rise of YouTube celebrities and influencers – those who gained popularity outside of the normal publicity channels through social channels and YouTube.

In this video, popular video game YouTuber Arin Hanson promotes a new line of Nintendo Amiibo figurines:

Gen Z and millennials alike relate to these grassroots celebrity stories – Gen Z in particular. According to Google, 73 percent of Gen Z feel a close relationship with at least one YouTuber, and about 40 percent would even say that they feel they relate more to those YouTubers than their own friends.

Many social media stars and celebrities use ephemeral content to show behind-the-scenes footage of their work or lives, encouraging users to tune in regularly. If your brand has relationships with influencers, this is also a great opportunity for product placement if it’s not forced. Influencers won’t work with brands that don’t fit in.

You need only look at popular brands online and see whom they’re pairing up with. Consider items from this HubSpot influencer campaign list, including when Old Navy tapped online comedian Meghan Rienks, who has 2 million YouTube followers, to style up for different occasions. Or Sperry encouraging micro-influencers who are fans of their brand to produce content for their Instagram channel.

For guides on how to get started with influencers, look to Kissmetrics.

7. Interactive Posts and User-Generated Content

Whereas millennials grew up with cable and classic, passive advertising, Gen Z are more savvy in choosing the content they want to watch, when they want it. They’ll skip ads or ignore them when possible.

Instead of running passive ads, brands need to come up with interactive ways to engage with customers on social. Polls are an easy way to get feedback from your followers, and also give followers a chance to choose what type of content or offers they want to see from a brand, such as this one from eBay:

eBay Twitter Poll

Perhaps the most powerful type of interactive content is user-generated content. According to one report, User-generated content on Instagram can receive up to 6.9 times more engagement than branded content on Facebook.

Users who use a branded hashtag might have their images reshared by that brand, gaining exposure for themselves while also helping promote the brand organically. This can also be run as a social media contest as an extra incentive, and instead of photos you can encourage creative submissions such as videos or art.

What trends do you think will engage millennials and Gen Z in the new year? Leave a comment and start the conversation.

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