Using social media is second nature for Generation Z. This demographic (born after 1994) have grown up with smartphones glued to their fingertips, and see every moment through a social lens.
In recent times, however, an interesting shift seems to have taken place. According to research by Origin, a growing number of younger people are choosing to delete their social media accounts.
In a survey of over 1,000 US consumers aged 18 to 24, 58% of respondents said they were seeking relief from social media, while 34% said they have now left or deleted an account entirely.
This presents an interesting challenge for brands. After all, the assumption for a long time has been: if you’re not on social, you’re not relevant.
But what if younger people are becoming less interested in the medium?
Here’s more on Origin’s findings, and how social media marketers can ensure they’re reaching this increasingly disillusioned demographic.
Negative impact of social on young people
Origin’s research suggests that Generation Z are feeling increasingly negative about social media, but this does not mean that the feeling is all bad.
Social media is still used by the majority, with 91% of Gen Z being active on at least one platform.
However, in light of wider trends and events, such as a growing desire to ‘digital detox’ and the recent Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandals, Gen Z is unafraid to point out the negative effects of social media.
One big thread appears to be in relation to mental health, as 29% of respondents report social having an impact on their self-esteem, and 41% say it makes them feel sad, anxious, and depressed.
Another reason is social media noise. 72% of Gen Z say that people their age are too distracted by social media, feeding into the wider recognition that a lot of social content can be irrelevant, invaluable, and even harmful if consumed too regularly. 22% also say that it makes them feel like they are missing out.
Mental health is not the only reason for the shift. Interestingly for brands, 26% of users say they’re not interested in the content they see on social, while 22% want more privacy.
The opportunity to re-engage
Despite many young users choosing to move away from social media, the good news for brands is that they’re not switching off for good.
65% of users are merely taking a break, choosing to temporarily freeze their accounts or delete social media apps (before reinstalling at a later date).
So, while those permanently quitting might be lost for good, how can social media marketers re-engage Generation Z?
Address the issue
While there are clear negative effects, social media can also have a positive impact on users. This can involve increased confidence, creating a sense of community, and enhancing communication.
So, instead of ignoring the issue, marketers should instead focus on how they can build on the positive.
Good examples to follow are brands like Lush, which creates inclusive content based on self-improvement, and issues that people care about.
Meanwhile, brands should not be afraid to address the problems that social media can cause, and even offer ways to help users combat these problems.
We’ve already seen this happen in a wider sense, with social media platforms themselves offering ways to switch off, such as Facebook’s time management tools. Brands should build on this, aiming to become part of the conversation rather than contributing to the problem.
Share your purpose
Lush is also a great example of a brand that works towards social good – something that is of great importance to Generation Z. As a result of growing up with intense levels of media consumption, this generation seems to be far more conscious of social issues relating to the environment, ethical production, mental health, and other important causes.
A report by Saatchi New York found that 79% of Gen Z would engage with a brand that could help them make a difference. Unsurprisingly then, brands that incorporate this into their social content have a greater chance of resonating and therefore engaging younger users.
There is a fine line, of course, as with increasing knowledge also comes increasing cynicism. Generation Z is a demographic wary of brands that are inauthentic and who merely wade in on topics bearing no relation to their overall brand identity or beliefs.
Many brands fall into the trap of creating a one-size-fits-all strategy, believing that a presence on all social channels is the most important thing. This is not true, of course, especially considering that Generation Z use social in a fragmented way – usually favouring one channel over another (and spending intense amounts of time there).
A study by Response Media also suggests that there are stark differences in the way Generation Z use different social media platforms. For example, while they use Instagram to show off a more curated and aspirational self, they tend to use Snapchat to share real-life and unfiltered moments.
As a result, brands should also create content that aligns with these trends, and that is tailored to each platform.
Align with shopping behaviour
Generation Z might be moving away from mindless social media content, and yet they do seem to be more accepting of another kind – shoppable.
This demographic is reportedly four times as likely to convert on social than millennials, presenting a huge opportunity for ecommerce brands to drive sales.
With Gen Z largely following these brands for research purposes, those that create accurate and engaging product-based content are likely to succeed. Similarly, those that offer something of additional value are even more likely to do so.
Make-up brands like NYX and Mac, which create informative content like tutorials and advice-based videos, are a good example. Similarly, these brands tend to use influencers to market their products, as well as people whose values and mind-sets are relatable to Gen Z.