What Generation Z’s Migration Away From Social Means for Marketers

Opinion: They’ll be back: These platforms are still relevant

34 percent of Gen Zers are deleting their social media accounts - Credit by SeventyFour/iStock
Headshot of Dara Treseder

For Generation Z, swiping, tapping and scrolling are about as second nature as breathing. For those born after 1997, life without the internet is a foreign concept. 85 percent of Gen Zers use social platforms to learn about new products, and about one-half say they “can’t live without” YouTube.

So it might come as a surprise to find out that 34 percent of Gen Zers are deleting their social media accounts and an additional 64 percent are taking a break from it, according to market research group Origin. Their motivations range from finding it a waste of time (41 percent) to being overwhelmed by the negativity (35 percent) to simply losing interest (26 percent).

Whatever the reason, though, findings such as these may induce a cold sweat in marketers who rely on social channels to connect with audiences, but by understanding this emerging audience more fully, you can still strategically position yourself to reach Gen Z effectively.

The flight of Gen Z

Gen Zers’ migration away from social media is part of a larger trend. Their “digitally native” status transcends selfies and Snapchat; it also means that they’ve grown up witnessing the dangers of overexposing yourself online. A report by n-gen found that they’re more likely to cover their laptops’ webcams, and when private social channels are available, teens are more inclined to use them than to publicly tag friends.

Consider also that Origin’s findings dovetail with the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the political data firm improperly obtained the personal information of 87 million people in an effort to influence elections. The event spurred many (including Elon Musk) to delete their Facebook accounts.

Couple that with the fact that Gen Zers also possess strong values and hold brands to high ethical standards, and it’s easy to see how they’ve become disillusioned with social media.

Regaining Gen Z’s trust

Cambridge Analytica didn’t cause the mass migration away from social media, but it certainly won’t bring Gen Zers back. The onus is on marketers to re-establish trust with this generation if they wish to connect in meaningful ways. Here’s how:

  • Find your social media niche and own it: Don’t waste time spending tons of time and money creating content for multiple platforms. Instead, concentrate on one—and do it really well. Remember: Origin’s research suggests that most Gen Zers who aren’t on one or any of these platforms are only putting their social media life on hold temporarily. They’ll be back. These platforms are still relevant, and once Gen Zers return, you’ll have built up valuable, consistent social content. Keep in mind, too, that Gen Zers share different content on different platforms, so engage with those platforms accordingly. You’d be better off focusing your content on one of these platforms instead of trying a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Wear your mission on your sleeve: Young consumers align themselves with brands they believe in. They respond to brand messages that reflect a strong purpose and mission they can stand behind. In fact, a recent survey found that 94 percent of Gen Zers believe that companies should take a stand on social and environmental issues. This generation doesn’t inherently trust corporations, so it’s important to earn that trust by articulating an authentic, purpose-driven approach that rings true both to your business and your audience.
  • Bring influencers to life: The past few years, we’ve seen influencer marketing go from an experimental strategy to a tried-and-true marketing channel that can deliver real results—particularly among Gen Z consumers, who deeply trust social media luminaries. If Gen Zers are taking a break from social, bring their favorite influencers to them. Host an event online or in person. Reach out and connect. Don’t assume that you need to engage real-world heavyweights like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Instead, look to niche players who have a smaller but more engaged follower base that aligns with your target audience.

Gen Z isn’t just one of the most important consumer segments—making up 40 percent of all consumers in two years’ time—it’s also one of the most “tuned-in” generations to date.

But just because Gen Zers are taking a break from social doesn’t mean you’ve lost them for good. You just need to dig in, adapt and continue to strategically position your brand to speak to the youngest generation.

Dara Treseder is chief marketing officer at GE Ventures.


Dara Treseder is the chief marketing officer for GE Business Innovations.
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