How to win over skeptical Gen Z audiences on social media

Young consumers are ready to dump your brand if it’s not authentic, relevant and trustworthy. Here are three rules for reaching out on social platforms.


Consumers have been building relationships with brands for years, but there’s just something different about Generation Z.


This generation anthropomorphizes brands to an unprecedented degree, thinking of and speaking to them as if they were people. For instance, 78% of Gen Z women say they’ve “broken up” with a brand before, according to Inspira research.


There’s a reason Gen Z-ers assume a sense of familiarity with brands. Gen Z was the first demographic group born after the internet became commercialized. Individuals born after 1996 grew up alongside the internet and social media. Their upbringings were peppered with digital experiences that taught them to communicate and connect in ways that no other generation had before.


As a result, they see brands as accessible and expect more from them. According to an international study, Gen Z wants brands to be “fun,” “good,” and “authentic.” And Gen Z-ers are adept at detecting inauthenticity. About 72% of consumers would unfollow an influencer that posted disingenuous endorsements. If Gen Z thinks your company is acting fake, you risk public admonishment—whether that’s becoming a “Silence, Brand” meme or, worse, getting “canceled.”


Engaging Gen Z on social media


Although close in age to millennials, members of Gen Z have created their own signature style of engaging with social media. Gen Z-ers spend an average of 4.5 hours a day on social platforms (compared to millennials’ 3.8 hours), and they primarily follow online celebrities, creators and meme accounts (compared to millennials, who follow people who share their hobbies and interests).


Still, both generations have some overlap in habits. Millennials and Gen Zers use social media for two main purposes: consuming entertaining content and keeping up with loved ones. And both groups care deeply about making social media more authentic.


If you’re looking to catch the attention of Gen Z in a positive way, you’ll need to build an authentic relationship and express your unique mission. Use these tips to get in touch with this highly sought-after generation of consumers:


1. Commit to empathy and understanding.


If your brand wants to avoid getting labeled as inauthentic on social media, you have to genuinely get to know Gen Z users and observe how they use social media. Ideally, you should hire a Gen Z team member to help identify what sort of messaging sounds the most relevant and authentic.


If your brand is inserting itself in a political conversation just for the sake of publicity, Gen Z-ers will know. Just ask Pepsi and Kendall Jenner. What was intended to be a timely and politically relevant commercial ended up being highly controversial. As Gen Z saw it, Pepsi was trying to involve itself for the sake of capitalizing on a moment—not because the company cared about an important social movement.


2. Meet them where they are.


This is Marketing 101. For millennials, Instagram and Facebook were the platforms of choice. For Gen Z, it’s all about TikTok. In fact, Gen Z makes up more than 60% of TikTok users. Make sure your brand has a presence on the platform to target these digital natives.


A Microsoft study suggests you have eight seconds to capture Gen Zers’ attention. Use that time wisely, and don’t push content that is overly branded. Gen Z will see heavily branded content as overt and distasteful. Consider your brand’s purpose, go where the Gen Z-ers are, and aim for authenticity.


3. Form connections using live video.


Gen Z prefers openness on social media and genuine (not performative) content. This gives your brand a chance to harness the power of video, a medium designed to imitate in-person interactions and face-to-face connections. More than 80% of consumers would rather watch videos than read social posts.


Capitalize on user-generated content when you can to form connections with consumers. By reposting user content and commenting through your brand’s lens, you can actually save your video production budget while building rapport with Gen Z audiences.


Gen Z-ers are on a quest to make the internet more real. This can be a great opportunity for your brand to dig deep into its own mission and vision. If you’re in touch with what drives your brand, it’ll be easier to generate authentic content—and earn the trust of a very perceptive generation.


Jeff Snyder is the founder and chief inspiration officer at Inspira Marketing Group, a brand experience agency headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, and New York City.




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