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Gen Z Characteristics Creative Marketers Can Learn From

Which Social Platforms Do Gen Z Use Most?

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z has had access to social media and the internet for most of their lives. And because of that, marketers can’t recycle content the same way they’ve done for past generations. Gen Z’s most used platforms Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram all serve a different purpose in their lives, so adjusting the content to work for each medium is key to successfully reaching this powerful consumer group.

  • Snapchat: Gen Z, having evolved with the company since its inception in 2011, Snapchat is the original Gen Z platform and basically set up the blueprint for how Gen Z communicates. Snapchat makes it easy to communicate in a way that helps them truly express themself. It’s in-app design tools allow them to get creative with the content they share privately to friends and publicly via Stories. Note: Self-expression is vital to this generation.
  • YouTube: Gen Z is big on creating online communities. They don’t see much of a difference between online friends and real-life friends, which is why new short-form video apps like TikTok and Triller are taking off with this group of consumers. Gen Z uses YouTube to watch tutorials or view content that aligns with their interests, or even starting their own channels to show off creative abilities or share their lives with other people interested in the same things.
  • Instagram: The mobile-first generation prefers Instagram to Facebook to discover brands and online shopping. 75% of Gen Z likes buying from retailers online, and since Instagram’s addition of Instagram Shops, it’s made buying from the platform easy and hassle-free. Instagram is also another way for Gen Z to express themselves digitally. They don’t view it as creating a brand but rather showcasing their talents and creativity to the world. Check out Sellit, PLANOLY's new feature that helps any business sell directly from Instagram.

Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 honoree, Makenna Kelly, is an excellent example of how Gen Z uses readily available tools to create and express themselves. This 13-year-old started her own autonomous sensory meridian response channel (ASMR) called “Life with MaK,” where she uses her phone to record most of her videos. Kelly even says that her generation isn’t more creative than previous ones, but their way of showing it to the world represents early access to the internet and social platforms.

PLANOLY Pro-Tip: Gen Z’s mobile-first mentality is critical when deciding what mediums to market on. Try prioritizing phone and social when speaking to this generation because this is where you’ll reach them best.

Gen Z Characteristics Social Media

The Emoji

Known for their creative use of emojis, Gen Z uses emojis unironically and find them useful when crafting a message to their audience. So what do certain emojis mean? And how can companies and marketers use them to their advantage? Well, first, you have to understand how this generation is using them, and your best bet is sorting through a Gen Z comments section. You’ll see common ones like the sequence of a single eye, lip, a single eye emoji plastered across all social media, and not so common ones like fairy emojis. But what does it all mean?

The understanding changes from post to post, but when you begin to read through them, all the users say the same thing just reiterated in different ways. Like “it’s the _____ for me” or “_____ sitting there like 👁 👄 👁”. Many young Millennials have started using these phrases to garner familiarity among their younger following like Instyle Magazine's Social and Special Projects Editor, Peyton Dix, and comedian Jordan Firstman.

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The Scrappy Aesthetic

Despite the Millennial generation quickly aging out, their clothes and aesthetics aren’t. The 90s and early 2000s have had a resurgence with this generation of teens and young adults. Most of them are probably wearing some thrifted Millennial’s clothes. This is also true in how Gen Z reimagines popular creative works into memes, photos, collages, and filters. They lean towards imagery over extensive texts and use the internet for their source of inspiration.

It’s important to note that instead of making brand new things from scratch, they borrow images and manipulate past relics to create something new. This generation doesn’t take ownership that seriously because anyone can make something only for someone else to take it and make it their own. It’s more about authorship and originality that stays true throughout their creations.

So Instead of marketers trying so hard to come up with something new they can take popular trends and rework them into something clever for their brand to market to the Gen Z generation. But don’t sleep on the trend, or you might be too late.

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Creative Activism

Gen Z is very loud when it comes to social issues on social media. They are more progressive than previous generations with the exception to Millennials, and quick to mobilize to create viral trends that strengthen a social cause. The most recent trend that took off was TikTok and Donald Trump’s Tulsa Rally. Many Gen Zers signed up for his Tulsa Rally without the intent of attending. This prank helped upend important voting data for the upcoming presidential election, which was precisely their goal.

Another way Gen Z remains active online is by highlighting causes, charities, and campaigns they care about while still having fun with emojis and memes. Just look at well-known creative activists Deja Foxx and BreeAnne Minisee. Foxx started Gen Z Girl Gang, a community with a mission “to redefine sisterhood for a new generation,” she told Refinery29. “We do it by experimenting with social media as a community-building tool and inverting the typical top-down structure to instead center our audience as our content creators.” Minisee started another online community Black is Lit, where she aims to create more Black representation on the platform and give youth

Gen Z Characteristics

The Overall Messaging

For content to be worthwhile to Gen Z, it needs to be funny and entertaining. The same way Gen Z creates content is the way they consume it. Hone in on those key characteristics to make content this community wants to share with friends and family. Don’t be afraid to use memes, emojis, or Gen Z lingo because nothing you say or do is inappropriate or unprofessional in their eyes – except for being on the wrong side of political issues. Whether it’s a social cause or viral dance, get playful with it! That’s what this generation responds to best.

Meme account @patiasfantasyworld and creator @DonteColley market to their audience in a way that’s playful but serious at the same time. Owner and meme facilitator, Patia, created a resource list to help dismantle systemic racism while running a meme account full of inappropriate jokes. Colley, a popular creator, makes funny dance videos that indirectly focus on real issues like the one featured here. Use these two accounts as inspiration for the content you’ll produce in the future.

We know there's a lot to unpack here, but just remember not too long ago, we were asking ourselves, "How do we market to Millennials?" And look how well that turned out! Start by using Gen Z characteristics to create relatable content.  Keep a lookout for our Gen Z news updates coming soon!


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Carrie Boswell

Carrie Boswell is the Digital Marketing Content Specialist at PLANOLY. She is always finding ways to include pop culture and the Gen Z perspective into the content we create for marketers and small business owners.

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