The Z: Using Social Media to Attract a Gen Z Audience
The Z: Social Media Savvy
What do you consider a good first impression? A firm handshake and saying, “Nice to meet you,” or maybe an insightful conversation avoiding talk about how the weather’s been lately?
When I approach industry professionals to network at meetings and events, I stick out my right hand, smile and introduce myself confidently. I know that, in most cases, this face-to-face interaction will be the first impression I make with every new person I meet.
Little do they know that they likely already made their first impression on me long before we shook hands and shared our names and titles.
According to Hootsuite’s Social Media Trends 2023 report, 60% of Gen Z consider digital first impressions more important than in-person first impressions, especially when it comes to brands, companies and corporations. The second something new piques our interest, we are tapping away at our phone screens, looking for social media posts, articles and websites to learn more before deciding whether or not we are interested in engaging further.
Your first experience with a Gen Zer may be face-to-face, but the likelihood that we’ve already “met” and judged you is high—we just met you digitally first.
Hence the importance of being social media savvy, or knowing how to utilize social media to your advantage to better engage with Gen Z. Here are a few ways you can turn to social media to actively seek out, invite and include Gen Z in your time online.
No pun intended. Authenticity is at the heart of everything Gen Z does on social media. We call it like it is, and too much branding, photoshopping and staging will likely turn us away from you and what you’re trying to promote. If we can’t see the real you—or the real purpose behind your company, meeting, event, etc.—the likelihood we can see the way in which we could benefit from interacting and engaging with you and your brand is slim to none. If anything, the “fakeness” to your page will turn us away from ever coming back to it entirely.
When it comes to sharing who you are and what you stand for on social media, raw and real stories are the ones Gen Z will gravitate toward. One of the ways we learn and appreciate most is through the lived and shared experiences of others, especially when they are willing to be vulnerable in sharing their experiences and the lessons they learned. That’s how we learn, too, and the more you share about yourself, your career and the work you do, the more Gen Z can learn from, relate to and respect you.
For Gen Z, it’s not all about looking perfect on social media and only sharing the “good” parts. According to a MediaCom study, more than half of Gen Z considers the trustworthiness of an individual or brand before further engaging with it, and that trustworthiness is often determined by a brand’s transparency and the organic content they share and deliver digitally.
Don’t be afraid to share a struggle you may be facing or to ask questions you may feel embarrassed to publish online and publicly. In fact, doing so may help you find the answer you’re looking for or connect you to someone in a similar situation.
If you’re planning an event for Gen Zers and struggling to figure out how to welcome them, don’t be afraid to share your fears and struggles to a social media platform like Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. You should even consider directly addressing Gen Z using hashtags or keywords when you do!
As the social media-savvy Sharing Generation, we can easily search for and find social media posts addressed to us, and many of us are willing to share our thoughts and help you work through what you are struggling to understand about us as a generation. But if you act like you already know all there is to know about Gen Z, there’s no need for Gen Z to interact with you, therefore limiting your ability to interact with us online and ultimately jeopardizing your relationship with us as a generation.
Don’t assume you know what Gen Z wants, or that Gen Z knows what you’re delivering. Your content should be authentic, engaging, real and true. After all, we are the digital natives. Don’t risk us figuring out that what’s online isn’t real.
Appeal to Users of All Platforms
Gen Z often consumes every piece of digital content that comes their way, but it doesn’t mean we like everything that we see. Some of us will choose platforms like Instagram and Twitter over TikTok, which, contrary to what most older generations believe, isn’t actually the most popular platform used by my generation. (Surprise! It’s YouTube!) And many of us will let our email inboxes fill up pretty quickly. (At the moment, I have 1,386 unopened emails sitting in my personal inbox.), so understanding how to use direct messages and chat boxes is important, too. If you want to reach us, you better learn how push notifications work.
That being said, just because Gen Z knows how to peruse nearly every social media platform on the planet doesn’t mean we use every platform every day. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I signed into TikTok, but I scroll through my Instagram feed multiple times a day. Utilizing different social media platforms will help you reach different Gen Z audiences, which is why it’s important to know how to use all of them to your advantage—especially when you’re attempting to engage with a generation whose attention span is a whopping 1.3 seconds, according to Insider Intelligence.
If your posts, shares and advertisements aren’t engaging, Gen Z won’t bother giving you the time of day. Familiarize yourself with successful brands and accounts on every platform to better understand their social media practices. If you’re looking for a place to start, these brands and influencers were listed as some of the most authentic and followed social media accounts by Gen Z: Glossier, Aerie, Calvin Klein, David Dobrik, Olivia Jade and Emma Chamberlain. (I personally love half of these myself!)
Do your research on these brands to better understand how to best sell your own. Do stagnant posts or reels perform better on Instagram? Should you stick to 30-second TikToks or aim for the one-minute mark (61% of us prefer short videos under one minute long, according to Statista.)? The answers to these questions will depend on the specific Gen Z audience members you want to engage and interact with, and the best way to learn how to attract those Gen Zers is to pay attention to what brands similar to yours are doing.
If you are promoting your next meeting or event and hoping to welcome a Gen Z audience, pick out the aspects of your event that will resonate most with Gen Z (experiential elements, educational sessions, DEI initiatives, sustainability practices, etc.) and emphasize those topics across your social media platforms.
Consider sharing a reel on Instagram splicing together videos of the experiential elements of your event. Tag guest speakers on LinkedIn and share the topics they will be discussing that Gen Z is interested in, then use hashtags to invite Gen Z to ask questions below your post and engage with you and your guest speakers prior to your event. This way, you are familiarizing Gen Z with your event and brand, sharing information about your event in an engaging and interactive manner and hopefully reaching an audience of Gen Zers who will want to attend your event to learn more about what you and your brand can offer.
[Related: The Z: Planning for the Gen Z Attendee]
Consistency Is Key
When most people think of consistency in relation to social media, they consider the frequency of their posts and how often they appear to be online and using the platform. What consistency actually encompasses goes beyond that, though. Gen Z will consider how frequently you post as well as the consistency of your tone of voice in what you share, the design of your posts and the content itself.
How are you framing your messages, and are the messages you share digitally consistent with what you and your brand stand for? If you are attempting to reach a Gen Z audience, posting your message frequently will not only familiarize Gen Z with what you’re sharing, but with your account as well. The more you appear on their social media feed, the more familiar Gen Z will become with you and your brand and the more trust you will build.
Gen Zers aren’t going to follow someone who isn’t actively engaging with them on social media and posting frequently. These “ghost” accounts will go unnoticed and unfollowed, but when you’re consistent in how often you post and what you share, Gen Z will notice, and the more they notice you, the more likely they are to interact and engage.
For example, if you are promoting your event to a Gen Z audience via social media, ensure that you post about it a few times a week. Change the wording up a bit to add some variety to your posts, but share the thoughtful and relevant information about your event that appeals to Gen Z in every post you make, and ensure there is some consistency in how you design and frame your content.
If you are advertising your event on Instagram, for example, developing a brand and color scheme can help Gen Z find you and the posts related to your event easier than if you post a bunch of random photos and designs. Consistency makes you easily recognizable, and therefore familiarizes Gen Z with who you are, what you do and the company, brand or event you represent.
Gen Z is mobile-first, meaning they are more likely to find and follow you and your brand on their phones rather than a desktop or tablet. We are constantly connected, and most of what we sign up for, subscribe to and follow happens with the click of a button while perusing our social media channels.
When promoting your meetings and events and hoping to reach a Gen Z audience, ensure that the content you are delivering is mobile-friendly. If it isn’t, Gen Z will likely skip over your content (or maybe fail to see it entirely!). Market your meetings and events for mobile as much as you would for desktop in order to reach the younger audience you are targeting.
As intimidating as social media may be, it’s Gen Z’s superpower, and understanding how to utilize it to your advantage is the first step in building and reaching the next wave of industry professionals.
Logging out with love,
Mission Statement: "The Z: Planning for the Industry’s Next Generation" is a Meetings Today column discussing the meetings and events industry’s newest and youngest members—the incoming Generation Z. Written by Meetings Today’s Taylor Smith, a member of Gen Z herself, The Z explores how to welcome, work with, understand and plan for the industry’s next wave of professionals while serving as a guide for members of Gen Z themselves, planners and attendees alike.