Move aside, millennials: There’s a new generation for marketers to obsess over. Born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, Generation Z includes more than 2 billion people worldwide and holds more than $44 billion in annual purchasing power, according to a study from IBM and the National Retail Federation.
Unlike their predecessors, they’ve been brought up in an entirely digital world and, as a result, are relentlessly addicted to tech and building their online personas. (In a recent New York Times story titled “Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?”, one psychiatry expert compared iPhones and their ilk to “portable dopamine pumps.”) But despite an obsession with appearances, Gen Z-ers also take pride in being socially aware, eschewing narrow definitions of race and gender and creating meaningful connecting with others—just not always IRL.
To help navigate what’s in (and what’s out) with this fast-moving cohort, we’ve put together a cheat sheet of the top technology platforms, content creators, brands and celebrities to know, from iconic names like Nike to the next wave of beauty influencers. —Emma Bazilian
Even as Facebook-owned Instagram crouches in on Snapchat, the messaging app continues to add new tools to keep its core group of millennials glued to their smartphones. Snapchat recently rolled out a feature called Custom Stories that lets friends create Stories—Snap’s parlance of collections of photos and videos—together. Coming up next: Snapchat is bringing its wacky, popular selfie lenses to the real world, letting users add colorful rainbows to flowers to IRL objects. —Lauren Johnson
Instagram’s continued innovation has allowed it to stay relevant with both younger and older generations. More than 700 million people now use the app on a monthly basis, while 200 million use Instagram Stories on any given day. In fact, according to recent data collected by the analytics firm SocialBakers, Instagram has surpassed Facebook (its parent company) in terms of engagement, with brands getting three times more and celebrities seeing 3.6 times what they get on Facebook. —Marty Swant
Think of Musical.ly as a newer, cooler version of Vine. Anyone can become a pop star with the lip-syncing app and its 200 million users—primarily teens—can’t seem to get enough of the short looping videos, which let users sing along with their favorite songs and then share them to social media sites. Investors are taking note of the app’s pop-culture appeal as the company was reportedly valued at $500 million in May 2016. —L.J.
Instead of settling for Google Hangouts or one-on-one convos through Apple’s FaceTime feature, many teens are turning to Houseparty, the group video chat. As of December, the app already had more than 1 million daily users. The app has been so popular that even the biggest social giants like Facebook have been trying to figure it out. (According to Recode, Facebook last year offered teens a $275 Amazon gift card to complete a survey about what makes Houseparty so special.) —M.S.
The Content Gurus
AwesomenessTV launched five years ago as a multi-channel network aimed at creating content for younger millennials; but when combined with its film production arm and awareness of the purchasing power behind Gen Z, Awesomeness is now a media company focused on creating the best content for its audience. This year, the company debuted its first theatrical wide-release film, Before I Fall, which co-starred Kian Lawley, a YouTuber with over 3 million subscribers. —Sami Main
Astronauts Wanted helps connect a Gen Z audience to their favorite creators who partner with other relatable companies and brands to complete the streaming experience. Through research, Astronauts Wanted knows what interests their audience, from music entertainment shows to programs that help teens understand the news in new, familiar formats to them. To Astronauts Wanted, Gen Z views things “a little more sober” than other generations, and the programming reflects that point-of-view. —S.M.