As organizations across the globe are struggling with developing tactics on how to properly employ and manage millennials, another wave of expressive and equally unique individuals is fast approaching the business world’s radar. This is Generation Z.
As digital natives, the children of Gen Z were born directly into a technology-dependent lifestyle. Unlike millennials, they do not know a reality where smartphones, touchscreens and WiFi don’t exist.
As a result, they have developed their own set of characteristics, mannerisms and trends.
From what I’ve learned by creating and running different organizations, as well as currently working at a San Francisco-based tech startup, it is crucial for marketers and business alike to truly understand this generation before having any sort of meaningful impact or connection with them.
Here are a few of the most prevalent Gen Z habits for marketers to keep an eye on.
We get a lot of our news from social media
“Ay, check your tags!”
We get our news through Twitter and Facebook and share it by tagging each other. As more and more information populates the internet, marketers and news outlets need to make sure that they are sharing information in a way that actually connects with their audience.
This is why publications like BuzzFeed are so successful. They deliver news and reviews to readers in an engaging manner, with lots of pictures and short sentences.
The faster we can comprehend and gain a general understanding of a subject, the faster we can move on to reading or learning about something else.
We FaceTime instead of texting
“Wait, this will take too long to type out: Can I just FaceTime you?”
Obviously, we won’t FaceTime each other to ask what time someone is free to hang out, or if they could send you the math homework assignment you missed yesterday. But even our tech-savvy generation recognizes the value in face-to-screen-to-face communication.
Understanding this shift in communication is key for marketers to grasp the nature of the demographic they are trying to reach.
We don’t watch TV
We watch our shows through Netflix and other streaming websites.
“Just binged 13 episodes of The Office. Get on my level.”
Knowing this, marketers should not be allocating large amounts of money to TV or commercial advertising when they could be putting it toward something much more effective.
No one asks for your number anymore
“OMG LOL he followed me on Insta—it’s real.”
Although some may consider asking for someone’s number to be a crucial element in the flirting process, we seldom do this. For casual acquaintances and friends, following each other on Instagram and being friends on Facebook is enough. You can stay updated on each other’s lives and message each other if necessary.
Being in someone’s contacts list is indicative of a higher level of friendship. If I have your number, it means I make plans with you often, I like to FaceTime you or I need to AirDrop pictures to you because we did something fun together.
We don’t read
“What’s a book?”
Just kidding, we know what books are. But we watch videos or listen to audiobooks instead. It’s a more efficient and more entertaining way to get the same information you would find in a book. You can also do it while exercising or commuting without the bulk of a physical book.
We have two Instagram accounts
“She didn’t let me follow her finsta … awk.”
One account, the “real” or “main” is meant to preserve our public images. Followers of this account can be anyone from co-workers to random acquaintances from class.
The other account, the “finsta,” or fake Instagram, is meant to be a window into the owner’s real life. Counterintuitive, I know. This account is home to pictures and videos of the less glamorous elements of life—embarrassing moments to long rants about life. Followers of this account are generally very closer friends of the owner.
College is more important to us than you think
“What’s your major?”
We’re a very goal-oriented generation. We know that college can accelerate our careers, and we are very conscious of our choices that impact our education.
That being said, many of us take advantage of technological improvements allowing us to take classes online. They’re more convenient and conducive to those who want to earn a living while furthering their education.
We take pictures of everything
“Pics or it didn’t happen.”
The importance of the aesthetic value of an experience is rising rapidly. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and we know that plastering our Instagram accounts with perfectly edited photos of food, foreign countries and exciting adventures with friends is a way of increasing our social status.
Our obsession with Polaroids captures this perfectly. We don’t just want to take pretty pictures. We want the pictures of our pictures to be pretty, too.
So, if you want to be cool, it’s no longer enough to look pretty. You have to live pretty, too.
We’re a confident generation
“LOL did you see his caption? He’s so ignorant”
Although we have a long way to go, we’re the product of the evolution of not only technology, but also of social movements. We are one of the most liberal generations and, for the most part, diversity is embraced and celebrated. Ultimately, we admire those who are confident with themselves and live their life the way they want to live it.
While this list is only an introduction to the nuanced and intricate world that is Gen Z, these are, nonetheless, crucial points that every marketer should keep in mind when attempting to put together an effective campaign.
Vandita Pendse, 17, is the Gen Z product guru at tech startup Blend, which has raised more than $15 million from venture capitalists and celebrities including NEA, Foundation Capital, Thomas Tull and Russell Westbrook.