Reach Gen Z and Younger People in the Spaces They Value

Why brands need a community-first approach to advertising

Community should be at the center of every brand’s advertising strategy. But what exactly does community mean today? And what does it mean for brands?

Communities form around shared values and experiences. The shows you watch, the video games you play, the products you buy, the places you frequent and even the stars you follow can make up the communities to which you belong. Proximity was once one of the most important factors in how—and where—communities formed. But that’s no longer the case.

Communities now form online, too, and these groups are just as important as communities that form offline. This is especially true for Gen Z and younger generations. With social media, smartphones, connected devices, messaging apps and livestreams abound, these young people have access to more ways than ever to connect and stay connected with one another. We direct just as much emotion, creativity and energy into our online communities as our offline communities (and in some cases, even more). With emotion and creativity at the heart of advertising, it’s an exciting time for brands who wish to strengthen their relationships with consumers.

Here are some things for brands to keep in mind when engaging younger consumers and participating in their communities.

Align with consumers’ shared values

Today’s consumers have more channels than ever to broadcast and amplify their values, and they’ll now call upon brands to share their values, too. But make sure your brand’s actions reflect those values.

Members of Gen Z are smart. They’ve grown up with technology at their fingertips and screens in front of their eyes. They have access to an incredible amount of information that has helped them become smarter consumers very early in life. These consumers don’t just have the receipts. They have the reports and firsthand accounts from members of their communities, too.

Younger consumers can spot inauthenticity in seconds—and they will hold you accountable.

Support—don’t infiltrate—communities

Younger adults are more likely to expect brands and advertisers to be inclusive, reflect their identities in their marketing and advertising, and be supportive of their interests and communities. But you need to do so authentically and align the community’s needs with your brand’s needs.

Find ways to show these groups that you know who they are, what gets them excited, and what makes them feel special. For example, you can show your support for members of a fitness or wellness community by celebrating big milestones. Whether you’re an athletics brand, a food brand or a beauty brand, you can help members of communities such as these by sending a thoughtful message or a small gift that shows you recognize how important their accomplishments are.

The same can be done for accomplishments in a competitive video game or role playing quest within the livestreaming community, or even a new record for the number of books read in a literary community.

Follow the creator’s lead

Gen Z has grown up surrounded by the concept of influence. It’s in their faces and on their screens nearly all the time. Their influencers, however, may not be the same types of influencers millennials or Gen Xers looked up to. To younger consumers, celebrities are born online—in short videos with catchy beats and livestreams that capture exciting moments in real time.

Creators are at the heart of thriving digital communities, and working with the right creators can both strengthen a brand’s relationship with a community and strengthen the communities themselves. Creators are experts when it comes to their communities and they know what does and doesn’t work for their followers. There is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to engaging communities, and creators know this better than anyone.

When it comes to working with creators and engaging their communities, the most successful brands truly collaborate with creators and empower them to, well, be creative. We are in one of the most exciting eras of influencer marketing, and brands can learn so much about cultivating community from the creators who do it every day. I know this first hand from my experience at Twitch working with incredibly passionate creators.

A community-led approach to advertising is about helping fuel connections. It’s about sometimes doing a little more listening and helping amplify important voices in a community. It’s about showing support in authentic ways and following through on your promises.

Sarah Iooss is the Head of Sales for the Americas at Twitch. She leads the ad sales team in building lasting client relationships—helping brands across industries adapt to more valuable, interactive ad experiences that are tailored to Twitch’s passionate and unique community.