How to Win in Gen Z’s New Social Media Realm

Posted by: Angie Read

According to Scientific American, social connection is not only the most essential part of being human, it is also a key ingredient in happiness and health. This is particularly true when it comes to Generation Z and those within the Modern Consumer Mindset™. But when it comes to social media expectations, this generation is flipping the script. Based on our research, here are the key expectations marketers need to know:


Hungry? Get food delivered to your door in minutes through Deliveroo or Postmates. Need a lift somewhere? No worries – Uber or Lyft has your back. Want to veg out for a bit? Netflix enables your inner couch-potato, on your schedule.

With nearly everything available at the touch of a button, Pivotals aren’t the most patient people. Surveys show they are emerging as the heaviest users of on-demand services around the world. Brands beware – they’re likely to be the most demanding consumers of all. A 2017 study by IBM found that 60 percent of Gen Zers surveyed will not use an app or website that is too slow to load. Pivotals expect instant gratification, and marketers have no choice but to adapt to this expectation.


Speed isn’t the only factor playing into Pivotals’ expectations. Gen Z’s desire for brand transparency extends to their social media preferences as well. They are a serious bunch who know the world is an imperfect, and sometimes scary, place. One of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is portraying idealistic or fake narratives on their channels. Pivotals are realistic and expect authentic stories shared by real people – content more in line with their day-to-day life. No longer do teens want content designed for the unattainable ideal.

Privacy & Anonymity

A few years ago, rumor had it that Gen Z would be making a mass exodus from social media. Celebrities like Lena Dunham and Jaden Smith deleted their social media accounts because of the emotional turmoil of online haters. But instead of leaving, Pivotals simply transitioned to more private, anonymous and temporary options like Snapchat and Whisper. They also began to flock to “dark social” – messenger apps.

Privacy is one of the main reasons Snapchat is so popular among this group. First, it allows users to share messages and images, then deletes them within seconds. Also, it more closely resembles face-to-face interaction, which remains important to Pivotals. Whisper is similar, allowing users to send messages anonymously and receive anonymous replies. Posts, known as “whispers,” contain text overlaid on images. Users don’t have to publicly identify themselves, which gives them more freedom to express their thoughts and opinions on topics they might not otherwise feel comfortable talking about with people they know.

Both platforms offer advertising opportunities, but connecting with Pivotals through incognito apps is tricky and will continue to be a learning process for marketers. That’s why now is the time for marketers to begin learning the rules of Gen Z.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!


About Angie Read

Angie Read is Vice President of Growth Insight at Barkley. She has 20+ years of consumer marketing and public relations experience for brands including Sprint, Hallmark, Huhtamaki, Dearfoams, Foot Petals and baggalini, as well as...See Angie's full bio.