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Shaping Social Media: A Guide to Gen Z's Digital Footprint

Published January 25, 2024
Published January 25, 2024

Gen Z has often been dubbed "the Internet generation." For many of those who fit into the age bracket, the digital world is second nature—something that has rapidly evolved throughout their lives and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. A recent report from business intelligence company Morning Consult Pro, What to Know About Gen Z's Engagement with Social Media, Entertainment and Technology, found that 35% of Gen Z spend over four hours a day on social media, viewing it as a ubiquitous part of their everyday lives. The study presented data from a survey of 1,002 Gen Zers in the US, ages between 13 and 26. BeautyMatter outlines the key findings:

The Battle for the Top Spot

When it comes to Gen Z's favorite platform, YouTube takes the top spot. Ninety percent of respondents shared they use the app, followed by Instagram (78%), TikTok (70%), Snapchat (65%), Facebook (51%), and X (40%). Entertainment was the main reason for using these platforms (68%), followed by messaging and communication (19%). The generation is slowing down regarding sharing media on their own profiles, with only 6% of respondents stating they use social media to post. Two in five also admit they posted less often in 2023 than they did in 2022.

There's Value in Video

Of the top five most popular apps, all except X remained stable in number of users year over year. The share of Gen Zers who said they use the platform formerly known as Twitter fell 8% between 2022 and 2023, which the report attributes to many preferring video-based content. 

Traackr's US Influencer Marketing Report also affirmed Gen Z's preference for video-based content, stating that 75% of consumers' favorite type of social media content was short-form video.

Through video, marketing brands can cultivate awareness and establish connections with Gen Z by catering to its craving for online entertainment, using this opportunity to showcase products and go beyond the limitations of conventional marketing strategies. Morning Consult Pro listed the following as the type of content Gen Z is most drawn to:

  • Review videos (67%)
  • Storytime videos (67%)
  • Nostalgia videos (63%)
  • Advice videos (59%)
  • Daily routine videos (54%)
  • News videos (54%)
  • Haul videos (52%)
  • Get ready with me videos (49%)

The percentage of consumers who made an in-app purchase after viewing each type of video was:

  • Review videos (53%)
  • Haul videos (40%)
  • Storytime videos (33%)
  • Nostalgia videos (33%)
  • Daily routine videos (33%)
  • Get ready with me videos (37%)
  • Advice videos (32%)
  • News videos (23%)

Among most of the video types on the list, a common theme is the creator's personal experience with the featured product, suggesting that the generation values other people's opinions when it comes to making a purchase. This is why influencer partnerships have become such a success in the beauty industry, particularly with Gen Z—they allow consumers to feel as if they belong to a community of like-minded people. In fact, 58% of Gen Zers are likely to make purchases based on recommendations from influencers they trust. Therefore, if a brand chooses a content creator that aligns with its values and ambitions, target consumers are more likely to be reached because the influencer's content will then appeal to consumers with similar interests.

The Past Creates Profit

Despite the generation constantly seeking out the next big thing in beauty and the broader community's opinions of them, Gen Zers still hold a deep affection for nostalgia, and it holds a significant influence over their spending habits. Although this category may not lend itself to direct product promotion like others, marketing campaigns that tap into nostalgia have consistently achieved great success among this youthful demographic.

A prime example is Mattel's Barbie, which captured the hearts of Gen Z in 2023. When Barbie hit theaters last July, numerous brands seized the opportunity to collaborate with Mattel to promote the movie. NYX Professional Makeup created a collection with lip and cheek products, pigment palettes in shades of bright pink and pastel blues, and an iconic Barbie mirror flip phone. Posts regarding the collection gained the brand over 912,000 engagements and 7.86 million video views across over 280 posts from 179 beauty influencers on varying social media platforms. Across the board, social media saw an increase in Barbie-themed content, posted by over 680 beauty influencers between July 3 and July 9, which gathered more than 79 million video views and 10.5 million engagements.

Some Appreciate AI, Others Are Slowly Accepting It

Although keen to relive fond memories of the past, the majority of Gen Z have been quick to accept AI and the future opportunities it will bring to technological developments. Three in five reported having used an AI application in the past month, and 50% stated they'd used some form of AI-assisted chatbot recently. The most significant reason for using AI was to complete school assignments, with 35% stating they had done so at least once before. The study highlighted that Gen Z is the generation making the most of AI; however, many do not even realize they're doing so. Interactions with social media filters powered by machine learning are prone to being underreported, for instance.

A considerable portion of the Gen Z population is not only utilizing generative AI for their educational, professional, and recreational activities; they are also expressing favorable experiences with the technology. Seventy-five percent of Gen Zers who have made use of AI tools have characterized them as user-friendly, entertaining, and beneficial. A large proportion also acknowledged that they believe AI to be truthful (60%) and reliable (64%), with 58% stating the technology helps them make informed purchase decisions.

Some feel they are falling behind when it comes to keeping up with AI, yet they have accepted its significance and are willing to explore opportunities it presents. Previous research from Salesforce found that a lack of education and safety concerns among Gen Z is holding them back from utilizing the technology. Of those who do not use generative AI, 70% expressed their willingness to utilize it more if they had a better understanding, and 64% stated they would increase their usage if the technology offered enhanced security measures. While beauty brands may struggle to alter the technology's capabilities to suit Gen Z, the opportunity to educate them on AI technology remains, which, if executed correctly, could lead to faster adoption of the technology throughout industries.

Notes to Take Away

As endless trends pop up every day on social media, conquering Gen Z digital marketing can often feel overwhelming. Luckily, the generation loves to willingly share content with its self-made beauty network, which, of course, has the potential to go viral at any given moment, peaking profits without brands having to use a dime of their own money. However, when the time comes to invest, video-based content, nostalgic product drops, and reliable AI are areas to pay attention to. As Gen Z grows older and its spending power expands, it is important for brands to find the best way to connect with the generation across digital platforms. After all, Gen Alpha is following close behind, and they're keen to know more about their older siblings' favorite brands.


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