24th July 2017
We’re in a meeting, listening to a social media strategy involving Instagram. Photos are carefully composed, filters applied and our speaker meticulously plans down to the precise hour when to upload his posts so as to get the maximum exposure online. He’s expecting hundreds of likes from his thousands of followers. If he doesn’t get that in the first 10 minutes, the post’s removed, his brand ego takes a beating and he’s annoyed for the rest of the day.
This isn’t a senior marketing or brand manager from a large company. It’s an 18 year old student sat in a bar in Leeds. There’s a moment of silent disbelief as we take in what we hear.
2004 was a pretty special year. It was the birth not only of Facebook, but also the youngest of our Gen Z-ers who are now becoming teenagers and starting to shape and define who they are as individuals separate from their family. With millennials and older, this definition occurred in the real world; on messy nights out or idling the time away hanging out with friends, all recorded with a collection of blurry unfiltered photos popping up on Facebook the next day.
But for the digital natives of Gen Z, you won’t see those blurry kinds of images on Instagram or a random sequence of photos in a Snapchat story. Each member of Gen Z has an identity to uphold in view of everyone online, friends and strangers alike. They have their own brand to represent which is reviewed and critiqued by their peers. For Gen Z, it’s the online world that dictates their real world.
And that’s how we should be starting to think of the Gen Z-ers that will soon be starting at Uni. For them, social media has reached it’s purest definition as their social lives are defined by the media they produce.
“If I went on a girls’ profile and she had 400 likes, there’s instantly connotations to having that many likes” says our student from earlier. “She must be popular, she must go out...Whereas if you go on someone’s profile and they’ve got one like...regardless of what’s right or wrong there’s a connotation attached to that.”
For Gen Z, social media isn’t something you do to pass away the time, it’s an integral part of their lives that shapes the way they think and act in the real world. If you want to have a presence in that decision making process, it’s vital to have a presence in their social media world.
Take five minutes to watch the rest of our student interview here. It’s fascinating stuff.