Three differences in how Gen Z and Millennials use social media

Thought Leadership

In this post, GlobalWebIndex‘s Senior Trends Analyst, Katie Young takes a look at the different social media habits of Gen Z (generally considered to be those aged 16-20) and Millennial users (those aged 21-34), and the impact this could have on brand content.

As Gen Z begin to garner purchasing power, they are now attracting the type of attention that has long been bestowed on Millennials (Gen Y). While we used to think that Millennials were the social media obsessed ones, Gen Z are taking this to a whole new level, spending longer on it daily than any other generation. But with little separating Gen Zers from the youngest Millennials in terms of age, are there noticeable differences in how these two generations use social media?

Gen Z prefer fun content over friends
While Millennial teenagers used social media to update their statuses and to see what their friends were up to, social media is more of a time-filler and content consumption hub for Gen Zers. Unlike Millennials, Generation Z are actually more likely to be using social media to fill up time and to find entertainment, than to stay in touch with their friends.

Above all, Gen Z want to be entertained in the social space. But in the age of ad-free video streaming, brand interruptions are not necessarily well tolerated. It’s imperative that brands create content that cuts through the noise and that Gen Z will want to watch and share. Red Bull is an example of a brand doing this right: it doesn’t create content around its products, it produces innovative original content that captures their customers attention. Its 7 million YouTube subscribers proves the power of this approach.

Gen Z use fewer social platforms but spend longer on them
The number of social media platforms might have grown significantly over the past decade, and even though they are an engaged bunch, Gen Z are choosy about where they are sharing their content. Despite GlobalWebIndex data showing that Generation Z spend longer each day on social media than Millennials (nearly 3 hours, vs 2 hours 39 mins), they actually choose to use less social media platforms/apps that their older counterparts (7 vs 8).

What Gen Z want for entertainment is apparent in their choice of social platforms: YouTube attracts by far the biggest Gen Z contingent. Elsewhere, they’re slightly less likely than Millennials to be Facebooking or Tweeting, but more likely to be Instagramming and Snapchatting.

Influencers beat direct brand interaction for Gen Z
Influencer marketing has become a hot go-to strategy for many brands, and there’s no better generation for this than Generation Z. Snackable, unobtrusive content is key to communicating with them, and an influencer sending out a relevant product recommendation to their following would fit the bill. The results are evident in our data, showing that Gen Z are more likely than Millennials to be using social media to keep up with their favourite celebrities, and they even prefer to follow actors than brands they like.

In contrast, a more direct brand-to-consumer approach is likely to be more effective when marketing to Millennials. Brands they like are one of their favourite accounts to follow on social, and they’re ahead of Gen Z for behaviours like visiting brand’s social network pages and sharing branded social posts. Even though each of the generations are engaged with social media, they tend to have niche needs from brands and influencers.