How Gen Z is Shaping the Future of Social Media

As is often said, the only constant in life is change. Nobody knows this more than people in Generation Z (Gen Z), defined by the Pew Research Center as young people born between 1997 and 2012. This energetic and idealistic generation is redefining what social media is and how it works.

Gen Z and Social Media

Gen Z sees social in terms of mobile and video far more than the older Millennials. As a generation, they appear to prefer peer reviews over sponsored influencers who get paid to like and endorse a specific product. Gen Z is, overall, savvier and more jaded toward traditional online marketing than their older Millennial friends, siblings and cousins. Gen Z prefers participating in live-streams and using cryptocurrencies more than their older generational counterparts. Generationally speaking, Gen Z wants to see the social landscape become more inclusive, more equal and more decentralized.

Generational Life Experiences

There are certain shared life experiences that Gen Z has encountered that have shaped the people they have become and are becoming. The older Gen Z can remember the market crash that occurred in 2008-2009, and it made a distinct impression on their generational attitudes toward money. They watched as their parents struggled to pay the mortgage during the market crash, and they’ve watched as the Millennials have struggled with exorbitant student loan debt, flat-to-declining wages and rising housing costs. As a result, Gen Z already has developed, even at their young age, a pragmatic attitude toward money.

What Does This Mean for Social?

While Millennials view social as a place to hang out with friends and maybe to shop, Gen Z sees it as a place of commerce. Gen Z people, as a generational whole, have grown up having a smartphone in their hands since childhood. They are inclined to view cryptocurrency and blockchain as a valid form of payment. Gen Z understands intuitively the value of digital assets as a valid form of work product for which they expect to be paid an equitable amount.

Gen Z Changes to Social Landscape

Already Gen Z’s involvement in social is changing the digital landscape. While their Gen X parents still use Facebook as a centralized meeting place, Gen Z young adults prefer using a patchwork of decentralized digital apps, or “Dapps”. They prefer TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, over Insta stories. Gen Z’s young adults essentially ignore Facebook, as the new overtakes the old. As we’re leaning into 2020, it’s important to take note that social will look quite differently by 2025 than it looks now — in only roughly 5 years’ time.

Generation Z Has Buying Power

Gen Z is currently aged between 7 and about 23 years old in 2019. Forbes notes that Gen Z already has a collective buying power estimated to be between $29 billion and $150 billion — significantly larger than the buying power of Millennials. Some pundits are even predicting that cryptocurrency and blockchain will be accepted to pay taxes within the next 10 years.

Decentralization is Key

Think with Google recently reported that while Millennials were mobile pioneers, Gen Z are mobile natives. Ninety-five percent of Gen Z teens have a smartphone or access to a smartphone today. In contrast, only seventy-three percent of Millennials had a smartphone in 2014-2015. Forty-five percent of Gen Z says they are on mobile almost constantly and another forty-four percent say they go online several times a day. In 2014-2015, in contrast, only twenty-four percent of Millennials said they were online constantly. Gen Z has grown up always having social and they continue using social primarily on mobile devices rather than on a laptop.

Gen Z Peer-to-Peer Influencers

It appears that Gen Z will never go to one centralized app for all their commerce and entertainment. Instead, they prefer a decentralized network of peer-to-peer interaction. Gen Z influencers are creating their own Twitch micro-broadcasting, their own YouTube channels and their own WeChat groups. This new generation is sensitive to their data being harvested by 1 or 2 corporate giants like Google or Facebook more than their Millennial predecessors ever worried about it.

Active Participants in Social

Rather than passively watching an Instagram or Snapchat video, Gen Z expects to participate. They create their own 15 to 30-second videos, showing off their gymnastics, lip-synching — or their new athletic shoes. Gen Z influencers on TikTok get paid for their content by accepting digital gifts, like the way Millennials pay for programming through Patreon.

Macro Trend toward Micro-Content

The Gen Z macro trend toward micro-content appears to be growing with no end in sight. Gen Z expects to participate both online and offline in the content they create and curate and appear more willing to pay — and be paid — in cryptocurrency that any generation before them.

Gen Z Making Fundamental Change

The only way to learn how to market to Gen Z is to ask them. From digital marketing agencies to big brands, the trend toward Gen Z’s reverse mentoring will continue for the foreseeable future. As they continue to mature into adulthood and beyond, Gen Z will keep on making fundamental changes to the social media landscape.