Social Media Marketing
12 min

Connections, Creators, and Commerce: How to Engage Gen Z on Every Social Platform

Deanna Cullen Head of Media Investment

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with social media since childhood. As digital natives, they’ve rewritten the rules of engagement and connectivity, shaping our digital world in ways that challenge convention and elevate authenticity.

Gen Z consumers have different values when it comes to online content than previous generations. They’re looking for more personalized engagement and authentic brand connections, and they’re drawn to content creators, influencers, and artists as trusted authorities.

Gen Z’s different digital attitudes mean a whole new ballgame for marketers. If you’re looking to engage the younger demographic, you’ll need to update your playbook to speak their language. That’s why we’ve put together a blueprint to help you engage Gen Z audiences in their natural habitat: social media.

From YouTube to Meta to TikTok, if you can update your strategy to resonate with Gen Z, you can capture the loyalty of the next generation of consumers.

YouTube has something for everyone in Gen Z

YouTube is a big opportunity for marketers looking to get Gen Z’s attention. Gen Zers spend a lot of time on YouTube, keeping up with their favorite creators, watching music videos, and learning new things.

They’re also heavily invested in fandom and connection with public figures they love: over the past 12 months, 47% of Gen Z, referring to online individuals aged 18 to 24, have watched fan-made videos dedicated to specific content, celebrities, or artists, according to Google/Ipsos.

Brands can take advantage of this audience’s loyalty to creators and celebrities by leveraging YouTube BrandConnect, a platform that facilitates creator discovery and outreach for brands. BrandConnect is a self-service platform facilitating paid branded content campaigns by connecting creators with brands through an influencer dashboard. By extending their reach through paid media and driving revenue, brands can tap into the immense influence of popular creators.

YouTube BrandConnect Ads

Source: YouTube

YouTube’s focus on sports and music content also offers exciting opportunities for brands to connect with young audiences. The platform is the number one sports destination for Gen Z fans, and initiatives like NFL Ticket provide extended experiences with live chat and multi-view options. Brands can collaborate with creators to offer exclusive access and augmented content to enhance the overall experience for viewers.

Similarly, YouTube’s extension of Coachella into the digital environment and the growing trend of lo-fi music present creative avenues for brands to tap into the music-loving Gen Z audience through advertising and creator partnerships.

Beyond the power of creators, YouTube has also introduced new offerings for brands on the platform in recent years. YouTube is embracing creative and vertical video formats, especially with YouTube Shorts. Shorts is a social-first push, helping YouTube break down channel siloes and seek more eyeballs, time spent, and engagement.

With Shorts now garnering 50 billion daily views, the platform gives brands the opportunity to tap into a large audience. Similar to TikTok, brands can create and share innovative short-form content on Shorts to capture the attention of Gen Z viewers and stay relevant in the dynamic online video landscape.

Another option for brands on YouTube is live streams, which offer the potential for real-time engagement with tactics like linking products to purchases, using QR codes, and integrating e-commerce elements directly into streams. This interactivity fosters a seamless shopping experience, making it easier for Gen Z consumers to make purchases while engaging with their favorite content.

YouTube also has an important presence on connected TV, which is critical for reaching cord-cutting Gen Z consumers. As the most-watched TV streaming service in America, YouTube’s YT Select lands 70% of impressions on the big screen. Brands can leverage this reach to outperform traditional TV and online video platforms, effectively engaging Gen Z audiences on the screens they’re really looking at.

YouTube Select's Most Popular Categories

Source: YouTube

If all these opportunities sound overwhelming, you’re in luck: there are new tools to help your brand leverage them more easily. AI has lowered the barrier to entry for creators on YouTube. Brands can tap into Youtube’s multi-language audio tool or Google’s AI voiceover technology to make videos that find new audiences and reimagine their own creative.

Meta is investing in the power of AR and AI to captivate Gen Z

Meta might seem old school for TikTok-obsessed Gen Z audiences, but there are still ways to reach younger consumers on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. To make Meta work for Gen Z, brands should tap into the same aspects that resonate with the generation on other platforms: authentic connection, creator relationships, and vertical video engagement.

Although Gen Z is more likely to go to TikTok for a lot of their content, they still turn to Meta for some interactions with family and friends. Brands can leverage Meta’s platform to create engaging content that encourages conversations, supports social causes, and facilitates genuine connections. By understanding and participating in their social circles, brands can earn Gen Z’s trust and loyalty.

One essential way to do this is by embracing creator culture. To stay ahead in an evolving landscape, brands need to leverage the power of creator partnerships and support. Brands can use Meta’s Instagram Creator Marketplace to discover and collaborate with influencers who align with their values and target audience. You can also invest in core apps and services for creators to boost creativity and enhance reach and revenue potential.

Brands can also try out the new creative and immersive experiences Meta has introduced on Facebook and Instagram to appeal to Gen Z consumers. Leveraging AI/AR technologies on Meta’s platforms can enhance content delivery by making it more interactive and appealing. Instagram’s new AI chatbot in DMs can also streamline customer service and provide personalized experiences.

Integrating AR into Reels Ads and FB Stories can capture Gen Z users by offering them unique and entertaining ways to engage with brands and products. Meta’s AI-driven improvements in content discovery and recommendations have already led to a substantial increase in user engagement and content consumption, with more than 200 billion Reels played per day. Brands looking to reach younger audiences on the platform should tap into some of that AI power to help them win.

Mastering Gen Z’s TikTok community is where your brand will see the most impact

We all know TikTok is the quintessential Gen Z app. Brands that aren’t leveraging it to reach Gen Z consumers are missing out on a lot of eyeballs. But there are still important considerations brands should keep in mind to capture Gen Z attention on the app.

Like on other platforms, brands must tap into the power of connections to effectively reach Gen Z consumers on TikTok. With millions of users engaging on the platform daily, creating content that fosters a sense of community is essential–something successful content creators have already caught onto by sharing entertaining videos that resonate with their target audience.

A great way to create a connection is by participating in trends and challenges. These are a huge part of the fun of TikTok, and if brands leverage them the right way they can become a part of the conversation and relate to Gen Z on a more personal level.

Time Spent Weekly With Select Apps by US Gen Z

Source: eMarketer

Brands can also make connections through partnerships with TikTok creators. Partnering with influencers and content creators can extend brand reach and authenticity through organic collaborations.

Additionally, paid media amplification can boost content visibility, making it more likely to go viral and reach a broader audience. Brands looking to foster these connections can use the TikTok Creator Marketplace to manage creator discovery and outreach efficiently.

Like on YouTube, brands can also leverage TikTok’s focus on sports and music content. Music is an especially important avenue on TikTok because of the app’s focus on music clips.

By staying up-to-date with the latest music trends and partnering with popular artists, brands can resonate with their target audience and create content that feels relevant and relatable, ultimately driving engagement and brand affinity on TikTok.

TikTok has a new offering to help brands leverage music in their TikTok strategy: the Pulse Premiere feature. The platform has introduced a new in-app Music Hub designed to highlight trending artists, which brands can capitalize on by incorporating popular music and trending sounds into their content. 

TikTok has also become a hub for commerce. With the TikTok Shop, brands can activate end-to-end shopping experiences within the app. This includes setting up organic shops, incorporating shoppable assets into creator content and live streams, and leveraging an affiliate component to drive conversions.

Paid media amplification can further promote products and incentivize users to check out within the app, streamlining the buying process and driving revenue on the platform. These Live Shopping experiences give brands a chance to showcase their products in real time, encouraging immediate purchases and fostering a sense of excitement and exclusivity among Gen Z consumers.

Gen Z uses Snap for community and interactive user experiences

Snap is a go-to messaging app for Gen Z. With the generation’s focus on connections and community, Snap’s focus on helping users document their lives and stay close to friends makes it a great app for marketers to tap into.

Like on other platforms, collaborating with creators is a powerful way to reach Gen Z consumers on Snapchat. With the Snap Star Collab Studio, brands can manage creator discovery and outreach on the platform to extend their reach with paid media.

Snap is an especially great place for brands because the platform has invested in new creative tools and expanded revenue-sharing programs for creators that have driven growth within the creator ecosystem, ensuring a continuous stream of engaging content for their target audiences.

These initiatives continue to be a big opportunity for brands that work with content creators; total time spent watching Stories from creators in the revenue share program in the US witnessed a remarkable year-over-year growth, more than tripling in Q2 2023.

Snap Star Collab Studio

Source: Snap

Spotlight Ads are also gaining popularity, showcasing content with impressive growth and reach. Total time spent watching Spotlight content more than tripled and Spotlight reached over 400 million monthly active users (MAU) on average in Q2 2023, up 51% YoY. Brands can capitalize on this trend by partnering with influential creators who have a strong presence on Snapchat.

Snap Spotlight Ads

Source: Snap

Snap has also developed innovative tech to make their user experience more engaging and create better opportunities for advertisers. The app has stayed on the leading edge of AI/AR experiences, launching MyAI Chatbot and experimenting with conversational AI to provide more interactive and engaging experiences for users.

Incorporating AR experiences like Lens and Virtual Try-On also enables users to showcase products in a fun and interactive way. To everyday users, these AR tools are just fun (who could forget the viral crying lens?) but for brands, they drive consumer interest and boost conversion rates.

Snapchat AR Crying Lens

Source: Snapchat

Brands can take advantage of Snap’s capabilities by trying out these new AR tools and leveraging embedded ads experiences and Snapchat Lifestyle Categories optimization to ensure that advertisements are relevant and tailored to each user’s preferences.

X is no Twitter, but there are opportunities to reach Gen Z

Reaching Gen Z consumers on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, requires a multi-faceted approach that taps into their preferences for engaging content, authentic connections, and up-to-date information. Brands should focus on fostering meaningful interactions and conversations with their target audience.

Responding to comments, engaging in discussions, and using personalized messaging are effective ways to build rapport and trust with this demographic.

Because of X’s focus on breaking news and the rapid pace of conversation on the platform, it’s also crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest news and engage in public discourse when targeting Gen Z consumers on X. This generation values being informed and active in social and political discussions.

Brands should demonstrate their stances on current events and societal issues, aligning their messaging with relevant topics to resonate with Gen Z users.

There are also a lot of new opportunities for advertisers on the platform right now. In the past year, X has rolled out many new ad offerings, giving brands a chance to deliver compelling and immersive visual ad experiences. Brands can also use X’s Amplify marketplace to maximize their reach by placing sponsored content within relevant sports and music conversations, which are important topics for the platform’s Gen Z users.

X Sponsored Ads

Source: X

X also has a creator program, which can be an effective way to leverage the influence of content creators among Gen Z. Brands can collaborate with popular creators and even begin revenue sharing for ads shown in tweet replies. This strategy encourages creators to organically integrate branded content into their discussions, making it more appealing and genuine to their followers.

Whatever strategy you take on the platform, you need to keep in mind that X has been changing rapidly since Elon Musk’s ownership. It can be difficult to plan ahead, especially as the drop in users and ad revenue is creating opportunities for new competitors in the text-based platform space. But despite major overhauls to the platform, it still has value for advertisers. X remains a destination for pop culture and current events and has sports licenses with the NBA and World Cup.

As technology for all social media platforms continues to evolve and Gen Z’s preferences change, staying agile and adaptable will be essential for brands to maintain their relevance and appeal.

Whether you’re an established brand or a newcomer, the key to capturing Gen Z’s attention on social media lies in fostering authentic connections, embracing creativity, and providing meaningful experiences that resonate with this hyper-online generation.

Want to know more about connecting with Gen Z? Download our full comprehensive guide, Defining Gen Z. 

Content Marketing Gen Z Snapchat Social Media Marketing Strategy TikTok Trends Twitter YouTube


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