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Targeting Gen Z: How brands should use new Social Media platforms

Snapchat, TikTok and Co. - a distraction offering no added value? What's really hidden behind the platforms and how to use them as a marketing tool?

Targeting Gen Z: How brands should use new Social Media platforms

The relevance of Gen Z as a target group, including the social media channels it uses, is often undervalued. Used correctly, platforms like TikTok are an important tool for sustainable image building. However, this requires a little knowledge about the users, an overview of current trends and, of course, good ideas.

Seeing what friends and relatives are up to, finding out about current events, or discovering the latest food trends - we all use social media every day for a wide variety of purposes. But what does Gen Z actually do on social media? And how can you make the most of their user behavior for marketing purposes?

Facebook and the like are out!

Gen Z clearly agrees: Facebook, Twitter and the like are old news. Studies such as Youth Internet Monitor 2023 show where they really are on the move. The most popular social media platforms among 13-24 year-olds are TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. TikTok in particular has gained extreme popularity in recent years and is now the platform of Gen Z. It is the fastest-growing social network worldwide and ranks third among traditional social media in Austria. Instagram remains popular as Austria's second largest social network. The TikTok-like format "Reels" is particularly popular with users. We're all familiar with Reels, and TikTok is increasingly finding its way into the channel strategies of big brands - but what about Snapchat? Originally "just" a messenger for sending photos and messages and known for its face filters, the app is constantly expanding its range of functions. This includes "Spotlight," Snapchat's own version of the TikTok "For you" page. When it comes to the Story function, Snapchat was the pioneer of social networks, as it was introduced back in 2013.

Who are the users?

TikTok is actively used by 2.4 million people in Austria, with 49.2% of them being male and 50.8% of them being female. The majority of users, 46 percent, are between 13 and 25 years old. Even though all age groups are represented (30% are older than 35), Generation Z clearly dominates, as 78% of girls and 62% of boys between the ages of 11 and 17 already use the platform. 90% of users use the app daily, an average of eight times per day, and spend around 95 minutes using it.

Snapchat also has an impressive 1.85 million users in Austria, 47.2% of whom are male and 52.6% female. The 13-24 age group accounts for 59%, but Generation Y should not be underestimated either, with a share of 23%, while only 17% of Snapchat users are over 35 years old.

I'm not reaching my target group on TikTok and Snapchat. Do I?

The myth that you can't reach people with purchasing power on TikTok and Snapchat is a persistent one, but it's wrong! Many customers and advertisers think that Gen Z is not interested in their product or cannot afford it - and thus lose a valuable marketing tool. A study by ECC Cologne shows that 15% of respondents, having already become aware of a product, subsequently made a purchase via Instagram. However, TikTok can also be seen with 12 %. Snapchat recorded a purchasing power of a whopping USD 4.4 trillion in 2021. And the trend is upward, as users also age, enter the workforce, and draw income - and continue to stay on the platform. In addition, nearly half of all TikTok users say the platform helps them make purchasing decisions. The "young generation" uses TikTok, Snapchat and the like as a search engine: Anyone interested in a product first looks on social media to see what other people think of it and whether they recommend it.

What does this mean for Social Media marketing?

Within a generation, social media has evolved from an electronic information exchange to a huge community and the most important marketing tool of the 21st century. To use this effectively, the shift to new social networks requires a new approach to commercial use of the platforms. TikTok and Snapchat, if used correctly, can be powerful marketing tools and should not be underestimated at all. On no other social media channel can you reach teenagers and young adults in such a targeted way. But to use these networks properly, you need new strategies and a lot of creativity. Adopting conventional advertising formats from Facebook or Instagram won't work here - the target group on TikTok expects storytelling and spontaneous, creative and unusual content. The attention span here is even shorter: it takes only 1.7 seconds to decide whether to continue viewing something or to scroll. So users have to be picked up and convinced within the first second.

The good news: On TikTok, the more authentic the content, the better it is received by the audience. Users want to be able to "relate" to the creator - they want to get the feeling that the people they are watching are just like them and are picked up by them. Unlike Instagram, for example, TikTok requires unfiltered, real content. So you don't need expensive equipment and elaborate video productions, quite the opposite. In most cases, a smartphone camera and a good idea are enough.

The same applies to Snapchat. Just like on TikTok, consumers watch one short video after another, so advertising has to be exciting, convincing and relatable so that they don't keep scrolling. These videos are not called "thumb-stopping" for nothing, because they literally stop the thumb of the person watching from scrolling further.

Creativity is also required on Snapchat and TikTok when it comes to the ad formats themselves, as both apps offer some unique features that you can take advantage of. For example, you can create your own filters and lenses that users can use for their photos and videos. There are almost no limits here, you can create purely optical filters, but also interactive filters and small mini-games can be created.

What's Hot on Social Media?

To be successful in the new social networks, you need innovative methods and good ideas, that's for sure. But what are the current trends in social media marketing?

The attention span on mobile devices is getting shorter and shorter. Social media content is also adapting to this overload of information - short form video content is booming like never before! But that's probably no surprise now with the popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels and Snapchat. Short videos work so well because they are made for just that short attention span. They're perfect to watch quickly in between and you have them on your smartphone in your pocket all the time. They're great for sharing with friends and they convey more emotion than static images. Fullscreen videos with a length of less than 15 seconds have the best engagement.

Many brands use creators or influencers in this context. Influencer marketing is already established almost everywhere, but by far the most popular form is working with UGC creators and micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are creators with 1'000-10'000 followers who often have a specialization in a particular topic. They have a smaller reach, but their followers are usually very loyal to them and show strong engagement. Micro-influencers are perceived as more authentic and human, which makes their viewers feel connected to them and build a certain trust with them. This is a huge advantage for collaborations: Collaborations with micro-influencers are usually cheaper than those with big influencers due to their smaller reach, and the target group reached trusts the creator's opinion a lot. The majority of young people, for example, say they trust (micro-)influencers more than advertisements with famous testimonials. Thus, by cooperating with micro-influencers, it is possible to reach the target group relatively cheaply.

In addition to influencer collaborations, user-generated content, UGC, is also enjoying immense popularity. As the name suggests, this is content that has not been created by a company, but by its users themselves. A distinction is made here between paid and free UGC. Unlike collaborations, independent UGC creators take photos or videos and make them available to the brand. The main difference here compared to classic collaborations is that UGC is usually published on the channel of the company itself. The briefing is also usually freer. The goal here is to make the advertising as authentic as possible and not immediately obvious as such. After all, as we have already heard, (apparent) authenticity is the top priority on TikTok and Co.

Alongside paid UGC, there are also ways to generate free content from users. Numerous brands, such as ASOS and Coca-Cola, have already managed to encourage consumers to submit pictures and videos. Often, the brand encourages users to take a picture of something specific, such as a beverage can with their first name on it, and post it with a hashtag. The whole thing has two advantages: on the one hand, the community feels involved and has fun with the challenge, which in turn incentivizes them, and on the other hand, the company generates tons of free content. So it's a win-win situation. This strategy can work very well for lovebrands and larger, already established brands - young, unknown brands might fail at motivating their followers to submit content.

Our conclusion

Gen Z is often underestimated or simply forgotten in terms of its relevance to achieving business or marketing goals. The social media platforms they use can be extremely effective marketing tools - if you dare to embrace the "new and uncertain" and think a little outside the box. TikTok and Snapchat - but also Instagram Reels - are the most effective tools here. The important thing is to break away from the well-worn advertising formats and content and dare to do something new. Short video content does not have to be elaborately produced, a good idea and a smartphone camera are often enough. So, the best thing to do is just to get started and try it out - gladly in cooperation with us!

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