Remember those stories that you used to hear from either older family members or from others that were from a generation ahead of yours about just how much harder life was for them than it was for you? Stories like, “You kids don’t know just how good you have it these days. When I was your age, I had to walk ___ miles to school and back.” Are stories that we all can all relate to experiencing at one time or another.
The funny thing is that now, if you’re a Gen Xer or a millennial—you’re probably the one that's now telling primitive stories of your own to Gen Zers about how people once had to communicate with one another prior to the prevalence of social media apps and smartphones.
According to a recent report, Gen Z spending in the U.S. is on the rise. With Gen Z now having more than double the amount of disposable income they had just three years ago.
So, if one of your brand’s goals consists of getting Gen Z to purchase your products, instead of telling them how good things are for them these days, direct your marketing efforts towards some of the places where they spend the most time online. Which, according to a survey from Piper Sandler—is on their three favorite social media platforms.
The prevalence of the internet in our day-to-day lives has been somewhat of a double-edged sword. One of the many positives is that it has made our lives much more convenient than it would have been otherwise. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the internet is that it has contributed significantly towards the decrease of our attention spans.
In fact, according to a study from Microsoft Corp., most people are now prone to losing their concentration after only eight seconds. Mostly due to the abundance of information (and distractions) provided by the internet.
Instead of complaining about or trying to reverse the inevitable—astute companies adapt to the times. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can manage change.” On the forefront of companies that have adapted to the change in our inability to focus longer than a goldfish (seriously, here’s the receipts) is the short-form video hosting service TikTok.
TikTok has become the favorite social media platform amongst Gen Z mostly due to the fact that video content posted on the platform is so succinct. And although the platform recently announced that it has increased its video limit from 3 minutes to 10 minutes—TikTok initially became a hit with Gen Z through the concision of its content—which aligned seamlessly with the reduced attention spans of the average teen—especially those in America.
Another reason why TikTok has resonated so much with Gen Z is the fact that videos featured on the platform are so easily shareable; which helps teens mint social currency—which I don’t have to tell you…is everything to a teenager. Teens especially, love sharing videos of songs, useful advice, and especially comedy clips with their friends, if they are interesting enough to impress them. This helps them mint social currency because they seem more hip to the recipients for discovering what they shared (or at least that's what's believed).
The younger a person is, the more likely they are to favor viewing a short-form video clip as opposed to one that would demand more of their limited attention, which is why TikTok videos are so addictive to Gen Z audiences.
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg purchased the photo-sharing social networking service Instagram, back in 2012 for $1 billion, a lot of people thought the CEO had officially lost it.
But what Zuckerberg bet on—besides his Facebook data—was his understanding of two traits that intrinsically influences the actions of every human on earth. Those two traits are: validation and adulation—which Zuckerberg was able to witness from Facebook subscribers first-hand as the company's chief.
“Narcissists like a large audience for self-adulation, and what better audience than all your friends—or fake friends—on Facebook.” Said Larry Rosen, Professor Emeritus of California State University, Dominguez Hills in a 2017 interview with Education Week.
Instagram is appealing to Gen Z for many of the same reasons that Facebook appealed to teens when it first became cool amongst college students—it allows active subscribers to receive a dose of dopamine, which is a byproduct of validation—which comes as a result of getting attention from their peers.
They also receive a dose of dopamine by way of adulation—which occurs whenever their photos or videos receive likes and comments from others—especially from those they admire or are attracted to.
The true testament of a brand doesn’t lie in its ability to thrive when things are going great—but in its ability to persevere through times of adversity. Which is exactly what visual social messaging service Snapchat has done over the last three years.
Initially embraced by millennials, Snapchat became one of the top social media platforms amongst the demographic for most of the same reasons TikTok became the favorite social platform of Gen Z—its short-form videos were just long enough for the shortened attention spans of millennial viewers.
Having had a five-year head start launch on its now rival TikTok, Snapchat launched in 2011, but seemed to be on the decline in regards to popularity, once TikTok began to really take off in the U.S. back in 2019. But through resolve and perseverance, Snapchat was able to bounce back by appealing to Gen Z and simply staying true to its brand pillars.
Instead of emulating TikTok’s design features to appease Gen Z, Snapchat appealed to them by showcasing its primary feature that resonated most with millennials—which is the facet of the app that only allows for photos and messages to be available for a short time before they become inaccessible.
The feature is enticing to Gen Z because it has a…let’s say mature element attached to it which allows people to send risqué photos and messages to others without having to worry about them being saved and resurfacing later on.