Gen Z: The challenge – and opportunities – in social media marketing

Hoang NguyenData Journalist
September 07, 2021, 6:47 PM UTC
Even without the disruptions brought on by the pandemic last year, Gen Z are of particular interest to brands for their increasing spending power and propensity to be connected to online platforms throughout the day. Defining a winning post-pandemic marketing strategy for Gen Z is the ultimate challenge and opportunity for brands looking to engage these young Americans. 
 
In a new analysis from YouGov, we look at key advertising trends derived from our Gen Z research over the past few months. The topics include young Americans’ perceptions toward various types of ads and general attitudes toward advertising. 
 
One of the challenges of engaging with Gen Z is getting them to trust certain forms of digital ads such as those found on social media and websites. Roughly three in five Gen Z adults say they find social media ads (61%) and online ads (59%) untrustworthy. That’s nearly twice the number of those who do deem these types of ads as trustworthy.


While Gen Z certainly has its trust issues with social media ads, no other generation uses TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube at the rate that Gen Z does. This generation’s likelihood to stay connected throughout the day presents a tremendous opportunity to brands that can win this generation’s trust. 
 
Audience data from YouGov reveals Gen Z stands out for their receptivity toward advertising in general, especially when compared to Americans overall. Below are some key insights into the Gen Z mindset on advertising over the past year:
  • Social media may draw more engagement than website ads. A slim majority of Gen Z say they are more likely to engage with advertisements on social media than on regular websites (53%). What’s more, 60% of Gen Z adults say they spent more time on social media over the last year, and 42% of Gen Z adults say they paid attention or interacted with social media ads more than they typically do since the pandemic began (vs. 30% of US adults). 
     
  • They are receptive to brands taking a stance on social issues, such as the vaccine effort. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z adults say companies should be able to express how they feel on a topic (64% vs. 58% US adults), and 57% say they like when brands get involved in social issues (vs. 49% of US adults). This idea also extends to brands getting involved in the national vaccine effort, with 57% of Gen Z adults in support of brands offering giveaways to incentivize people to get the COVID-19 vaccine (vs. 50% of US adults). 
     
  • Influencer engagement can help bridge Gen Z’s trust issues with social media advertising. When it comes influencer marketing, one in nine Gen Z adults (11%) indicate they like when brands engage with them through influencer blogs or vlogs (vs. 6% of US adults). In addition, more than a quarter of Gen Z say they trust recommendations from influencers, (27% vs. 19% of US adults). 
     

Despite the negative outlook toward website and social media ads, these two channels remain key to getting in front of Gen Z. Marketing to younger consumers will be tricky; they tend to be more online-savvy and that comes with its challenges, but we can meet the moment using always-on data to track brand perceptions and keep a pulse on hot-button issues and trends.  
 
Now, more than ever, brands should participate in back-and-forth dialogue with young consumers to understand what they want. It’s the way forward to build up brand voice and foster trust among Gen Z.

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