Engaging with Gen Z on Social Doesn’t Have to Be Scary


How do you connect with those darned Gen Z’ers? Working with teen-facing brands, we hear that question a lot. While we don’t have a magic spell, it’s a lot simpler than you’ve been led to believe.
As Millennials, we understand what it’s like to feel misunderstood as a generation. We don’t all expect participation trophies and eat our weight in avo-toast – okay, maybe that one is true. Similarly, Generation Z doesn’t pop Tide Pods on the regular like the mainstream media would like us to believe.
The main thing that differentiates Gen Z from the other generations is that they have grown up in a digital world with the ability to stay connected at all times.
As social media managers, it’s our job to understand how to navigate those connections and turn them into relationships. If you focus less on the likes and more on the relationship, big things will happen.
Before we get into it, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

  1. If Gen Z is not your target market, don’t try to force a conversation with them. They will come to you if they want you to engage.
  2. Pick the right platforms. It’s no secret that Gen Z is abandoning Facebook at a faster rate than any other generation, so don’t feel like you need to use it. Instead, spend your time on Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter, and always keep your finger on the pulse of emerging platforms that grab their attention.

Here are 5 things you can start doing right now to break through the generational divide on social.
Invest Time in Your DMs
If you want to join their world, spend time where they hang out. They’ve grown up with messaging platforms like Snapchat that result in instant replies and gratification, so spend some time writing replies of your own. Instagram direct messages will tell you when someone replies to your story, mentions you in theirs, or maybe just reaches out to you wanting to chat.
By engaging with all of these, you can make one-to-one connections with your followers. This creates a “human-touch,” something that Gen Z looks for in a brand.
On top of that, they know your page is run by an admin, so instead of speaking as a mascot or as the whole company, embrace your admin’s personality on the other side of the screen. If you want to stand out from all of the other brands asking for their attention, be real.
Give Some Fan Love
Throw them a like, hit that follow button, or leave a comment on their post! Gen Z loves to feel special, so engaging with them on their pages where their friends can bear witness? That’s how you build a loyal following.
Not only will they love to brag about it to their friends in real life (IRL), they will most likely post it on their story or feed, too! If you show them some love, they will give it right back and then some.
Utilize Micro Influencers
It can be fun to send surprise and delights to celebrities and social media influencers with millions of followers, but your own fans might prove to be more influential with their mere 500.
Gen Z is highly motivated by status and how others see them, so by making them feel special, you can tap into their wide network of friends who will feel a deeper connection to you.
This can also be done through sharing user-generated content (UGC). A good way to collect this is through a community hashtag like Target has done with #TargetStyle. It creates a singular place to find content that can otherwise get lost in your notifications.
Use Humor
Gen Z is three times more likely than Gen X and Gen Y to be receptive to advertising involving humor. Brands like Wendy’s, MoonPie, and SteakUmms have capitalized on this popular trend on Twitter and gained huge followings from their “clap back” commentary.

Can’t pull off a clap back? Use memes! 1 in 3 Gen Z’ers say they know someone is a friend if they tag each other in memes. Only 1 in 6 Millennials say the same. With the use of memes, your brand creates a way for your fans to connect with their friends. This route can potentially be dangerous, though, as teens are quick to point out when brands are just trying to relate to them.
The tricks to success: speak to a consumer truth, avoid slang that isn’t natural for your brand voice, and laugh at yourself and the fact that you are making memes.
Don’t Try Too Hard
This is the last, hardest, and most important rule when trying to connect with Gen Z. As much as today’s teens are waiting on their chance to go viral, so are brands. We all want our moment in the spotlight, but if you are forcing it to happen, they will see right through you.
Have fun, and don’t insert yourself into conversations that don’t seem natural. Instead, focus on making true, meaningful human connections. Or should I say meme-ingful. Alright, alright. I’ll see myself out.

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Background on The Social Lights
The Social Lights® is a social-first agency headquartered in Minneapolis that partners with clients to grow their business through strategy development, creative production, media buying, and social media management. Current clients include General Mills, Ecolab, Cargill, Caribou Coffee, Kwik Trip, Polaris and Massage Envy. The Social Lights was founded in 2011 and is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise. Learn more at The Social Lights.

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