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Gen Zers aren’t like yesterday’s digital audiences. Here are a few useful tips brands can use to help make Gen Z influencers more effective and authentic when engaging their peers.
Gen Zers live online as much for business as they do for pleasure or entertainment. By nature, they’re a generation of bootstrapping entrepreneurs. Moreover, according to findings from UNiDAYS last year, Gen Z students see being a social media influencer on YouTube as potentially being a more lucrative career-path than... investment banking.
In this way, they’re very different than other generations who see their time spent online as being best used for shopping and socializing with their friends. Their emphasis on using social media to create “personal brands” for themselves is unparalleled by any other generation — and shows a business mindset hard at work.
By helping Gen Z influencers cultivate their own personal brands, companies can get their own messages out into the cyber-ether. Here are some ways for doing that.
Like any digital marketer, Gen Z social media influencers are always on the lookout for quality content that’s relevant, engaging, funny, entertaining, provocative and/or informative. In fact, the competition between influencers can be so intense that a recent report in The Atlantic found some social influencers will actually fake brand sponsorships in order to come across as “more influential” to their followers than they really are.
As a marketer, it’s on you to supply influencers with the content and unique consumer items that make for click-worthy stories. Think back to 2017, when Starbucks’ new (and undeniably strange-looking) “Unicorn Frappuccino” was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Stories mounted quickly about Starbucks baristas pleading online to customers not to buy the vibrantly colorful cappuccinos. “I have never made so many frappuccinos in my entire life [and] I have unicorn crap all in my hair and on my nose,” as one Starbucks barista bluntly put it.
While it may have only existed on Starbucks store menus for five days, the “notorious frappuccino” went on to inspire a host of influencer- and audience-generated content, including new hairstyles, nail art, birthday cakes and even, er, at least one customized pregnancy announcement. That’s the kind of content social influencers were born to share.
Sometimes you can’t help but be very prescriptive with your influencers, especially when you’re paying them upwards of several hundred thousand dollars per Instagram post. That’s totally understandable. But if you’re not in the business of paying them top-dollar, -pound or -euro to write three sentences, you want to take advantage of their own creativity. Gen Zers consistently state they’re more willing to engage with a brand if that brand is willing to collaborate with them at some level — a little leeway can go a long way.
By granting them greater freedom to market your brand on their own terms — as well as how your product relates to their own lives — you stand a better chance of coming across as more authentic and appealing to this young group of consumers, who’d rather listen to “real” people speak directly to them than have brands address them on TV. Consider this example from Subaru, which ran a product placement blended seamlessly into one popular vlogger’s “real-life” YouTube channel. #MeetAnOwner, indeed!
It’s easy for Gen Z influencers to attract the interest of their peers with catchy soundbytes, but it’s a lot harder to retain that interest over time. One consistent, long-term strategy that will help them keep their audience engaged? Give influencers the tools to answer all their followers' inevitable follow-up questions: "How will this skin-cream work for me?" "How long does this clothing brand usually take to ship?" "Why is this portable wireless speaker any different in sound quality from a direct competitor's?"
Those kinds of questions. Influencers need to know enough specifics to show they know what they’re talking about when it comes to your product. Not only is this knowledge useful, it also motivates your influencers, giving them the sense you’re setting them up for success.
Prepare to be amazed at how engaged and informed Gen Z consumers are about products and services in comparison to, say, Millennials. As this article from Australia shows, the sheer level of granular research Gen Zers have done before engaging with a brand can be astonishing, compared to other generations.
Bottom line: Don’t leave your influencers out in the cold with just a bullet-list of talking points. Give them the details — and also the knowledge to teach others.
Most of all, partner with influencers that will ensure you get your message across directly to Gen Z. If you’re looking to get Gen Z’s interest, there aren’t many better ways of doing it than by getting that attention through other Gen Zers. More than any other generation previous, Gen Zers want to hear from each other. Not from celebrities or sports figures. Each other.
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