Marketers everywhere have spent years developing strategies and content to capture the attention of Millennials, whose ideals, desires, and buying habits have become familiar. Such in-depth knowledge is a win for the marketing community.
But a new challenge is on the horizon; actually, it's already here, in our proverbial house, raiding the fridge.
I am of course referencing Generation Z. Its members are part of the youngest generation on the planet, with the oldest of them barely scraping past age 20, but they hold an estimated $143 billion in spending power.
Brands have been attempting to reach Gen Z in a multitude of ways, but a connection is almost impossible without incredible content. Not easy, I know, but here are some tips to make engagement more likely.
Digital is king
This deceased horse has suffered enough physical punishment, but the dominance of Digital is a point worth driving home for a few reasons.
Gen Z is the first generation that does not know a world without interconnected devices.
Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are all devices that you won't find too far from their hands, allowing them to create bonds with people half a world away. Those connections with different people and cultures mean that diversity and inclusion are not just expectations but the default. Your content must therefore adhere to those standards. So avoid using words, slang, and imagery that are exclusionary. Word choice matters now more than ever.
Social media is a haven for Gen Z, but too many marketers get hung up on this fact. Having great social media content is a must, but there are too many brands and companies that are trying (and failing) to be authentic on social. Those efforts turn the younger generation off from not only the offending brands but also from brands on social media in general.
So broaden your digital scope.
Did you know that 65% of Gen Z members prefer email for brand communications? An email marketing campaign directed at Gen Z could prove to be highly successful, especially if your content is personalized for recipients.
And speaking of personalization, is your website personalized to the user experience? Your website is valuable, and in 2019 and beyond it should be optimized for mobile as well as tailored to each visitor segment—including Gen Z.
Video is key
If there is a royal mantle higher than a king's, video would wear it. Among all the digital content available, video has a very high consumption rate. Gen Z averages 68 videos per day on their favorite platforms, such as YouTube and Snapchat.
Video length can be as short and easily consumable as an Instagram story, or it can be a long-form video. The key is finding the authentic connection point between your brand and Gen Zers for video content.
Content marketers should take note of what types of videos engage Gen Z the best. Their days are filled with academic and social stressors, and they turn to video to decompress. In fact, Gen Zers surveyed by Ipsos and Google chose YouTube as their number-one way to cheer up and relax. Create video content that can help them unwind.
They want to learn
Though Gen Zers want to kick back, this is also a generation of self-starters who are driven to learn.
Most members of this generation realize that the Web is full of resources that will help them learn new skills. And—surprise, surprise—they prefer to learn through video. The same Think With Google report referenced earlier found that 80% of Gen Zers have used YouTube to become more knowledgeable about something.
Learning is not limited to YouTube, however. Short recipe videos on a social media timeline or skill-based blogs are great ways to engage Gen Z with your content marketing. Research what your Gen Z audience cares about, then educate them. Topics can range from personal and professional development to social causes and how-to help.
As with any content geared toward Gen Z, authenticity is key. Relate with your audience with this educational content, but also ensure it is aligned with your company's culture and brand messaging.
Long-form can work
Much is made about the shortening of attention spans in the digital age. Generation Z has the shortest of them all, clocking in at just eight seconds.
There are a couple of interpretations of this information. The most common takeaway I have seen is that short-form is the end all be all of content marketing to Gen Z. If they can only pay attention for eight seconds, pack in as much as you can!
I see it differently. I find it difficult to advise content marketers to eschew long-form content completely, especially after great examples such as Reese Canada released a nearly 90-minute ASMR movie, which at the time of this writing has amassed more than half a million views.
It is not an attention-span problem, it is an engagement problem. How can you capture and hold Gen Z's attention within those first eight seconds?
If you're willing to go the long-form content route, there are a few paths to choose.
Just as in the Reese video, find influencers who connect with your Gen Z audience and create content in partnership with them. Influencers are still respected among younger audiences, and a partnership with the right one can boost your brand.
Take the audio path. Gen Z, like Millennials before them, enjoy podcasts, and they are willing to listen to longer podcasts. In fact, 60% of Gen Z members listen to podcasts that are at least 26 minutes long.
There are many ways to do long-form right, but it takes a willingness to develop ideas that Gen Z cares about, and you need to be able to hook audiences in the time they give you.
* * *
Each generation comes with its own difficulties for marketers. Engaging a digital-first audience can be tough, but within that challenge are many opportunities to let creativity shine through.
Make sure your content keeps up with the speed of Generation Z, and you'll keep them hooked for years to come.
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