Generation Screen

Generation Z

Sometimes I watch my 10 year old son Jake using my phone and wonder, how in the world did he figure that out?

They’re calling kids Jake’s age, Generation Z but I like to call them Generation Screen. It’s like they can pick up anything with a screen (like a smartphone or tablet) and just instinctively know what to do.

They start scrolling, clicking and the next thing you know, they’re watching a video about Annoying Orange singing Gangnam Style. I speak from personal experience as I’ve already had to hear that Annoying Orange video in the car WAY too many times and the cartoon lives up to his name. He’s totally annoying.

The thing that gets me is — how did he know how to find it or even figure out YouTube? When I was his age, I was lucky to figure out how to hit the record button on my hand-held cassette tape recorder to record a song from the radio.

Instant gratification and globally aware

Who are these kids that will step into the workforce and be the next big target audience?

Gen Z are those born between 1992 – 2010. Raised in a world where they never knew a day without the internet, this audience is constantly connected to the world around them.

They live in a reality filled with school shootings, watching their parents lose their jobs and apps that do everything from play games to make sure their homes are locked up tight. With all these things happening around them, you’d think they’d be full of fear and hide from the bad things happening in our current environment.

Ironically, Gen Z appears to be just the opposite. Their connection to the internet has spurred them to learn more about how to deal with these problems rather than run away from them. In their ever inquisitive minds, the world doesn’t seem so big when they look at it through the screen on their iPads.

Connecting to Gen Z

If you see the possibility of Gen Z becoming your target audience, take a look at these suggestions about how your company can connect with them.

But before I jump into my breakdown, I want you to know that Zs are not your typical customers who will be brand loyal. It’s all about the product at that moment for them.

Just know going into this that if your product or service is something that reflects the reality they live, then you can lay the foundation for creating a customer for life.

1. Mobile is their middle name

About 75% of American teens ages 12-17 now own a cell phone. And they use it All. The. Time. The number one method for Zs to get online information is to use a cell phone.

If Gen Z is your target and you’ve always wondered about creating a mobile campaign, now would be the time to learn how to fit mobile text-based messages into your marketing mix.

Just think about this:  Pew Research Internet’s “Teens 2012: Truth, Trends, and Myths” report shows that Gen Z sends about 60 texts a DAY. Yes, you read that correctly.

And email? Only 6% use email to communicate and 39% say they never use email. So if you’re looking to reach Gen Z, stay away from an email marketing program and shift your marketing plans to mobile.

2. Facebook is good but Instagram rocks

Gen Z are on Facebook but their preferred social program is Instagram. Maybe it’s because their parents are commenting on their updates or their grandma is posting their baby pictures in their feeds.

Whatever the reason, Zs don’t seem to be as interested in dealing with Facebook and figuring out the latest changes to the home page.

Their top social activity is posting photos and videos so it’s really no surprise that they’ve gravitated to Instagram. The site lets them comment and engage with each other and now with Instagram’s new Direct feature, they can send photos to private groups of friends.

If your company wants to connect with this demo on Instagram, take your marketing plans to a more creative level. Like Gen Y, this group of social users want more than just your basic engagement and responding to comments.

They’re looking for more from your company to see how your products fit into their world. Take your engagement-type posts and turn them into an opportunity to start a conversation.

3. Twitter use on the rise

It could be that this is the place for kids to use their text talk. It could be the instant communication they get from tweeting but the use of Twitter is increasing with the Gen Z crowd.

Reports from 2013 are showing that 30% of teens call Twitter their top social network, which is only slightly behind the 33% who chose Facebook.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reveals that girls are more likely than boys to be tweeting (31% vs. 19%), with girls aged 14-17 as the most active group (39%).

This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve spent the day with my 15 year old niece. She’s on her phone the entire time we’re together, typing messages to her friends. I almost never see her dial the phone and talk to anyone so it makes perfect sense to me that girls would move towards Twitter as just another way to communicate online with their friends.

What I am is what I am

With all the statistics and general statements I read during my Gen Z research, trust me when I say –  Zs are the first to defend their individuality. They listen to their own music on iPods rather than the radio. They wear what they want and not what the kid down the street has and they follow the beat of their own drum.

I know this from personal experience of watching my son Jake grow up. His intelligence goes beyond just book smarts and he’s always up for a challenge.

When people ask me what he wants to do when he grows up, I shrug my shoulders. I truly believe that my son will have a job working in a field that doesn’t even exist right now.

He’ll help create something that’s just a sketch in someone’s online drawing program. Or maybe, he’ll invent something that we haven’t imagined yet.

And then some days, he reminds me that he’s just a 10 year old boy. Those are the days when we can be mommy and Jake. And then I mess with him and tell him that his mother is older than internet.

That one always freaks him out.

PS Have you signed up  for my Social Media with Strategy online course? It’s FREE and you’ll learn how to find your target audience, which social media program and how to create marketing messages that really connect with them.  What’s stopping you from learning more about how to find your inner social media-ness?