Millennials and Gen Z: Social Media Tips for Understanding and Reaching Your Target Audience

Last year during the peak of COVID-19 quarantine, a generational war emerged on TikTok that created havoc between Gen Z and Millennial users. Gen Z’s poked fun at Millennials for their pop culture interests and meme preferences. From Harry Potter, 90s nostalgia, and referring to dogs as “doggos,” the older generation couldn’t catch a break.

Millennials responded by embracing these stereotypes, though many were not amused. While hasty generalizations fueled this so-called war between the two generations, there is some truth behind it: Gen Z’s and millennials use social media differently regardless of how they’re perceived.

Marketing research indicates that generational nuances impact how people interact with each other and brands online. Therefore, it’s essential to understand why these differences exist and what you can do as a business to improve your marketing strategy.

For Some Context

Millennials: The Digital Pioneers

Millennials, or people born between 1981 and 1996, make up the largest portion of the world population. They often engage with social and political issues because they grew up in an era of heightened political tensions. In addition, millennials came of age during the internet explosion and were the first generation to embrace social media. 

Generation Z: The Digital Natives

Gen Z’s were born between 1997 and 2012 and are the most diverse generation. As America’s demographics continue to shift, Gen Z will be the last predominantly white generation. Like Millennials, Gen Z grew up during several significant historical events and is politically, socially, and environmentally conscious. Most Gen Z’s were born after the internet’s arrival and have never known a world without social media. 

How Millennials Use Social Media

Social media became a primary source of communication while most Millennials were in middle school and high school. Because of social media’s infancy during this time, Millennials used social platforms to connect with others and expand their personal and professional lives. Platforms like Facebook and MySpace allowed them to forge these connections and share their life experiences openly.

Millennials mainly use social media to communicate and connect with friends, family, and acquaintances. While Facebook continues to be the most popular platform among Millennials, they were the first to utilize platforms like Instagram and Twitter. 

It’s also important to note that younger Millennials, born in the early to mid-’90s, use social media a bit differently. Often referred to as “Zillennials,” these people were old enough to remember the internet revolution but were too young to partake in it. Instead, Zillennials use Facebook like elder Millennials to keep in touch with friends and family. However, they also enjoy platforms associated with Gen Z and share similar preferences and social media behaviors.  

What Your Brand Can Do to Reach Millennials

The most effective way to reach Millennial users is by associating your brand with a lifestyle, activity, or subject of interest that appeals to them. Unlike previous generations, Millennials are less likely to start a family and are more concerned with their careers and independence. They also desire authentic marketing. Incorporating these values into your strategy will allow your brand to reach them directly.

Millennials have been on the internet for most of their lives, making them well-informed and tech-savvy. They use online sources such as search engines, reviews, and forums to answer questions on a given topic or product. Growing up mastering the ability to multitask, Millennials value flexibility and adaptability.

Millennials are drawn to brands that understand, speak, and connect with them. Knowing what their passions are and engaging with them will help you gain traction in your marketing efforts. Tips for appealing to this generation include: 

  • Associate brand with lifestyle or interests
  • Promote customer reviews and testimonials
  • Emphasize brand authenticity
  • Incorporate their values into marketing strategy

How Gen Z’s Use Social Media

As expected, Gen Z is exceptionally social-savvy. They were born into an era where the internet and social media were already popular. Although Millennials created a space for social media to thrive, Gen Z elevated and innovated how social media is consumed at large.  66% percent of Gen Z consumers state that social media is an essential part of their lives. Unlike most Millennials, Gen Z’s use social media as their source for everything influential in their lives—news, entertainment, and communication. 

Gen Z spends more of their time on social media compared to Millennials, but on fewer platforms. Their interests are usually more targeted because they know exactly what they want to get out of the platforms they use. Gen Z typically prefers platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

What Your Brand Can Do to Reach Gen Z

Gen Z’s attention spans are shorter in comparison to Millennials and require visual stimulation. They’re a video-driven generation and are more swayed by influencers and celebrities to invest in a brand or product. When attracting Gen Z consumers, it’s also vital to communicate through memes, emojis, animated GIFS, and other visual mediums. 

In addition to the visual component, Gen Z’s are mobile-first. You can optimize your website and marketing messages for mobile devices. Investing in a mobile app and taking advantage of push notifications is valuable for attracting Gen Z consumers.

Contrary to their Millennial counterparts, Gen Z thrives off engagement rather than reading reviews and forums. They’re mainly looking for attention-grabbing content to engage with. However, both generations are incredibly passionate about their values and beliefs. Political activism on social media has become increasingly important for Gen Z users, arguably more so than Millennials in recent years. Tips for appealing to Gen Z include: 

  • Sell the experience, not the product
  • Incorporate several visuals mediums
  • Focus on engagement
  • Make marketing mobile-first 

Adapting Social Media to Different Generations

As the social media landscape continues to evolve, the behaviors of consumers from different generations will change. Millennials and Gen Z do have a lot of overlap in how they consume and respond to content. Nonetheless, each generation has different values and uses platforms for contrasting reasons. 

Millennials are well-informed and want the brands they invest in to represent their interests. Most importantly, they value authenticity and seek brands who truthfully present their products. If a brand caters to the communities they serve while supporting important causes, Millennials will likely be on board.

For Gen Z’s, the first impression means everything. They gravitate towards visually appealing content and seek specific experiences from the brands they consume. Brands that understand them and appeal to their passions, including the urgent need for several social and environmental reforms, can gain their trust. There’s no doubt that we’ll see behavioral changes in future generations, as digital marketing is a constantly evolving industry.

Knowing how to appeal to your target audience can be tricky. If you need help with your marketing efforts, Online Optimism is here to help.