Generation Z, individuals born between 1996 and 2010 came of age on the internet and social media. And by 2026, according to Business Insider, they’re poised to become the largest US consumer population.
We brought together a diverse group of Atlanta-based marketers representing Gen Z-targeted brands, as well as the social media platforms where Gen Z gathers. There to fact-check, answer questions and shed some light on the ever-important question of “Are Crocs cool?” was Baylen Levine, an actual Gen. Z influencer. Joining the panel via FaceTime, Baylen answered real-time questions and provided a unique perspective on how his generation prefers to buy, engage and promote today’s brands and products.
Topic Number One: TikTok
Non-Gen Z’ers might dismiss TikTok by calling it “today’s version of Vine”—the former video app owned by Twitter, even though it’s the leading destination for short-form mobile video. But the fact is that Gen Z is on TikTok, and today’s brands should be advertising on it.
TikTok as a platform requires content to be quick and effective—the essence of the short-attention-spanned Gen Z demographic. Baylen agreed, adding that Gen Z turns to TikTok for both entertainment and buying power. He said that social platforms aren’t dying, they’re just being used in different ways. Members of this generation don’t want to feel like they’re being advertised to, and their BS meters can immediately recognize an ad. Instead, they want to feel that the brand is integrated into their lifestyle. By using platforms such as TikTok, advertisers don’t have to blatantly promote their products. Rather, they can blend into the entertainment aspect of the platform as a way to get attention and ultimately, engagement.
Topic Number Two: SnapChat
Gen Z actively connects through their devices for over 10 hours per day. They also yearn for outlets that allow them to be real and authentic.
Snapchat allows users the ability to express themselves and connect with their followers and target audiences on a deeper level. The filters and interactive elements on the platform encourage users to creatively communicate thorough words and images. When brands integrate themselves into this platform, they must approach it from an authentic position. Baylen made it clear that members of Gen Z want to feel connected to the products and services they’re purchasing. They want to develop a relationship with the brand, and they want to ensure that the brand shares similar values and ethics. Snapchat offers brands and advertisers the ability to get creative with their messaging and positioning, . pushing the limit on expressing themselves and ultimately connecting with members of Gen Z.
Topic Number Three: Virtual Influencers
Social influencers can be expensive, unpredictable, unreliable and can sometimes damage a brand’s reputation. One proposed solution to this problem is creating a virtual influencer—a character created and operated by AI. The characters live on social media and operate as product and service influencers for the brands that created them.
Knox Frost, a 19-year-old virtual influencer who lives in Atlanta, has over 1 million followers on Instagram. While Knox isn’t tied to a particular brand, the success of his following proves that virtual influencers can have a huge impact on target audiences. The concept allows marketers a clean storytelling slate to get messaging out to audiences. Members of Gen Z are looking to attach themselves to brands and influencers that are quirky and creative—just like themselves. They have their own language, and they’re changing the name of the game. By creating a virtual influencer that looks like Gen Z, acts like Gen Z and speaks like Gen Z, brands have the ability to directly connect Gen Z.