by Heather Watson

“How does Gen Z use social media?” “What are their habits and preferences for each platform?”

These are the types of questions we try to answer with our research. Each month, we invite local Gen Zers to come together and share their thoughts on a variety of topics, from their plans for retirement savings to their preferences on feedback in the workplace. We also conduct a yearly State of Gen Z national quantitative study.

Our research has revealed a lot about Gen Z, including the different ways they use social media. And if you didn’t already know, Gen Z is very sophisticated when it comes to choosing which platform they use for each type of message they send!

Let’s dive into the data and take a look at how Gen Z spends their time on social media. Plus, we have tips on how your organization can take advantage of each platform to reach Gen Z.

How Does Gen Z Use Each Social Media Channel?

1. Snapchat: Interacting with large groups of friends. 

When Gen Z wants to interact with a large group of friends (think 25 – 40 people), they open Snapchat. Gen Z views Snapchat as a fun way to communicate with a lot of people at the same time. They can easily post a short video or take a quick snap (picture) and send it to all of their friends.

In fact, according to our latest 2018 Gen Z study, Snapchat is the preferred social media platform for posting or sending videos of themselves (40%) and posting or sending selfies (36%).

Tip: Take advantage of the fun, silly nature of Snapchat. Show your brand’s fun side!

2. Facebook: Sharing events or creating group events.

Gen Z uses Facebook primarily for sharing events or creating their own group events. In our newest State of Gen Z study (that hasn’t been released yet!), we found that when it comes to creating a group event, the majority of Gen Z (34%) prefer Facebook.

They also use Facebook to interact with brands—specifically to find coupons and deals. So, if you are a brand that wants to attract Gen Z using Facebook, make sure you are sharing coupons, specials, and limited-time promotions.

Tip: If you are launching a new product or having a sale, make sure to share it as an event on Facebook.

3. Instagram: Curating their public image.

Instagram is very popular with Gen Z. According to Sprout Social, 59% of Instagram users are between 18–29 years old. Instagram’s format is highly visual and easy to scroll through quickly, which is something that Gen Z loves. They also really like Instagram because they can use it in so many different ways, including:

  • Keeping up with influencers
  • Following brands that they like (41% of Gen Z say Instagram is their preferred platform for following brands!)
  • Getting ideas and inspiration

Many Gen Zers also use Instagram as a way of curating the image of themselves that they project to the world and getting positive reinforcement of that image. Because of this, they are very picky about the content, types of images, and even the time of day they post.

For example, Gen Z refers to the hours between 5 pm and 9 pm as “primetime,” a time when people are off work or out of class and more likely to be on their phones. They are aware that if they post outside of “primetime,” their post won’t receive as many likes or comments than if they had posted within the “primetime” window. Additionally, they will remove content from their Instagram if it doesn’t receive enough likes or comments.

Tip: Only post high-quality photos and videos to your feed. Use stories to capture and share more authentic moments.

4. Twitter: Following breaking news stories.

Many Gen Zers depend on Twitter for breaking news stories. Gen Z, especially those who are politically active, will use Twitter as their go-to news source. They bypass traditional news media because they view Twitter as real-time information from real people who are right there as the events are unfolding.

Here is what one of our Gen Z dinner participants said about real-time news on Twitter:

“That’s what I like about Twitter. Even if people are in Las Vegas and this is happening, some people are live streaming and posting videos before the news even knew about it. It gets really popular. It gets popular so fast. So, I feel like that’s nice because then people know about it before the news.”

They feel that the information they receive isn’t being filtered through large news conglomerates with their own agendas to push. Now that doesn’t mean Gen Z thinks everything on Twitter is accurate; they understand that sources can be misinformed. But overall, they still view Twitter as a direct source to the news.

Tip: Capitalize on newsworthy events and share helpful content, frequently, as Tweets have a very short lifespan.

5. FaceTime: Communicating with close friends.

Not everything Gen Z does is for the world to see. When Gen Z wants to communicate privately with a close group of friends, they use FaceTime. Some actually consider it invasive to use FaceTime in public, which is why they reserve it for intimate conversations with their best friend or a core group of three or four friends.

Here is a quote from a participant at one of our Gen Z dinners on how they prefer to use FaceTime:

“My friend always FaceTimes me, and I get so annoyed because I’ll be in the store and I think it’s rude. I personally I don’t like when people FaceTime if I’m not home. I just feel like everyone can hear, and I feel like it’s disruptive and I don’t like it.”

Tip: When you need to show young people communicating (T.V. ads, college brochures, job postings, etc.), make sure they are using video chat!

Key Takeaways on Gen Z’s Social Media Usage and Preferences

To reach Gen Z, whether it’s to advertise a product or promote a job, remember that they use different social media platforms for different activities. Your communication goal must correspond to their preferred channel to really make an impact on this generation.

And one thing we didn’t touch on in this blog is YouTube, which is also a HUGE platform for Gen Z. They use it for so many activities, including discovering and following brands. Read the entire blog to learn more about the different ways Gen Z uses YouTube.

Solve Your Gen Z Challenges with Custom Research

We lead national and international generational studies for our clients every day. We also keynote events around the world, helping businesses better understand their Gen Z customers and workforce.

Let us know how we can help you! or give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide a little information for you to review.

Keep the conversation going, follow The Center on Instagram @TheGenHQ or on Twitter @GenHQ. We are passionate about sharing our latest generational discoveries!

Heather Watson, The Center’s Behavioral Designer, explores the intersection between behavioral economics, technology adoption and habit formation as it drives experience, purchases, and emerging trends.

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