by Heather Watson

Gen Z spends a lot of time on YouTube—or as they called it in our last focus group “Google-Tube.” Why? Because they are using it to search for things online the way older generations use Google.

But what are they searching for on YouTube? And what strategies should brands adopt to reach this young generation?

Our latest research has uncovered the top ways Gen Z uses YouTube and how brands can successfully engage this young generation with video.

The Top 3 Ways Gen Z Uses YouTube

1. Gen Z Learns How to Do Something by Watching Videos

Gen Z, born 1996-present, is using YouTube to learn how to do something. In our national study, we uncovered that 85% of Gen Z watched at least one online video in the past week to learn a new skill. And almost 40% of those watch between 3-10 videos per week!

Video is the go-to source for this generation when it comes to learning a new skill.

How-to videos that feature influencers are the most effective and engaging to Gen Z. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, an influencer is:

  • “An individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.”
  • “An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche.”

Gen Z is watching influencers to learn how to do things, such as putting on makeup or playing a new video game. But they don’t just watch influencers for how-to videos – they purchase from influencers.

2. Gen Z Discovers New Brands and Products on YouTube

This generation is watching influencers on YouTube to learn about new brands and products. We found that 19% of Gen Z say that an online influencer would convince them to try a product for the first time. This is higher than both a celebrity (13%) or a sports star (6%).

But not only do they discover new products, they also use YouTube and influencers to review products—and their analysis process can be surprisingly sophisticated.

For example, once they are exposed to a new product, they will then check to make sure other influencers are all saying the same things about it. If the influencers all have similar reviews of the product, Gen Z will then click on a link from the YouTube description to purchase it.

In the world of research, we call this triangulation!

One of our Gen Z research participants spoke about how they search for and buy products on YouTube:

“If I’m just doing fun, food, want to buy stuff, it’s usually YouTube. Everything I’ve bought recently has been because I watch a YouTube video and there’s a suggested video. I ended up buying face wash because I watched Jackie Aina on YouTube and she used Dermalogica. So, if I discover a product through a YouTube review and that’s the first time I hear about, then I have to go Google-Tube it and search for it on YouTube and see if other people are saying the same thing.”

3. Gen Z Watches YouTube for Entertainment

Gen Z primarily watches YouTube videos primarily for entertainment. They enjoy a variety of videos including doing pranks, funny things, playing online games, or even just hanging out.

Gen Z wants to watch other peoples’ lives; they want to experience things through their eyes. Similar to reality TV, influencers let their audience watch them experience normal, everyday life.

What Does This Mean for Your Brand?

The same way you need a website for Millennials, for Gen Z, you must have a YouTube presence. And while most brands understand search engine optimization (SEO) for traditional Google searches, many brands aren’t optimizing search for YouTube.

The same and similar tactics you use on your website, you need to apply to YouTube in order to engage Gen Z.

You Must Tell Stories with Video to Entertain Gen Z

You need more than just a presence on YouTube; you need good content. The videos you create and publish must have a clear brand voice. Gen Z loves to follow brands that have funny and personable brand voices.

The brands that are experiencing the most success use YouTube as an entertainment platform to tell stories.

For example, many shoe companies are excelling at entertaining Gen Z through storytelling. Instead of simply showing off a pair of shoes, the brand will show a person running, dancing, cartwheeling around the city experiencing their day-to-day life—while they happen to be wearing the shoes.

It’s about the personal journey, the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows—not just the product. Brands must transform ads into Gen Z focused entertainment.

Solve Your Gen Z, Millennial, and Generational 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 customers and workforce.

Let us know how we can help you. Send us an email 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 or on Twitter . We are passionate about sharing our latest generational discoveries!

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

iGen / Gen ZResearch Findings


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