Shane McEvoy here has never really been any doubt that social media is deeply embedded into the lives of both Generation Z (born 1995-2012) and the Millennial Generation (born 1980-1994). According to research by the Pew Research Center, 92% of all millennials have a mobile device and connection to a single social media platform is a thing of the past, today’s younger generations are plugged into an average of four social media networks, using them extensively for social, leisure, networking, purchase and business.

All of this connectivity takes time and, the further down the generations we look, the more the connection with social media increases, with millennials spending and average of 6.19 hours a week checking their social media (Neilsen) and 38% of American teens checking in more than once an hour (Common Sense Media). . Social media is in a constant state of flux and millennials, who, according to Forbes, will make up 35% of the global workforce by 2020, and Generation Z (24% by 2020) , are far quicker to jump onto the next thing than their older counterparts.

As far as they are concerned, the more visual, connective and fast-moving the experience, the better. Small wonder that the older generations are pedalling fast to keep up! We have the low-down on the up and coming social media trends that are currently being driven by millennials and Generation Z.

How millennials and Generation Z are using social mediaUnderstanding that these two key generations are inseparable from their social media is one thing but grasping exactly how they use them and how this influences social media trends is quite another. Social media platforms are not all made equal and it is often the quality of connection experience that millennials and Generation Z get from them which depicts their rise or fall.

It is important to remember here that, because of fast-moving developments in popular social media technology, these two generations do not view their social media with exactly the same eyes. Millennials were born into a lifestyle-rich environment that endorsed the rise of the mobile internet, this means that they have tendencies towards high lifestyle expectations and are used to publicly sharing the reaching of lifestyle goals through their social media.

Those belonging to Generation Z however, grew up in a more financially cautious era and have never known a society without constant access to social media. These combined factors have

made them more relaxed about their lifestyles and therefore less easy to sell to, they are also more aware of the constraints of a life led publicly through the internet and more likely to have strong opinions about privacy.

Predicted future social media trends

Deeper levels of personalisation

Of all the social media marketing trends, personalisation in online advertising has perhaps had the most dichotomised of results. On one hand it works and we are now impatient with adverts that are not tailored to our interests but on the other hand, the depth of personalisation experienced is often viewed as intrusive or even unnerving.

This latter is particularly true for our technology-savvy millennial and Generation Z groups who are more exposed to personalised advertising because of their increased levels of social media time. The challenge is on for marketers to write algorithms that reflect a user’s true interests and add value to, rather than detract from, the social experience.

Image recognition technology on visual social media platforms such as Instagram is set to play a big part in this, as are browsing habits and observable interests.

Now you see me, now you don’t

Whoever first had the idea for ephemeral content, i.e. social media content with a limited time span, was a genius. It is easy to imagine them initially being laughed out of the design office, after all, the idea of putting effort into marketing material only for it to disappear almost immediately seems ludicrous.

Ephemeral content, rather confusingly, is here to stay and its catch-on rate is all down to that most human of emotions, the fear of missing out. FOMO is a big factor for millennials with their love of lifestyle but it is the lack of paper trail left by ephemeral content that has sold it to privacy-loving Generation Z.

Snapchat was leading the way with disappearing content for a while but the big players, Facebook and Instagram, have more recently stepped in with their Stories and stolen a bit of the Snapchat thunder.

We’re bored with reality, more augmentation please!

Augmented reality provides opportunities to enhance the day-to-day world and, if there is one thing our younger generations love, it is a bit of enhancement. AR can go down the education route but, for millennials and Generation Z, anything quirky or funny that will encourage interaction is a definite winner. Augmented reality technology is still expensive but over the next few years, it will pay to join in with what others are doing as well as taking the same kind of fun approach yourself.

When it comes to influencer marketing, relationships are everything

If you are down in the grass roots, you are in the right place. Both Generation Z and millennials feel strong connections with You Tubers and other influencers they perceive to be, ‘just like me’. These generations won’t be fooled by inauthenticity or put up with irregularity. Influencer content needs to be snappy, talented and quick to catch their interest. Especially if you are in a space like an escape room franchise.

The power of user-generated content

Generation Z want more from their advertising than their millennial cousins. Instead of being content with passive advertising, they want a piece of the action and user-generated content gives them exactly that, as well as offering proven gains when it comes to social media engagement. Photo competitions, opinion polls, game level creation, selfie campaigns and clever hashtags have all been used but put a clever spin on them and you will be welcomed into Generation Z heaven.

Current and upcoming social media platforms

Before considering the rise and fall of social media platforms, it is worth considering their various pedigrees. Facebook continue to add to its collection of acquisitions and, as well as Messenger (3rd most popular in both the UK and USA), owns the rising stars WhatsApp and Instagram.

Google (Alphabet) are also big players with YouTube (UK 2nd, USA 2nd) and amongst other, smaller social networks, Microsoft own the professional social network LinkedIn (ranked 10th in the UK and 8th in the USA) as well as Skype (UK 7th and USA 9th). In total, eight of the most popular networks belonging to three of the world’s most powerful organisations. If that doesn’t make you sit up and take notice of your social media marketing, we aren’t sure what will.

Social media statistics are throwing up some interesting research results when it comes to the popularity of social media platforms. A 2018 social media study by We Are Flint has suggested that, in the  UK and USA, 80% of adults now use at least some form of social media with Facebook, YouTube and Facebook Messenger topping the platform charts in both countries.

When it comes to the generation divide, there are clear trend indicators that suggest that millennials and Generation Z are moving away from the social media preferences of their parents. Although Facebook is used several times a day by around half of UK adults, it is the millennial generation who are its most ardent supporters whereas Generation Z are moving away from the platform in their droves.

Instagram on the other hand, has a clear slant towards both their millennial and Generation Z audiences, enhanced by state-of-the-art features such as Stories and Shopping. Snapchat has not had a great 2018 and has suffered at the hands of the launch of Stories across other platforms and poorly instigated sponsored content but, because of its popularity with the younger generations and innovations such as Spectacles, Snapchat should not be ignored.

Twitter has also seen a downtrend in the UK but there are hints that unpredicted numbers of Generation Z users are tweeting more regularly.

How to position your business for future social media growth

Personalisation should add to the customer experience

Be aware of personalisation pitfalls and create advertising in different versions that can be used to micro-target distinct audiences. This is one area where it might not pay to lump Generations Y (millennials) and Z together as they are both savvy enough to see through base-level tactics. 

There is a risk, for example, that a Gen Z user might leave a website that didn’t anticipate their needs but conversely, this age group are also very aware of the issues surrounding data collection.

Gen Y have an equal level of expectation when it comes to personalisation but have more brand loyalty, which could place marketing barriers. Build a relationship with these groups and create a resonance through personalisation however, and you will be on to a good thing.

Appear then disappear, ephemeral content is the way to Generation Z hearts

The savvy marketer will already be looking for new and exciting ways in which to grab audience attention and ultimately loyalty, by making sure that their ephemeral content is getting the required, ‘Did you see…?’ responses. The key here is to encourage your young creatives to get them involved in the task. Traditional isn’t going to cut it here, the quicker, quirkier and more quizzical the better if you want to use ephemeral content to bring in the crowds.

Remain platform awareAlthough it is unlikely that an independent is going to knock the Facebook bunch off the social media pedestal any time soon, it is definitely worth keeping a watchful eye on social media platform attributes and performance, particularly with regard to response from millennials and Generation Z. These guys are the current and future big spenders, and marketers who ignore their preferences do so at their peril.

With app development moving at a frenzied pace and both the millennial generation and Generation Z keen to grasp the latest and most exciting social media trends, the world of social media marketing is set to be one of excitement and breathtaking speed.

The savvy marketer will be keeping a close eye on generational developments and making sure that they have Generation Z, millennials and their preferred social media well in their sights.

With this tech-savvy bunch however, it is all going to be about the relationship, and social media platforms that fail to meet high moral expectations risk alienating the very consumers they are most keen to attract.