Gen Z vs. Millennials: On the ‘Gram
“Social media savvy” is an understated term when it comes to describing Gen Z. The social media giant formerly known as Facebook was born the same year as today’s high school seniors. Instagram launched on iOS before cell phones were ubiquitous in middle schools.
Conversely, Gen Z’s older Millennial sibs beta tested these platforms, and they couldn’t get enough of Instagram. Still can’t. But while Millennials have put Instagram at the forefront of their social media experience (and kept it there), Gen Z has evolved their interaction with the platform.
So, what does Gen Z’s usage look like compared to Millennials? How can brands capture the attention of both — and claim some of those double taps for themselves?
Content: Gen Z craves positivity while Millennials seek out passion and confidence
Though a young consumer market, Gen Z has developed a sense of humor and taste for positivity, which they’ll seek out in the brand accounts they engage with. An analysis of the generation’s use of Instagram’s mega-popular competitor TikTok found that Gen Z respondents repeatedly cited “fun”, “funny”, and “funnier videos” regarding some of the reasons they enjoy using TikTok.
Though Gen Z has overwhelmingly flocked to TikTok, don’t underestimate the potential market value Gen Z represents when engaging with brands on the gram — 33.3 Million active monthly users on Instagram are Zoomers. In fact, 80% of Gen Z follows and interacts with brands online, and 72% of those who do are significantly more likely to buy from them.
Meanwhile, Instagram’s massive Millennial user base (a whopping 60% of Instagram users) engages with accounts that exude “passion” and positivity, and perhaps most importantly, brands who know who they are and stay true to that.
Both generations seek out brands that have a face. Interacting with what feels like a soulless corporate structure repels them; they want companies made up of passionate people, support social causes, and can inject a little entertainment into the day. In other words, keep it light, but keep it real.
Show you’re passionate about not only what your brand has to offer but also about the causes that interest your audience. Interact with Gen Z and Millennials by encouraging user-generated content and spotlighting it with mutual engagement. Comment on trending topics (respectfully and within the bounds of your company values) and take time to respond to comments and messages sent to your brand.
Aesthetics: Put the polish on for Millennials but keep the filter off for Gen Z
Perfection doesn’t sell on Instagram anymore.
Immortalized by the color Millennial pink and droves of avocado toast eating, self-care-focused, aspirationally-minimalist Millennial (mostly) women, the perfect Instagram aesthetic is worn out. The trend of visually perfecting life’s idealized moments feels inauthentic to analytical Gen Z, and they have developed a strong distaste for it,
Instead, Gen Z has turned their gaze to accounts that are less staged, filter-free, and down-to-earth. Influencer accounts like @jazzy4nne feature a blend of candid and imperfect shots of daily life, with the occasional — and intentionally obvious — enhanced photo. Gen Z gravitates to her because they can relate to her.
Millennials may still have wistful daydreams of an ideal lifestyle, but they’ve let the copy/paste aesthetic go for the most part. Still, they appreciate something with visual appeal and a subtle coat of polish. Millennials follow accounts that have high-res photos in the feed and tend to gravitate towards a more professional finish.
So how do you appeal to both generations? Take those candid shots and give them a cinematic finish. Candid imagery with personality and a rich color palette will get both generations to stop scrolling. Avoid “setting up” and perfecting every detail in your image to get Gen Z on board. Then, when editing your posts, the coloring and lighting of the finished product should look magazine-ready — even if the contents of the image would make it suitable for a photo album.
Format: Make video content for Gen Z, then make some more for Millennials
Gen Z loves TikTok — and Instagram is super aware of that. They know that their user base, regardless of generation, is constantly pulled in different directions regarding where their time is spent on social media. They understand this is partly due to the insatiable interest in video content, especially as a brand associated so completely with photo sharing.
Gen Z also shares this preference for video content with Millennials, a group that famously killed cable in cold blood.
Platforms built for video from the start have a leg up with both generations: YouTube consistently ranks within the top two social media platforms for both Gen Z and Millennials, and TikTok has quickly captured Gen Z’s attention.
Instagram has worked to keep up with the competition, releasing Instagram Stories (to challenge Snapchat), Instagram TV (to rival YouTube), and most recently, Instagram Reels — which feels an awful lot like a shot across the bow to TikTok.
Reels dramatically increases user engagement with an account, and Instagram algorithmically rewards accounts that post them. Brands can make video reels directly on the Instagram platform, but Instagram has also enabled the option to share TikTok videos directly on Instagram, pulling back their Gen Z audience.
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