Understanding Gen Z and Social Media: TikTok
Is your company or organization trying to understand Gen Z and Social Media? One platform you will want to take a serious look at is TikTok. As of March 2023, there are over 150 million TikTok users in the United States. 45 million of those users are Gen Z. (Gen Z are individuals who were born between 1997 and 2012.)
Gen Zers spend about 12 hours a week on TikTok. They use it to unwind. If you are a Gen X or a Baby Boomer – it is like how you watch television (or binge Netflix). They enjoy TikTok (instead of TV) because it is easy for anyone to post. The posts feel more creative and personal to them – compared to professionally produced content. (Yes there are professional TikTok creators, however the post feel is different then traditional media.)
We interviewed Gen Zers to see what types of posts they like and created this list with examples.
- Oddly Satisfying – Shuffling papers, cleaning carpets, pouring soda over ice, cutting into wax, or shifting sands. Any type of activity that is repetitive and soothing falls into this category. This type of post is mesmerizing and soothing. Perfect if you are looking to unwind and chill.
- Political Information and News – There are a lot of political posts, everything from new Congressmen to reporters that aren’t found on a traditional newsroom. Of course, you can also find political posts from individuals that have different views from liberal to conservative.
What Gen Zers like about these posts, is these creators aren’t behind a desk talking at you (like a traditional news broadcast). Instead, they talk with you, in a format that feels very personal. For instance, Under the Desk is hanging out with you. You are both sitting on the floor and getting their perspective on the latest news story. Rep. Jeff Jackson shares his experience in a straightforward manner, without getting dramatic and without fluff.
@jeffjacksonnc Rep. Jeff Jackson (NC): Avoiding default. #fyp #politics #nc #northcarolina #charlotte #raleigh #greensboro #asheville ♬ original sound – Jeff Jackson
- Emotionally Moving Long-form Content (#CoreCore) – These are long format intense posts. This is a great platform if you want to share an important message that can’t be shared in a short clip. They can be more cinematic, and you don’t have to be young to share your opinion. They are usually a few minutes long and have a collage of photos and videos, with a voice-over.
We understand that Gen X and Boomers are worried that they’re not going to be received well by Gen Z. However, the key is to be authentic, be yourself and speak from the heart. A great example of an older person connecting with a young audience is David Attenborough. He’s 97 years old, wearing a suit, but he’s sharing his experiences and cares about what he’s speaking about. This is what creates the connection between him and his audience no matter what their age is.
- Out of Pocket – As a Gen Xer, I didn’t really understand what out of pocket was and that’s why I wanted to show it as one of my examples. It’s weird, wacky and non-sensical. The Buffalo Bills often posts out of pocket content, this one is meant to get you pumped for the upcoming game.
@buffalobills It’s that time of the week! 😃 #nfl #billsmafia #sportstiktok ♬ original sound – Buffalo Bills
- Opinions – Gen Zers are interested in regular people’s opinions. Talking about and sharing their experiences, opinions or their day-to-day stories. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have. Less followers doesn’t make your opinion any less important than someone who has a large following.
If you are camera shy but still want to share your opinion, take a look at the example on the left. She puts text on the post, and has viewers read her opinion. You’ll notice there is an image of the person with a distinct music bed, and the same typestyle for each post. This consistency creates her personal brand.
This type of post style isn’t technically difficult to do. It is also easier to create a batch of posts if that works better for your schedule, and then you would decide when to post them.
If you are comfortable being in front of the camera, then a post like the one on the right, where you talk to the camera and share a specific opinion on a subject is easy to do and they are seen on TikTok often.
@lajiverse Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type beat #pedestrian #driverslicense #walkablecities #drivingrules #proletariat #gasguzzler #crosswalk ♬ CTRL demo – Liziii
- Indomitable Human Spirit – Are you looking to uplift and inspire? Indomitable human spirit posts are when people take a song that people identify with (or is trending), and creators put clips to it. The end result is it gives you an uplifting feeling. The song in this example relates to Gen Z because this is the era when they were creating worlds in Minecraft. (A building type of game.) It is creative, and creates an emotional connection, this remains a huge thing because so many Gen Zers couldn’t make personal connections during the COVID quarantine. As a result, emotionally connecting through social media is more important to them then other generations.
- Being Real – Duolingo, is a terrific example of a corporation creating a fun, real and relatable brand on TikTok. The mascot is cute and is seen “thinking” things that Gen Zers find funny and surprising. The result is Duolingo understands you and sees you.
A great example is this post about Harry Styles…
… now that Duolingo put this out there, we do wonder what Harry Styles smells like. 😅
@duolingo #duet with @zomsfilm Reporting back in every language😫 #duolingo ♬ glock in my lap x divine hell – ㅤ
There are many more post-types to explore on TikTok. The best way to stay up to date is to experience TikTok yourself and get a feel for what’s being posted. If you want to get your organization on TikTok or another social platform, we suggested defining a SMART goal.
- Specific: An effective goal should be ultra-specific.
- Measurable: Your goal should be quantifiable and the progress easy to track.
- Achievable: Is the specific goal is truly achievable, or an unrealistic ask?
- Realistic: Does the goal you’re setting contribute to your bigger overarching goals?
- Timely: Define when you will meet your goal.
Here’s an example SMART goal:
- We want ten 14-18 year-olds in our town asking about our employer matching services each month.
- Our marketing team will post new or relatable relevant content three times a week starting next month. To do this – Bob, Susie and Chris will set aside Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to focus on content creation.
- By filling open positions, our organization can create opportunities for at-risk youth.
- To spread the word, the number of 18-24 year-old Instagram followers will increase by 25% by the end of 2023. We will evaluate our progress and strategic every fourth Friday.
It is helpful to follow other similar organizations or companies to get a feel for what they are posting. However, we don’t recommend ripping off their ideas. Instead, define and align your TikTok brand with your SMART goals. Then produce content that supports your mission, brand and objective. Most of all, be authentic and don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun as you explore the interests of Gen Z and social media trends. And don’t forget – social media content calendars are helpful tools when it comes to planning out content!