Everyone knows that to reach Gen Z and Millennials a social media presence is a must—but what will actually get young consumers to follow a brand? We asked them…
Millennials and Gen Z may be notoriously ad-adverse and only loyal-ish when it comes to sticking with a brand, but there’s one way brands can snatch their attention—with a strong social media presence. Instagrammable social posts are currency in the world of young consumers who are swayed to engage by the most like-worthy shots, and with nearly half of 13-36-year-olds using an ad blocker (and even more ignoring marketing in whatever way they can), getting around the pitfalls of traditional advertising is key to a brand’s success, and social media is more likely to influence their purchases. In fact, when we asked young consumers to tell us the brands they follow on social media, just one third of respondents said they don’t follow any. That means the vast majority of Millennials and Gen Z are more than willing to engage with brands—they just want to do it on their own terms.
But more than being in control of the marketing that crosses their paths, young consumers want brands to treat them like friends—and create relevant content that fits seamlessly into their feeds. Just look at Nike. For years, the sports brand has been Millennials and Gen Z’s favorite fashion brand, the non-tech brand Millennials find the most innovative, and one of the brands young men and women alike say understand them best. While they’ve done this with great products, they’ve also mastered the art of effective social media, amassing a huge and engaged following with inspiring storytelling. As Kathleen Reidenbach, CCO, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants told us, “[Young consumers] want to get to know a brand—its values, personality, and style—and they want to be treated like real people, not dollar signs or potential sales.” Case in point: the rise of brands foraying into the delicate art of internet trolling. While learning how to rile up their followers (and the entire internet), brands like Wendy’s, Pepsi, and Burger King have effectively gathered loyal followings that feel respected by the brand—even while they’re being purposely disrespected.
While we know Millennials and Gen Z are following Wendy’s and the like to get a dose of their biting comebacks and rival takedowns, not every brand can (or should) troll their consumers—and 13-36-year-olds are following plenty of brands that don’t. To find out why they’re hitting the follow button, our recent social media behavior survey asked 1000 13-36-year-olds to tell us why they follow the brands they do. Here’s what they had to say.
For all the talk of young consumers showing little brand loyalty, the most common answer we received for why they’re following certain brands was pretty simple: because those brands are their favorites. Once again, Nike was the most-mentioned brand they’re following on social media, and nearly every respondent who listed it told us they follow the brand because they love their products. One 32-year-old male said his reason for following Ralph Lauren is “because I am very loyal to that brand and have been for many years.” And as another 18-year-old male said, “I follow Samsung on social media to show my love for the brand.” In our Brandoms trend, we explored the ways that young consumers are rallying around brands and seeing them as expressions of their personalities—and social is helping to foster those ties.
Favorite brand or not, Millennials and Gen Z have to like what they’re seeing in their feeds to hit follow—and plenty of 13-36-year-olds told us that’s why they’re choosing to stay up-to-date with the brands they are. As one 21-year-old male who follows H&M and Society6 told us, “I genuinely like their content in my feed.” And a 35-year-old male Nike follower said the brand’s “amazing posts” and “unique images” is what keeps him double-tapping. Indeed, fitting seamlessly into young consumers’ feeds is the key to engaging them, but it’s also about more than just beautiful images—it’s about aspirational content, too. A number of young consumers told us they follow brands because those companies inspire them, whether with motivational content or outfit ideas. As one 26-year-old female Kate Spade follower told us “I love Kate Spade products and think its social feeds are fun, colorful, and reflect the life I’d like to live.”
Young consumers love a good discount—and they’re willing to give a follow for one, too. According to Forbes, almost 80% of Millennials are influenced by price and according to YPulse data, 82% of them have used a discount code in the last 12 months. That means that even though they expect authentic and original branding (and, of course, social strategy), many 13-36-year-olds tell us they’re following brands on social media in hopes of catching a deal, sale, or giveaway. While in the past, we found that email was the top way young consumers were getting their discount codes, social media was not far behind. And as a 26-year-old male told us, “I follow brand pages of places where I shop regularly so I have another way of finding out about good deals. My email is too crowded!”
In our trend Experiencification, 73% of 18-36-year-olds told us, “No matter what stores do to make visiting more interesting, I am still going to shop online for many things”—proving what we’ve known for a while now: online shopping is king. And if websites are the new retail, then social media is the new window shopping—and many young consumers said they’re keeping up with what’s new by following the accounts of the brands they buy. One 24-year-old female told us she follows Sephora because she “love[s] seeing the new items they get” and a 36-year-old male told us he follows Sony because “they post about new products that make technology easier for everyone.” Now that Instagram is making shopping feeds even easier, we can expect that this reason for following brands will become more common.
Though many Millennials and Gen Z are following big-name brands for discounts and new products, a number of 13-36-year-olds told us they’re following smaller brands because they support causes they believe in. This should come as no surprise—in our Causes to Crises trend, the majority of young consumers told us all brands should do some sort of social good/charitable work and that brands should make the social good/charity work being done clear so they know what the brands are supporting. So far, this is already working for many 13-36-year-olds. A 19-year-old female told us she follows Crayon Case because “I love that it’s a black-owned business that started from the bottom,” a 30-year-old female said she follows TOMS “because I agree with their mission as a company and want to support them,” and a 26-year-old female told us she follows Grrl because “they break the stereotypes that are placed on women and they are an honest company and movement.”
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