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Feb 22 2021
We know that Gen Z and Millennials aren’t using the same social media platforms. Gen Z’s use of Snapchat, and, yes, TikTok far outpaces Millennials’, and the older generation is far more likely to be using Facebook, as well as messaging apps like WhatsApp. But it’s not just their choice of social media platforms that differs, it’s what they’re doing on those platforms that’s separating them as well.
YPulse’s recent Social Media Behavior report shows that Gen Z is spending more time on social. According to their own self-estimates, the younger generation is spending almost 4.5 hours a day on social media, while Millennials estimate they spend an average of around 3.8 hours. But we also dug into their social media habits more deeply, from who they’re following to why they’re logging on. Those questions revealed serious differences in Gen Z and Millennials’ social media preferences.
Let’s start with who’s filling up their feeds:
Looking at who these generations follow on social media—excluding family and friends—immediately shows clear distinctions. The two of the top types of accounts Gen Z follows are online celebrities/creators (e.g. bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, social media stars, etc.) and meme accounts, and they are far more likely to be following content creators than Millennials. YPulse noted last year that influencers are as influential as ever among Gen Z consumers, and this data shows that online celebs are a major part of their social media experience. Meme accounts, meanwhile, have become influencers of a sort in their own right, often acting as arbiters of social trends. Considering the types of content Gen Z is seeking out on social media, it’s not surprising that they’re more likely than Millennials to say they share posts/memes/videos that they see on social media with their friends. In other words, Gen Z is more likely to be consuming, and spreading, social media trends and viral content.
We also see here that Gen Z is more likely to be following a variety of account types on social—with a few notable exceptions. Millennials are more likely than Gen Z to be following small business and big brands. It’s a sign that brands need to work harder to get in front of Gen Z on social, and can’t expect them to click “follow.”
Some of the reasoning behind the difference we see above can be found in their answers to our questions about why they use social media in general:
Gen Z is far more likely than Millennials to say that entertaining content is a top reason they visit the social platforms that they do. In fact, 41% of Gen Z say that the MAIN reason they visit social media platforms is entertaining content. This also explains some of the differences in the types of social platforms that are attracting Gen Z versus Millennials. If Millennials are heading to social media to keep up with friends and family, Facebook makes sense as a top resource. But Gen Z is driven by their search for boredom-breaking entertainment, so addictive, video-first platforms like TikTok are winning out. Another watch out for brands: 57% of Gen Z say they use social media when they’re watching TV, and they’re more likely to be second-screening with social than Millennials. Social media is yet another channel for them to surf.
Their entertainment-driven approach to social is also evident when we ask young consumers what they’ve been doing more of on social platforms since the start of the COVID crisis:
Compared to Millennials, Gen Z is far more likely to have become more active on social platforms during COVID. The younger generation is more likely to report that the pandemic has resulted in loneliness and boredom, and social platforms have become even more important to them during this time. They’ve been messaging friends more, video chatting more, and checking their feeds more to feel connected. But we also see here that the things they’re most likely to have started to do more of on social are entertainment-related: watching video content and playing games. COVID has solidified social media’s role as an entertainment source for this generation, and there’s no going back.
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