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The Top Ways Young Europeans Are Engaging With Brands on Social Media—And Why They’ll Unfollow

Gen Z and Millennials are turning to social media for all of their shopping needs, but brands need to know how young consumers want to interact with them there…


Young consumers are shopping online and on social media more than ever before, and that means their openness to engaging with brands, ads, and products on social is going up, too. In our recent social and mobile marketing preferences survey, more than four in five young social media users in Western Europe told YPulse they’re open to seeing ads on at least one social platform, and over a third say that platforms often feature products and services they’re interested in buying. Even more say social media is a great place for shopping inspiration, which is especially true among Gen Z. But that doesn’t mean all types of content and advertising are reaching them equally—and brands need to know how to reach them to stay relevant. 

With this in mind, we wanted to know exactly how brands can best reach young consumers on social media. In our recent behavioral report, we asked young consumers to tell us how they’re interacting with brands on social media. Here’s what they had to say:

First and foremost: the majority of 13-39-year-olds have interacted with a brand in some way on social media. Just 17% say they only interact with friends on social media and another 7% say they don’t interact with brands or friends, leaving three-quarters of young European consumers who are open to brand engagement. While technically the top way they’re interacting with brands in this ranking is by hitting the follow button, followed closely by watching a brand’s story, it is important to note that the majority are not following a brand, and are instead interacting with brands in other ways.  

But for brands who are leaning into stories, it’s an increasingly strong way to connect with young consumersespecially young female consumers, 30% of whom report watching brands’ stories compared to 22% of young male consumers. Our data found that Gen Z females are driving the growth of Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat in Western Europe, revealing this demographic’s preference for video and more interactive content. Among these platforms, 68% of 13-20-year-old females report using Instagram stories, making it their most-used feature on any platform. Brands wanting to reach these young consumers have a good chance of finding them here.

Just 16% of 13-39-year-old Europeans report buying something directly from a sponsored ad, highlighting the need for brands to get creative when trying to reach these consumers. As reported in our Clicking on Community trend report, engaging young Europeans is not about static social media accounts and posts; it’s about making them feel a part of something bigger than themselves, or a conversation that they’re a part of.  

With that in mind, we also asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe to tell us the reasons why they would unfollow a brand on social media:

When we asked Gen Z and Millennial Europeans their top reasons for being on social media, “fighting off boredom” and “entertaining content” were among their top-three responses, respectively. It’s no surprise then that the top reason they would unfollow a brand on social media is boring posts. Young consumers want to be entertained on social media, and brands need to entertain them there too. In fact, when we asked what types of advertising they’re most likely to pay attention to, their top response was short videos by a big margin. And just like Gen Z is far more likely to say they’ll unfollow a brand for boring content, the younger generation is also more likely to say they want to see short videos from brands—51% compared to 44% of Millennials. 

Meanwhile, 64% of all young consumers say they don’t mind seeing ads on social media as long as they’re entertaining, and 68% say social media ads are better when they’re interactive. Young European consumers also say they’re likely to unfollow a brand for too much advertising of products and services, highlighting the need for brands to focus on engaging and entertaining young consumers as a way to raise brand awareness, rather than advertising specific products. 

It’s also important to note that a top-three reason they’ll unfollow a brand is if it doesn’t align with their values. YPulse has said for years that young consumers are cause-driven and expect brands to help make the world a better place. And in 2020, young people were activated more than ever, taking to the streets and social media to protest for causes they believe in—and that meant they put more pressure on brands and establishments to align with their missions, too. In our most recent Causes, Charity, and Activism survey, we found that 83% of respondents in the U.S. believe that all brands should do some sort of social good or charitable work. With nearly a third of European consumers saying they’d unfollow a brand for value misalignment, it’s more important than ever for brands to engage with social causes, and make their views known.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE social and mobile marketing preferences behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.