A lot of things have been said in the media about “Generation Z,” or the generation following the millennials. As a 17-year-old, I fall firmly into this generation. The Huffington Post says we’re “more global.” Pew Research Center has decided that we’ve been “shaped by global events.” Forbes Magazine comments that we “value having a purpose.”
All of these insights are probably true for many of us—but they’re all written by older individuals speaking from observation rather than experience. As teenagers and young adults in high school and college, we’re more than old enough to speak for ourselves. Many companies and organizations have caught on to this idea, especially considering the fact that many members of Gen Z have entered the workforce.
Phone2Action hosted a webinar today that gave me and four of my peers a venue for speaking about what we value, how we prefer to communicate, and what we see as the future of advocacy and civic action. Here are some highlights from our hour-long discussion.
We notice when brands and organizations share their values on social media
We care about social good and look for brands that take a stand about causes they care about. My co-panelist Kinsey Morrison said, “I just turned 21 and am about to have my first full-time job, so I’m a newly-minted beer buyer and annual non-profit donor. Every time I try a new beer, I follow the company on Instagram, and every time I make a donation, I follow the non-profit. And what I see in their posts and values really does influence my brand loyalty and what I will spend money on in the future. I FULLY plan to be drinking beer and donating to charity when I’m 101, so if you make an investment now, you’ve got me for 80 years!!”
We want you cut to the chase
Although being the generation that grew up with the internet allows us to be the ones that fix mom’s iPad when she forgets how to reset her password, it has also caused us to have short attention spans. My friends can’t make it through an entire BuzzFeed article without subconsciously flipping to a different screen. When asked what she would tell organizations who are interested in engaging with her generation, webinar panelist Emma Mohler said, “My generation really values conciseness. A strong message in a short amount of words—something concise, meaningful, and memorable—will stand out to us.”
We can spot inauthenticity from a mile away
We’ve been bombarded since birth with carefully-crafted messages meant to influence us—anti-smoking campaigns that try to portray a “cool” vibe with parents who attempt (and fail) to use teenage slang. You don’t have to pretend to be just like us. If you are genuine, we’ll respond to that. If you treat us with respect, we will extend you the same courtesy. My co-panelist Azhalia Leal said during the webinar that being authentic with your goals and viewpoints is the one piece of advice she would give to anyone trying to engage with her and her peers.
We like humor
Even though we take social issues seriously, we also enjoy humor. During the webinar, my co-panelist Waed Alhayek pointed out that brands that have a light-hearted approach to communicating with their followers stand out to her as brands she wants to engage with more. “Keep it fun and lighthearted,” she advised. She singled out Wendy’s for having a particularly fun tone when engaging in dialogues with their customers on Twitter. We also discussed the recent fun spat between Texas Roadhouse and Outback Steakhouse.
As you may have gathered, Gen Z is going to a force to be reckoned with both in advocacy and political spheres. According to Nielsen, we are currently the largest generation in the US population. As more and more of us become eligible to vote, you can be assured that we will hold both candidates and organizations accountable for their actions and results.
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