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Social media. Short sentence, long conversation. Gen Z is the next generation that digital marketers need to start homing in on, and the only effective way to do that is through social media.
The era of the banner ad is dying out, slowly but surely. It might have worked for older, less tech-savvy demographics, but it’s not going to be nearly as effective in the future.
That’s not just hearsay, either. Banner ads were most effective the first day that one went online, and the popularity of them has been declining ever since. On average, 0.8 percent of people actually click on display ads, and 50 percent of those clicks are accidental.
That’s a terrifying number, especially when you consider how much money you might be putting into those display ad marketing campaigns. What is even more terrifying, though, is the fact that banner ads are actively harming your brand. Reports are stating that display ads actually leave a negative impression with potential customers, either of the product or the brand itself.
The reason for this is ambiguous. It could be that banner ads are now synonymous with viruses or that people don’t want to have their browsing interrupted. Either way, using them should be out of the picture. This is particularly relevant for Generation Z, as it is the most technologically proficient generation to date. In fact, Gen Z may be the first digitally native group in history.
The generations preceding it are digital immigrants. Most can remember a time when the internet didn’t even exist, meaning that old-school marketing techniques worked on them. If those conventions are thrown out of the window when we’re dealing with people for whom the internet is a way of life, then what are we left to use?
Related: 41 Percent of Gen Z-ers Plan to Become Entrepreneurs (Infographic)
Social Media Marketing
The easiest case to point towards is Wendy’s. Its approach isn’t typical of a social media campaign on account of the brand’s already massive awareness, but it can be helpful to study all the same. Wendy’s hired a social media manager to run its online presence, namely Twitter. This manager, while not strictly Gen Z, understood the internet, understood the language and the culture. She used her already established personality to excel Wendy’s online presence into the stratosphere, making it one of the most recognized and respected accounts on the internet.
Her success with the company was so great that it prompted many of Wendy’s competitors to start employing the same strategy, to horrible effect. The feedback was so poor that it inspired its own genre of meme, mocking brands for trying to appear less corporate than they are.
So, why was there such a difference in success? It all comes down to how natural the execution is. The corporate brands trying to replicate Wendy’s success were doomed to failure simply because of their duplicative efforts. Wendy’s, on the other hand, happened relatively naturally. Sure, the social media manager has a job to do, but she didn’t try to force any results. She injected a little bit of personality into the posts, and it worked marvelously. Specifically, it worked marvelously with younger demographics that appreciated that level of sincerity and could recognize when it lacked in the attempts of other corporations.
If we were to dive down this rabbit hole deeper, it would lead us to a discussion about the shift in politics between generations and how younger generations lead towards a more “eat the rich” philosophy, but that’s a topic for a whole other day.
The main takeaway for you, as an entrepreneur, is to value individuality and sincerity — if for nothing else than to make your brand more appealing to younger demographics. There’s a difficult line you need to walk between sincere and effective and forced. If your audience feels that you’re trying too hard, then they’re going to turn on you very quickly.
Generation Z and the Future
Learning how to adapt your marketing for the future is going to be the deciding factor when it comes to the long-term success or failure of your business endeavors. That adaptation is primarily going to be in the form of effective social media marketing. Luckily for you, the landscape is still very much uncharted territory. Sure, there are examples that we can bring up, like Wendy’s, that can teach us a lot about how to do social media right, but there is a lot of room for experimentation.
Related: Gen Z Teams Are Magic for Startup Leaders Who Overcome This Challenge
Start shifting your digital marketing efforts away from display ads and start pumping that cash into your social media campaigns instead. That’s not to say you should start promoting all of your posts, but focus foremost on the content. Be sincere and unique. Younger audiences appreciate a sense of individuality that doesn’t put the “corporate line” above all else, even if you do.