Millennials are to marketers what Beyoncé is to the world – practically royalty. As a demographic, Millennials are known for having indisposable income, spending it and being cool (for now). Reaching and connecting with Millennials has become a priority for many brands over the past years. Soon though, this Millennial crew will have to officially move over and make room for Solange, the mysterious and misunderstood, but much cooler younger sister – known to marketers as Generation Z (unofficially categorized as individuals born between 1997 and 2002).
Similar to Solange’s “elevator incident,” Generation Z is demanding attention from the world – and they know how to get it. With more followers than The Today Show, some of these Gen Z-ers, and those they follow put on an act to rival this year’s Super Bowl halftime performance. The trendsetters they are, they’ve dismissed popular social media platforms like Facebook – comparing it to an “awkward dinner party,” prefer Vine and YouTube over TV and communicate with friends via “Snaps” on Snapchat rather than the “traditional” text message.
To learn more about this largely untapped group, we invited a couple of tastemakers currently influencing Generation Z to join us for a panel during Social Media Week New York to find out what’s really “on fleek” (i.e., on point). In partnership with The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), we hosted a #WineWednesday event at 360i’s New York headquarters and invited photographer Amanda Jas (@hokaytokay on Instagram), Snapchat guru Shaun McBride (@Shonduras on SnapChat, Twitter and Instagram); Snapchat artist Christine Mi (@miologie on SnapChat, Twitter and Instagram) and photographer Ryan Parrilla (@novess on Instagram) to join us for a panel discussion on partnering with brands to reach the coveted Gen Z audience, and share what’s next for Influencer Marketing in 2015. In the post below we outline a couple takeaways from the panel discussion.
This might seem obvious, but stay with us here. Generation Z has a lot of tools at their disposal, and they know they are pretty darn good at using them. They are able to deliver amazing art, photography, messages, etc. and can seamlessly deliver it to millions of followers with one tap. But they’re also smart enough to know that while they are capable of delivering a message or content doesn’t necessarily mean they should deliver it. They know very well that the reason they have a following is likely due in large part to that timeless Dr. Seuss quote about being an individual: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Especially true for Gen Z content creators, who are now bringing home a small fortune by way of their loyal social followings, these Influencers want and need brand partnerships but are selective about what work they take on. They know the only way to effectively engage and grow their audiences is by authentically telling their own stories that are true to them, instead of simply being a megaphone for a brand. In this regard, their ability to steer the ship has become a non-negotiable for many Influencers.
This doesn’t mean that brands have to relinquish complete and total control to their partners they work with. It just means that the word “partnership” should actually be approached as that: a partnership. Two main things brands and Influencers will want to align on are “Project Style” and “Creative Freedom.” Here’s how that might come to life:
- Project Style
Jas said it really well during the panel discussion, “Influencers are looking for projects that are enablers.” When a brand project enables an Influencer to live out passions, have new experiences and/or adventures – those are the kinds of projects they will mostly likely say “yes” to. They also look for projects that open up opportunities for Influencers to add their own touches and unique perspectives to content produced, rather than regurgitating a branded message.
- Creative Freedom
“When a brand comes to me for a project, and then we spend several rounds on feedback and changes, I wonder why the brand hired me at all. Why do they need me if they’re not interested in my vision and ability to relate and engage my audience?” articulated Mi during the panel. The Snapchat artist emphasized the point that Influencers’ fans know when content isn’t organic. Both McBride (@Shonduras) and Mi (@miologie) shared that they often poll their fans mid-brand project to crowdsource the outcome of their stories. Influencers need creative freedom to accomplish interest and engagement.
Turns out Dr. Seuss may actually really know everything. To learn more about the panel discussion and the Influencers who partook, read more over at Ad Age.