As each new generation comes of age, society shifts, with the youngest driving the trends and the rest begrudgingly following. Marketing and advertising are typically very responsive to these changes and have created some memorable and iconic campaigns through a lot of trial and error. But Gen-Z poses a new challenge to marketers. The oft-talked-about generation was raised in a time where technology was deeply endemic to their lives, advancing at a breakneck speed and heavily focused on deeper development of social platforms. They were also raised amid massive global and societal changes. 

Gen-Z has very different expectations for their lives and how they interact in the world, including with brands and organizations, which understandably creates a lot of uncertainty among marketers. So with that in mind, let’s dive into what Gen-Z expects.

New and Cutting Edge

The internet has simultaneously made the world bigger and smaller, while lightning-fast broadband and mobile internet have offered access to nearly all information within seconds. For marketers, this means that your next campaign needs to be grounded in a solid understanding of Gen-Z, insightful and relevant creative, and an authentic expression of your product, service, or message. Take the time to develop a concept you believe in or find a partner that can help you through the process.

With new emerging social platforms seeing massive adoption every 4-5 years, you need to ensure that your marketing can adapt in a way that’s well-suited to each use case. Your posts on Instagram might be performing well in that environment, but are they right for TikTok? Each platform requires a unique approach, and reusing the same content on every platform is not an effective strategy. Make sure that you prioritize the platforms that align with your marketing goals and detach your brand from platforms your audience no longer uses.

Impactful

For Gen-Z, shopping goes deeper than a transaction. It’s investing in causes and companies that align with their morals. Gen-Z expects the companies they support to positively impact the world, and they want to see them doing it transparently and tangibly. Beyond giving money to important causes, brands need to develop a strategy for engaging in discussions around important issues like racial justice and climate change. There have been some notable examples of this over the past several years, including some successes and some flops. Here are some of our favorite brand wins:

DE&I

Gen-Z wants to see the diversity of the world reflected in the media and advertising they consume. They want voices from people of color to be heard, listened to, respected, and credited. Your campaigns need to reflect this—as does your company’s culture, values, and leadership—and Gen-Z will happily call you out if it doesn’t. Expand your marketing team (and every team) to ensure that a diverse range of voices is heard and reflected, and be sure to engage a diverse and inclusive set of creators for any peer-led campaign. Through your content strategy, you can ensure that these values are represented effectively.

Most importantly, you need to back up the talk with the walk and put in the work to make sure your efforts are effective and well-received. In 2015, Starbucks launched its “Race Together” campaign to spark conversation about race with customers. The campaign received a lot of criticism, with customers calling the entire move patronizing and tone-deaf. In 2018, Starbucks closed over 8,000 stores nationwide for racial bias training after two African American men were arrested for simply sitting in a Starbucks, which further hurt the company’s standing. 

Social Responsibility

We talked about how Gen-Z consumers want to see their favorite brands put their time, money, and energy behind good causes. They also want to see brands acting as responsible corporate members of society. This extends to environmental impact, impact on workers’ rights, and more. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues to Gen-Z and is a very real threat to their lives and the lives of future generations. It’s essential to take the time and devote the resources to accurately assessing your company’s environmental impact. If your company is making a positive environmental impact, communicate this in a way that’s authentic to your brand and its mission. And if your company is falling short, take time to reevaluate your practices and communicate your plans to lessen your climate impact.

Worker’s rights are also a huge area of concern for Gen-Z, and it’s just as important to be a good employer as it is a desirable consumer brand. Gen-Z wants to see that brands treat their employees with respect and supports them with progressive policies. They want to see people paid living wages, have access to benefits, and operate in healthy and safe working conditions.

So Now What?

There’s a lot here to communicate, and it doesn’t need to happen all at once. For every organization, betterment is a work in progress. Every post shouldn’t focus on the issues discussed above; instead, you should develop your brand, marketing, and social strategies through the lens of how Gen-Z views the world. As a marketing team, a lot of what we discussed may be entirely out of your control, in which case, it’s a great time to challenge leadership to enact real change and find a way to talk about it with your community and consumers. It’s never too early or too late to be the change you want to see in the world. 

TikTok has dominated the social media scene, quickly establishing its spot as the 7th most used social media platform. While Gen-Z dominates the user demographics, Millennials, Gen-X, Boomers aren’t far behind. Many companies have flocked to the app, posting organically and putting ad money behind sponsored posts and hashtags. As your company considers establishing a presence on TikTok, let’s look at one highly effective way to show up: utilizing influencers.

Company TikToks

The meteoric rise of TikTok has led many companies to expand their digital presence to the app. You can find everyone from mega-corporations to small and fledgling businesses carving out a space for their brand. Some of the most popular content includes new product reveals, behind-the-scenes into production processes, team introductions, and fan features. TikTok has been hammering it into brands to create TikToks, not ads. Rachel Karten explored why certain companies are creating an impression on the platform and found that the brands that are succeeding are treating their TikTok accounts as a creative, experimental platform with a personality that extends beyond branding.

Many companies find the delicate balance of content that best encapsulates this phrase, playing off tried and true content strategies from platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Others are expanding their range with experimental content and interactive approaches while leveraging influencers in new ways.

Influencers and TikTok

Instagram has long been considered the influencer-driven social platform, and TikTok is completely rewriting the rules. Its unique algorithm has given rise to unlikely influencers, breaking the mold of what many would expect an influencer to look like and behave. These influencers have audiences that range from tens of followers to millions, providing more opportunities for nano- and micro-influencers to flourish. Influencer programs are also looking very different on the app, with fans becoming accidental influencers through a mix of TikTok’s enigmatic algorithm and the ability to easily create content that resonates.

Who is Doing it?

We’ve seen some impressive and inventive influencer programs emerge on the app, and YMC has had the privilege of working on a few hugely successful campaigns for great brand partners. 

Kate Spade New York has seen a lot of success utilizing influencers on the platform with their #KateSpadeNYHappyDance campaign, earning them millions of views, engagements and putting new faces to an iconic brand.

https://www.tiktok.com/@jennamariecurran/video/6968886962119806214?sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6979663120851863046&is_from_webapp=v1&is_copy_url=0

Polo Ralph Lauren’s #PoloU TikTok campaign has captured the attention of young audiences, showcasing their newest lines. As the official outfitter of the United States Olympic team and their deep ties to the sports community, Ralph Lauren has been able to use its influencer network to tie into major sports events, like the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, the US Open, and more.

@dawitntash

So excited to be a @RalphLauren #PoloU Ambassador! Make sure you tap the link in my IG bio and stay tuned for more! #PoloSport #Ad #fyp #foryou

♬ Upbeat Indie Folk – Soundroll

Aerie has had an explosive launch on TikTok, gaining a loyal following within two weeks. Aerie launched the #AerieRealPositivity hashtag challenge following their account creation, with mega-influencer Charli D’Amelio kicking off the campaign. The brand capitalized on a loyal following from other platforms, using a mix of well-established and emerging influencers, which showcased their inclusive brand values with real, authentic people.

@charlidamelio

share what you’re doing to stay positive right now by tagging @aerie and #aerierealpositivity #ad

♬ 100% Real Love – PopUpGirl

How Can You Do It?

The first step is recruiting the right influencers. If you don’t have existing relationships or the ability to recruit from your own community, finding the right partner will be key to your campaign’s success. Defining the criteria of who makes a perfect influencer for your brand and campaign goals is vitally important, as these consumers will become the face of your brand to their peers. You’ll also want to ensure they represent your brand’s core values and that their interests and passions align with the products or services you’re featuring so that the content they produce is more authentic to their followers. 

While mega- and macro-influencers have millions of followers, often, their engagement is very low. Additionally, TikTok provides an incredibly unique opportunity for micro- and nano-influencers to achieve equal reach. Long story short, never discount the potential of creators with smaller followings. There is a ____-Tok for every niche out there, and each user has their own ability to speak to their selected audience. Expand the breadth of your influencer program to include those that do not fit the mold of what you think a typical influencer is. Ensure that you are prioritizing diversity and inclusivity in your campaign. Consumers take notice of who you select to represent your brand.

What Are They Creating?

Building campaigns that allow your influencers creative freedom is vital to ensure that they can present your brand in the most authentic way possible. Providing them flexibility in the time and day they post is also crucial, as they know when their audience is typically the most engaged. Hill House Home is an excellent example of a brand with an influencer program that gives its influencers freedom to create the content they want, which sends a message that the brand supports the influencers beyond a business transaction. TikTok’s audience responds very well to sponsored content as long as it reflects the established personality of the creator, as opposed to a script from a brand.

How can YMC help?

If you’re interested in building out your influencer program on TikTok and other social media platforms, we’re here to help. At YMC, we specialize in connecting brands with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!

TikTok is the hottest platform right now, with Gen-Z leading the way. Everyone else, ranging from Millennials to Boomers, is also flocking to the app. After seeing so many individuals, businesses, and megacorporations succeed on TikTok over the past year, your small business may want to jump on the rocketship.

Let’s take a few steps back and think about what that means.

Is TikTok the right place for your brand?

Many businesses have found their niche on TikTok. From lawyers to real estate agents to restaurant owners and museum curators, there’s a ________-Tok for everyone. However, it takes more than showing up to make a splash on the platform, and TikTok’s paid advertising is not always well-suited to smaller budgets. So what should your company be posting that’s going to differentiate you on the platform? 

It takes a willingness to create engaging and exciting content that wraps a personality around authentic moments for your business. Creating quality content can, but doesn’t have to be, a heavy lift for your team. like with all new things, it’s essential to evaluate your digital presence and figure out how to best allocate your resources.

Content, Content, Content

The TikTok algorithm is a ruthless enigma. Every guide will tell you conflicting information on how to get your content in front of the right people, and everyone is both wrong and right in some ways. With that said, the only guarantee that someone will ever see your business’ content is to actually create content. TikTok is a platform where there is no such thing as posting too much. And the more your content is viewed, the longer people watch it, and the more people interact with it―the better chance it has of being seen by new audiences.

But what exactly are you posting? There are endless options, but an easy place to start is to showcase your business and what you do. If you produce a product, give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the development and production process (including the successes and failures). If you’re shipping items, pack orders on a video and explain what that person is getting (bonus points if you have attractive and creative packaging). 

https://www.tiktok.com/@candymeup/video/6976715278361070853?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6979663120851863046

If you work in a field that provides people with services, give some tips or “hacks,” show your workplace, and take your viewers along with you for a “day in the life.” Overall, we know it’s effective to humanize your business. Introduce your team, show them going about their day, and whatever you dostay genuine and don’t force it.

@lawbymike

Bet you didn’t know this life hack! #LearnOnTikTok #TikTokPartner #psychology #tips

♬ Law X Mike By Chase Hattan – Lawyer Mike Mandell

Personality

Posting TikToks that showcase your business, its people, and your products and services are excellent. But don’t forget to also show off your personality! Before posting any content, take some time to figure out your TikTok brand voice. Is your account going to be funny, punny, wholesome, or self-deprecating? People don’t want to simply watch a production line; they want to hear what’s happening and engage with a story in a creative manner. 

@izolas

Happy Wednesday #izolas #hinesvillegeorgia #nearsavannahgeorgia #scoopthatmac #foryou #fyp #lovewins #FtStewartGeorgia

♬ original sound – Izola’s

It’s a Community

TikTok is a very interactive community, and comments are a great way to interact with your audience. Don’t feel pressured to interact with every single comment, but make sure to like a few, reply, and if someone posts a question, reply with a video. This allows you to show your expertise, humanize your brand, and generate more content. 

There’s also a rich creator community on TikTok. Interacting with others is a great way to grow your following. Connect with similar businesses and creators that post related content or someone who has a great TikTok presence that you can add something to. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@wishescandleco/video/6978982642645601542?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v1&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6979663120851863046

There is No Right Way

Some of your TikTok efforts will succeed and some will most definitely not. Don’t rely too heavily on early analytics and metrics, as some of what you consider to be your best content may flop, and your worst content can go viral. Finally, don’t expect a smash viral hit or a massive boost in sales. On TikTok, being creative and having fun is part of the learning process.

How can YMC help?

If you’re interested in learning more about TikTok, social media marketing, and influencer campaigns, we’re here to help. At YMC, we specialize in connecting brands with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, and we’d be happy to share our wealth of knowledge with you. Contact us today!