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Fun is one thing, funny another. Spend five minutes with a Gen Zer and ask them to show you some funny videos, memes or GIFs. While you’ll get a chuckle from the more predictable cat videos, you’ll most likely see something so quirky and off-the-wall that you’ll end up raising an eyebrow or scratching your head.

Where did Gen Z’s unique social humor come from?

Scott Fogel, Senior Strategist at Firstborn (a design and tech company), told Fast Company that a lot of Pivotals’ humor stems from a “weird, unhinged sensibility.” They love self-deprecating Snapchats and memes, or videos that make them appear offbeat or quirky. And that’s what is on trend.

And Fogel points out this is not a Millennial behavior.

“It’s rare for a Millennial to post anything on social that makes them look strange,” he said. “But for a generation that’s spent their entire lives online – mostly in the unfiltered lens of Skype, webcams, lives streams and vlogs – an intimate exhibitionism has emerged in a way that older generations simply don’t have.”

Brands that infuse humor and self-deprecation into their personalities will appeal more to Pivotals – but they should still take caution. Trying to pander to this generation by using too many popular acronyms or teen slang will instantly get you pegged as trying too hard. Amanda Gutterman, VP of Growth at digital media company Dose, shared a great analogy with Contently:

“You don’t want to come onto a platform like Snapchat and be perceived as someone’s weird uncle trying to be cool.”

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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Contrary to popular belief, Gen Zers don’t always have their eyes glued to their phones.

“I definitely prefer seeing my friends in person rather than over social media because I feel closer to them when I really see them,” explains 15-year-old Greta J. “I love to laugh with them and be able to see a genuine reaction rather than an “LOL” over text. How am I supposed to know if they are really laughing or if they just don’t know what else to say?”

Uniquely Gen Z,” a 2017 IBM Institute for Business Value report, found that socializing offline is just as important to socializing online.

From “Marketing to Gen Z” by Angie Read and Jeff Fromm

Can this be true of a generation that has never known a world without the power of digital technology? Yes, and the reason is their craving for authenticity. As Greta alluded, isn’t it so much easier to understand intent when that interaction is physically tangible?

And when it comes to Gen Z, it’s time to get real. Pivotals are not only prioritizing real-life social interactions (perhaps more so than Millennials before them), they are also creating an influx of social platforms that encourage and celebrate such authenticity.

As Greg Witt, Executive Vice President of Youth Marketing at Motivate Youth, told Fortune, “The first and most prominent mistake I see brands make via their social media strategies is that they create an ingenious character to represent their image. Gen Z wants real. Gen Z wants transparency. Gen Z wants originality.”

Witt encourages brands to take cues from Levi’s. While Levi’s gained its reputation with Gen Z’s parents, it is not having a problem keeping up with the times. The brand is strategic about who it selects as brand ambassadors. Instead of looking for the most popular influencers or the ones with the greatest number of followers, Levi’s instead tries to find individuals who fit its brand DNA.

Another factor paving the way for increased importance on IRL interactions and new platforms? Privacy and anonymity.

Pivotals learned from an early age, thanks to rapid advancements in technology and the mistakes of Millennials, the importance of online privacy. As a result, they are acutely aware of what is and isn’t acceptable to share online. One of the first things they do when turning on their phone or logging into a social app is enable their privacy settings. They’re also very good at policing themselves online. They know embarrassing photos or rants can live forever online, potentially hurting their chances at that dream college down the road.

Aside from saving certain topics for face-to-face, Pivotals have also increased the popularity of more anonymous and temporary platforms, such as Snapchat and Whisper. They are also flocking toward “dark social,” or as you might know of it, messaging apps. Didn’t you ever wonder why the Facebooks and Instagrams of the world started placing big bets on these apps?

While both Snapchat and Whisper offer advertising opportunities, connecting with Gen Z through incognito apps is tricky and will continue to be a learning process for marketers. The key for brands, however, is to appeal to users, who want to feel like people rather than marketing targets, in a way that doesn’t appear as an intrusion or “selling.” Only time will tell the winners (and losers) of this endeavor.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers are the latest to gain traction thanks to the interest of the youngest consumer generation, Gen Z. According to the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs will increase by up to 30 percent by 2022! However, at the current time, universities are finding difficulty retaining students in these fields because the programs tend to be too theoretical and non-practical to keep students engaged. To correct this problem, Millennial parents and educators are now using Virtual Reality (VR) to get kids interested in science and technology.

VR creates a fully immersive three-dimensional experience that allows individuals to experience the impossible, such as traveling through the Ebola virus or studying paleontology in the Jurassic period. Half the brain is dedicated to visual processing, so intense visual stimulation like VR aids with information processing. With just a VR headset, educators can supplement student education by providing hands-on learning opportunities. While most VR equipment doesn’t come cheap as it is yet to be democratized (much like the journey of organic foods), there are a few affordable options already in the market: Google Cardboard and I Am Cardboard’s VR Cardboard Kit V2.0 are both under $25.

“By using VR in education, material now considered too difficult for many students and taught even to advanced learners only at the college level could be mastered by most students in middle school and high school,” said NASA’s Software Technology Branch.

Anticipating the impact of this among Gen Zers, aerospace company Lockheed Martin created a one-of-a-kind virtual experience for kids called the Lockheed Martin Mars Experience Bus. The creation is an actual school bus with transparent screens instead of windows that allows riders to experience the streets of Washington D.C. one minute and the sights and sounds of Mars the next. Thanks to Oscar award-winning visual effects studio Framestore, the screens play video footage of Mars’s surface so that riders can view 200 square miles of the Red Planet firsthand. Students from Girls Inc. and 4H were brought in to participate and be inspired by the VR experience.

Generation Beyond Mars Experience Bus | Lockheed Martin - YouTube

“It’s incredible to make something that pushes the boundaries of what is possible, but it’s a real honor when that project inspires kids to do the same,” said Framestore’s Global Head of VR and Executive Producer Christine Cattano. “By giving the next generation of minds the experience of exploring a new world, we hope we’re inspiring the possibility — and the desire — for them to get there.”

While undoubtedly cool, The Mars Experience Bus is also rooted in usefulness for the next generation. It is part of a campaign from Generation Beyond, an educational program that encourages children to pursue STEM career paths. Generation Beyond, in tandem with this VR experience, also includes lesson plans, an interactive space flight experience and family activities from Discovery Education that are meant to “prepare the next generation of explorers.”

As we are seeing the pendulum swing back towards a culture that is more revolved around individual achievement for Gen Z, this introduction of VR into the educational realm is important. These students are the next generation of creators, innovators and leaders, and they need more exposure to exciting scientific advances to contribute to continued worldwide progress in the future. Perhaps they will be the generation to cure cancer or to solve world hunger. And, just maybe, integrating VR into their education will expedite that process.

The question is: What role can your brand play in supporting them on their journeys?

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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With tools like FaceTime, Snapchat, Skype and Google Hangouts, members of Generation Z might be the most connected consumer group in history. They don’t need to be in the same location physically to communicate in full sight, sound and motion. Imagine if members of Gen X or the Baby Boomer generation had the same tools at their disposal in their youth – their social lives would have been off the hook! Or as Gen Z would say, “lit.”

While Gen Zers use their mobile devices for many tasks, 73 percent cited texting or chatting as their primary mobile-phone activity. This points to not only their desire but their basic human need to connect with one another. This is particularly true when it comes to their closest inner circles, as their overall use of social media centers around those who they trust most. Within these circles, they express themselves by posting comments, sharing photos and videos, noting their opinions, and linking to the top trends of the moment, from songs to influencer videos.

All in all, hyperconnectivity is not a distraction for Gen Z: it’s the first way to engage and build relationships. And as Barkley Engagement Director Joe Cox explains, “Social media is only fueled by how good your actual social life is, and Pivotals have a very profound knowledge of this – They’re collectors of experiences and use it to further their social currency with friends and people in social circles.”

But as a result, Gen Z has developed what we call the “Instagram effect.” Social media creates pressure on them to present the coolest version of themselves – to be Instagram-worthy. This effect is by no means a mysterious phenomenon. Teens will openly admit to taking countless photos in attempt to get the best shot.

Chompoo Baritone, a Bangkok-based photographer fascinated by the Instagram effect, created a photo series to illustrate it. Her photos show the reality of what’s just outside the perfectly cropped frame. Pivotals related to the collection of photos and unabashedly shared it amongst their networks. While even seemingly ridiculous at times, the shots by Baritone provide a realistic reflection of the value that is placed on having the “right” social life by Gen Z. Her work, and the acceptance of it by the very group it pokes fun at, is just another indicator of how much importance this generation places on connectivity.

So, what do brands need to know to support Gen Zers on their connected journeys?

Pivotals are mobile-first. They prefer the connectivity in the palm of their hands, accessible at all times. Brands must adapt to this when it comes to website presence and digital development.

Pivotals use social media to amplify every aspect of their lives. From their social interactions, to their education, to their philanthropic extracurricular activities and more, Gen Z wants and expects complete digital integration. Brands will not win with this group unless they offer this first and foremost.

Pivotals crave connection – but the right kind of connection. This means they don’t want to be bombarded by irrelevant content, a.k.a advertisements and gimmicks. Gen Z will see right through and subsequently remove brands from their sphere. Brands need to determine what matters to this generation and share it the right way.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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Marketing tricks and gimmicks don’t fool today’s youth: Generation Z. They are builders and believers of authentic relationships with not only their peers but also with the brands that help them support their identity. As a result, they expect brands to know them and to deliver them highly personalized messaging. Yet, this messaging can’t be inherently promotional or sales-y. It must generate genuine interest and prove its authentic alignment with this consumer group.

CASSANDRA, an agency that offers insights, research and strategy regarding youth generations’ emerging trends and behaviors, explores this topic frequently. At our 2017 Share.Like.Buy youth trends conference, Davianne Harris, CASSANDRA’s Senior Director of Brand Strategy, and Melanie Shreffler, CASSANDRA’s Senior Director of Insights, discussed the dos and don’ts of marketing to Gen Z in their presentation, “Buy Me or By Me: The Rise of Gen Z Influencers.” We followed up with them to learn more.

Q: Being adept at tuning out promotional messaging, how – or from whom – are Gen Zers getting their information about products and services in the marketplace?

A: Gen Zs don’t know a time when they haven’t been marketed to, so they are adept at tuning out anything that resembles advertising – and they make the decision to pay attention or not in a matter of seconds. They don’t want to be “sold” to and prefer to learn about and adopt brands through their peers as opposed to ads or marketers themselves. When they do choose to interact with brands, they look to them to either provide entertainment or, when they need it, to offer functional information about their products or services (e.g., origin, sustainability practices, etc.). Furthermore, while young people still know and like celebrities, their ability to infuse a brand with their cool is waning in the eyes of Zs.

Q: What can brands do to reach this generation, knowing that they are not interested in traditional means of advertising?

A: Brands must shift from traditional advertising that focuses on convincing consumers to buy or engage with the brand to finding ways to authentically connect with consumers via their passion points. Consumers are no longer a captive audience but a moving target, literally. And while brands have learned to adopt a mobile-first approach, few have figured out how to do this well. Most mobile ads are perceived by Zs as being too disruptive, while others do too good of a job blending into platforms and fail to stand out. Meanwhile, the ancient power of word-of-mouth is enjoying a resurgence thanks to the accessibility of influencers.

Q: What brands are reaching Gen Z in the right way?

A: Adidas is doing an amazing job reaching Zs with their influencer-focused marketing that embraces the creator. In addition, Zs appreciate the ability to customize and achieve a one-of-a-kind look, and Adidas delivers this as well. Sephora is also resonating with Zs. They have a broad range of products which fits their need for choice and personalization. However, they have solved for the challenge of their daunting selection with clever digital tools to help young shoppers find what is most relevant and fitting for them. Sephora also enables consumers to put forth their best self with the various tutorials and online communities that feature influencers or peers who deliver the content.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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Despite the growing focus on natural beauty, the beauty industry has nothing to fear from Gen Z. In fact, teens and tweens today might be the best thing to happen to the beauty industry in years. Per Piper Jaffrey’s most recent semi-annual teen survey, beauty spending is up 20 percent from just a year ago as teens continue to splurge on makeup and skincare. Mintel also reports that color cosmetics (31%) and hair care (24%) are the two largest beauty segments among younger consumers.

Growing up in the age of social media and selfies, Gen Z obsesses more over their appearance than previous generations. Sure, it sounds a bit narcissistic, but the reasons are more complex than one might expect. Teens know they can be photographed anytime, anywhere, and they expect those images to end up online. Teens view their personal identity as a curated composition; they are building their own personal brand over time. Building “Brand Me,” starts at a young age and is constantly evolving. With their carefully curated personal identities so public on social media, they are hyper-conscious of the way they present themselves.

In their ongoing quest to define “Brand Me,” teens have fun experimenting with their individuality through makeup, hairstyles and fashion – and sharing that process with their friends (both online and offline). Rather than turning to their moms or older siblings for beauty advice, teens are going online for ideas, trends and step-by-step tutorials from some of their favorite influencers.

Defying Gender Norms

Yet, these influencers are not the same as those who inspired Millennials. Gen Z is writing modern rules that favor more liberal views on race, gender, identity, sexuality and self-expression, so it should come as no surprise that those rules play into current beauty trends. Females no longer corner the market on beauty. Young men are into make-up now, and the industry is paying attention – as are teens.

In fact, Refinery29 claims it’s a good time to be a boy in makeup. Leading the way are James CharlesBretman Rock, Manny Gutierrez and Jake Warden who have become household names in the industry. CoverGirl recently named YouTube star James Charles their first ever “CoverBoy,” as the face of their new So Lashy mascara. Likewise, Maybelline recruited Manny Gutierrez as its first male beauty star to promote its Big Shot mascara. Both Charles and Gutierrez are openly gay and embraced by their Gen Z fans.

Speaking of boys and beauty, the youngest male beauty prodigy making waves is a 10-year-old from the UK named Jack. Jack’s Instagram account, @makeupbyjack, has nearly 300K followers. Jack is a master of some of teens’ favorite make-up trends like baking, contouring and highlighting. (You’ve probably seen his wildly popular video on Facebook.)

Highlight their Uniqueness

What do these modern rules mean for beauty brands?

Gen Z wants beauty brands to see them as unique individuals working to piece together their personal brands over time. They prefer to see real people (“people like me”) versus traditional celebrities in advertising. The challenge will be determining what “people like me” means to the most diverse generation on the planet. Right now, online influencers (and micro-influencers – those with smaller niche followings) are the closest thing to “people like me,” with Gen Z, who often see influencers as peers and personal friends. Partnering with influencers to create compelling content that highlights individuality and self-expression will help beauty brands authentically reach Gen Z. This is a generation that avoids traditional advertising at all costs, with 69 percent using ad blockers. Sponsored content with key influencers is one of the best ways to ensure Gen Z actually sees your messaging.

Uniqueness also applies to skin tones and types. Gen Z is the most diverse, multicultural generation in history, so they expect brands to develop products that work with their different skin tones and beauty needs, such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. The line is for people of color who have struggled for years to find the right shade of foundation. The inclusive and cruelty-free line includes 40 shades of matte foundations, from the palest of pale to deep, deep brown.

And don’t forget to appeal to their sense of playfulness. That means offering a wide range of colors, lots of sparkle and products that can be used in a number of ways (such as highlighters that can be used on the lips and eyes). Beauty should be fun, especially for young consumers who are using it to influence their identities.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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Now that we’ve determined there is a new method of social media marketing on the scene (if you missed this, read here first), it’s time to explore who is doing it right. While perhaps not as well known, we believe that Truth’s anti-smoking campaign is a stellar example of using not only social media influencers but also engaging them in the right way to reach Generation Z.

WHO: Truth

WHAT: The anti-smoking nonprofit set out to create a video that, in an emotionally impactful way, would make it clear that smoking is not glamorous.

HOW: With the help of popular YouTubers such as Grace Helbig, Epic Meal Time’s Harley Mortenstein and AlphaCat, the brand created a song called “Left Swipe Dat,” referencing Tinder’s left swipe rejection feature to demonstrate not only that smoking is unattractive but that smokers get twice as many left swipes as non-smokers. Along with a variety of comedians, musicians and influencers, “Left Swipe Dat” features outrageous graphics that include a man on a dolphin riding a rainbow. The music video premiered during the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.

IMPACT: When the influencers shared their video, #LeftSwipeDat rose to the top of the worldwide trending topics. The YouTubers, with more than 34.54 million followers between them, reached a massive target audience in a way that gave the message an authentic, relatable quality. As a result, Truth received the Cannes Bronze Lion Award for the campaign.

View it for yourself:

LEFT SWIPE DAT Official Music Video - YouTube

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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Over the past several years, online influencers have gained traction as a notoriously effective way of engaging Millennial and Gen Z consumers. In fact, per VentureBeat, 75 percent of marketers already use influencer marketing. It makes sense, as brands immediately increase their credibility by working with individuals who already have a following. Yet contrary to what you might expect, brand engagement climbs the highest when the influencer has a smaller, niche audience.

This makes a myth of the idea that more views generate more buzz. According to a study by Makerly, micro-influencers, or those with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers, attract more than four times the number of likes on sponsored posts than macro-influencers with millions of followers. This elevated engagement rate can be attributed to micro-influencers’ dedicated audiences, who view them as a reliable expert on a specific topic they care about compared to a more popular, mass-appeal influencer. As a rule, the more followers someone has, the lower their actual level of engagement will be.

For example, if your product is cookware, you will be better off choosing a foodie Instagram with 15,000 followers than, let’s say, Selena Gomez. Despite the fact that she has millions of followers, many of those followers are likely not interested in cooking, nor is Selena Gomez an authority on cookware. Influencers must be relevant to the brand they represent. Additionally, micro-influencers field fewer offers from marketers, making them easier to reach and less costly than a big-name influencer or celebrity.

Not only do macro-influencer endorsements cost more, but as Stephanie Funk, founder of influence company Acorn, contends, “People can’t relate to celebrities.” Although someone who makes comedic YouTube videos might not seem to have celebrity status in the traditional sense, their millions of subscribers would claim otherwise. When I asked 14-year-old Emma K if she follows anyone on social media who isn’t a ‘real life’ friend or a celebrity, she answered, “Who do you consider ‘not a celebrity’?” She asked if YouTubers like Miranda Sings and Cameron Dallas counted, following up with, “I consider them celebrities.”

This response is particularly telling, as today’s teenagers have grown up with YouTube and, consequently, do not differentiate between the fame of a macro-influencer and that of a movie star. Gen Z prioritizes individuality rather than following the masses, and a sought-after Internet celebrity does not fall in line with that ideal. Lesser known micro-influencers are a natural fit for a generation fixated on cultivating a unique personal image.

Additionally, the lifespan of an influencer is short, presenting yet another challenge to marketers.

“You have to be constantly finding new influencers,” says Funk. “Loving on them but not becoming too attached. When they’re done, they’re done.”

Advertisers must identify optimal influencers and employ them before they become irrelevant. Then the cycle repeats. With such a tight timeframe, brands targeting younger consumers must be strategic about choosing influencers that will elicit maximum engagement. Don’t ignore the little guys, because in today’s market, they’re more important than ever.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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If you’re still banking on the Beyonces, Taylor Swifts and Justin Biebers of the world to blast marketing messages to your consumers, you’re wasting both time and money.

Collaborating with social influencers and content creators in their respective channels of prominence has overtaken the traditional celebrity endorsement. Brands benefit from the halo of trust and authenticity offered by “real people” sharing “real” content with their fans and followers. According to a recent Cassandra report by digital agency Deep Focus, 63 percent of respondents from Generation Z reported they would rather be marketed to by “real people” than celebrities. And according to a Variety poll, eight out of the 10 most “approachable, authentic and influential” people for today’s teen audience are YouTube stars.

With the rise of social media influencers to their own “star status,” how do marketers tell the difference? Or more importantly, how do they decide which influencers are worth their investment and make sense for their brand?

New Engagement Rules

Traditionally, celebrities become famous through their involvement in film, television, fashion, music or sports. They gain admiration based primarily on their skills in these areas. As such, celebrity endorsements have typically allowed brands to harness a celebrity’s popularity to increase brand recognition and value.

Social media influencers, on the other hand, have risen to “fame” just by being themselves – or perhaps hyper-exaggerated versions of themselves. They created communities of followers based on genuine shared interests and ideas and earned the admiration of their followers because of the friendship and trust they provided. Think with Google even describes Gen Z’s relationship with social media influencers as “friendship” rather than “fanship.” As a result, social media influencers have overtaken the industries of fashion/beauty, gaming, travel, food, home/living and fitness.

Brands can create genuine word-of-mouth marketing if they tap into the trusted communities that social media influencers have built. When brand content feels like it’s coming from a friend and supporter rather than someone paid to represent a product, it resonates with not only Gen Z but all modern consumers. And while influencers are often paid by the brands they endorse, most make the choice of only aligning with the brands that truly showcase their authentic voice and personal expertise or interest. Because of this, their followers believe that they won’t “sell out” to brands just for a paycheck, which further supports the brands in question.

While some may contend that, because of the pay, social media influencers are no different than celebrity endorsements, it’s still a key way of reaching Gen Z.

“Influencer marketing has evolved into just another paid channel – it’s no different than a TV spot or a print ad,” says Jessica Liu, Forrester analyst. “However, Gen Z doesn’t necessarily care. For them, it’s more about their perceived connection with the influencer, and they don’t care if that person is being paid to promote a brand or not. They’re still more likely to listen.”

And there is undoubtedly some gray areas between what constitutes a celebrity versus a social media influencer in the current market. After all, think about the Kardashians. Sure, they rose to fame because of a reality show, but they continue to expand their fandom through social media mega-stardom. As a result, the youngest two, Kendall and Kylie, relate far more to Gen Zers than the original trio of Kourtney, Kim and Khloe.

So, what does this all mean for brands?

  • Engage and make connections with influencers to foster positive, mutually-beneficial relationships.
  • Let influencers take the wheel, but target influencers who love your product and embody the brand’s values.
  • Continually seek new influencers to remain on the pulse of culture and trends, and don’t be afraid to leverage micro-influencers.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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In 2012, Brian Solis wrote “The Rise of Digital Influence,” a “how-to” guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence. By 2015, Adweek had determined social media marketing was the “Next Big Thing,” saying it would open a new channel for brands to connect with consumers more directly, organically and at scale. Today, you will find that social media marketing is more aptly called influencer marketing, and it is living up to the hype as a proven channel that delivers brands with real results.

In reality, however, influencer marketing is nothing new. Since the dawn of advertising, businesses and brands have tapped into people with influence – typically celebrities and well-known public figures to promote products and services. And since blogs came on to the scene in the early 2000s, marketers have been trying to figure out how to leverage them for brand benefit.

Yet, if influencer marketing is nothing new, and blogs and social media have been around for more than a decade, why is it obtaining so much attention now? Tapinfluence, a leading influencer marketing automation provider, has outlined it as the creation of “the perfect storm” of marketers, influencers and consumers, in which major shifts in behaviors and tactics are proving powerful.

Marketers

For marketers, the shifts require a broader grasp of messaging and a deeper understanding of data. With the emergence of digital marketing came the opportunity for every effort to be tracked, measured and attributed – meaning no sale goes uncredited. This data focus extends to social circles as well, thanks to the connectivity of social media. Software is being developed that offers “Return on Sentiment” analysis and word-of-mouth analytics. Similarly, the content that marketers measure has shifted dramatically from “Here’s how great our product is!” to controlling of the narrative by consumers. Brands must present a relatable message and encourage a positive conversation at every touch point.

Influencers

Influencers also have had to shift their content toward short-form, visually-centric platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat to retain audience engagement and interaction. Even though long-form content, like blogs, once dominated, sponsored content is now how visual platforms make their money.

And not only has the content changed, but so have the target demographics. Millennials and Gen Z are now the targets for branded content, with influencers spanning every age range. What’s most important is that an influencer produces engaging, authentic content, and the way to do it is to integrate them into the campaign’s creative process early on. With such an increase in the dedication, quality and visibility of the influencer, it’s no wonder many of them are able to transition their passions into full-time, paid careers. Gen Zers even see becoming an influencer as a viable, attainable career option.

Consumers

Consumers, over time, have come to see peers as more credible than brands, even if the content is sponsored. As long as the content holds value as genuine, educational or entertaining, consumers will still engage with it. The key is having authentic and meaningful content, as Pivotals are distrustful of traditional advertising that tries to “trick” them. Especially in an age of auto-play videos, pop-ups and pre-roll ads, an advertisement must be authentic and credible – and an influencer figure helps enable that.

As it stands, it’s impossible to name a social platform where individuals or groups haven’t built meaningful relationships with their followers. Influencers gain followers by creating human connections and building trust with their audiences. Because people trust other people more than they trust brands – particularly members of Gen Z – marketers need to recognize the unique opportunity influencer marketing provides.

Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for our new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!

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