Millennials were the first generation to reach adolescence in a social media crazed world. They learned so many crucial lessons about privacy and quickly felt the repercussions of having a very public (occasionally unknowingly) online life.

Millennials who were born in the late 80s and early 90s navigated these waters alone. Comparing themselves to peers with seemingly picture perfect digital lives, and dealing with the labyrinth of privacy settings after receiving a friend request from their Mom.

Puberty in the era of, "it did not happen unless you posted it on Facebook," had mountains of drawbacks. As Gen Z, those born after the mid 90s, started enrolling in high school they had a clear advantage. This generation had watched older millennials' public online failures and because of it many began paving different paths for social connections, expression and consumption.

Like Millennials, Gen Z are already technology trend setters. Understanding where Gen Z chooses to consume and why their minds are constantly shifting will give brands an advantage for future consumption and communication trends.

Anonymity

Navigating social media without offending someone is a daunting task. Millennials in general are known for their strong opinions and Gen Z looks to be no different. That being said, Gen Z has witnessed the social gaffes from the previous generation and seeks to voice their opinion to a soap box that protects their opinions. One method that quickly grew in popularity was posting with anonymity.

The app Yik Yak sprung up on college campuses with rapid growth within the last few years allowing users to voice their opinions, no matter what they are, without a name attached. Other antonymous apps, Whisper and Secret, also launched but failed targeting older demos.

Yik Yaks intense rise in popularity is notable due to its direct contrast to Facebook's commentary that is tied to your personal profile. That being said, the app has also recently seen downloads dwindle due to the difficulty in uncoupling itself from controversy over threats and bullying.

For brands, the popularity of anonymity proves that this generation is highly in tune with how their identity is attached to comments and opinions. For truthful reviews and commentary, partial anonymity might be a worthy route to explore.

Authenticity

As we try to move past the age of a manicured social life and the addiction to affirmation, Gen Z has gravitated to platforms that promote authenticity.

Snapchat entered the scene after its debut as the sexting app with the promise of documenting real life on a platform that alleviates the fear of content living in perpetuity. Its growth was propelled by the constant stream of your friend's semi-live lives and the artificial urgency to see the stories before they disappear.

However, the raw life that Snapchat built only a few years ago, seems quickly to become just another filtered extension of social media.

For brands, it is not all about doubling down on Snapchat. It is recognizing that Gen Z is attracted to less edited more raw content. High production costs, don't equal virality with this generation.

Privacy

The other side to Snapchat's appeal is its private messages. It is impossible to deny the rapid growth of messenger apps, including Snapchat, for this generation.

According to Business Insider, in Q3 2015 messaging apps surpassed the monthly active users of social networks. These applications offer privacy and another trusted platform for this generation to socially connect and communicate.

In the Silicon Valley bubble, it feels like we have not shut up about the rise of messengers. Yet as brands and marketers we are just starting to figure out how to incorporate effective strategies that not only tap into this user base, but also provide a model for how we communicate with our customers.

Watch Gen Z Even If You Don't Market to Them

Gen Z has already proven to be an early adopter and technology trend setter. They are quick to jump in and quick to move along if their needs aren't met. This generation won't completely flee platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. But they will be cognizant of their lack of privacy reserving those platforms for self-promotion and mass content consumption. Messengers providing closed private conversions will continue to grow and be a haven for expression.

Needless to say, Generation Z will continue to pave a path for older generations to follow.

Published on: Dec 7, 2016