How the Top Social Platforms are Bending to Gen Z

Move over Millennials, Gen Z is calling the shots now. They may be young, and their purchasing power has yet to be truly defined, but they are changing the online landscape, quickly.

Who is Gen Z? What recent changes to LinkedIn, Meta, and even Google have they influenced at their young age? We’ll cover all of that, so when you are asked, “What is TikTok all about?” or “How can we expand our followers to the younger generation?”, you’ll know the answers.

How Gen Z is Defined

The youngest defined generation to date is currently between the ages of 7-25, per the  Research Center. This generation is uniquely different from prior ones, as the internet, connectivity, and social media have been a part of their lives from the start. Nicknamed the “digital natives,” the digital world is as common to them, as the TV was for the Millennial Generation.

They may be young, but they are large. Gen Z makes up 30% of the total global population and is the largest generation in American history, with the older members of the group now entering the workforce. Clearly a force for all businesses to become familiar with.

The World Economic Forum indicates that Gen Z will make up 27% of the global workforce by 2025.


Gen Z’s Influence on the Social Media Landscape

Overall, social media usage is on the rise and steadily growing, with an estimated 60% of the world population active on social media. However, when Gen Z entered the landscape, the social media behemoths (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) were quickly rejected. Acutely aware of how their social presence impacts their lives, and tired of the toxicity that “likes” create, Gen Z has opted for a different type of online experience.

But why are the established platforms changing their product now? With apps like TikTok, WhatsApp, and YouTube surging amongst this audience, competition is fierce to gain the attention of this audience. Here are the key ways in which Generation Z is changing the media landscape:

  • Short videos are king.

TikTok exploded with the help of Gen Z due to its algorithm, which keeps users coming back for the content it knows they like. Gen Z spends 24-48 hours per month on TikTok (Pew Research) watching videos, as 61% of Gen Z prefer short videos (under 1 minute). Remember when Twitter tried short-form? Neither can we, because it was quickly pulled, but you might remember the term “fleet.” The larger platforms have not given up, however. Instagram and YouTube are still trying to compete with Reels and Shorts, respectively—in efforts to attract the Gen Z audience.

  • No filters please.

In September 2022, BeReal, an app that asks users to post an unfiltered photo of themselves once a day, was the most downloaded social media app (Statista). Authenticity has always been key to success on social media. Gen Z has found that the older platforms, specifically Twitter and Facebook, no longer offer that authentic experience with their algorithm focusing more on engagement. Just launched in 2020, BeReal is capturing the no filter, be yourself philosophy of Gen Z. To combat this preference, Instagram is testing IG Candid Challenges, which offer the same prompts to share a candid photo each day.

  • Make shopping easy.

97% of Gen Z Consumers (Forbes) use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration. The hashtag #Tiktokmademebuy has over 4.7 billion views, #amazonfinds has more than 6.7 billion views, and #booktok, with over 78 billion views, helped make 2021 one of the publishing industry’s best sales years ever. With Gen Z leaning toward seamless checkout experiences, Instagram updated its shopping experience with swipe-ups that take a user directly to the product. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are also expanding their 3rd party partnerships with companies like Shopify to ensure fast and secure transactions.

How Gen Z Is Changing Google Search

Google is also feeling the pressure, with 40% of Gen Z using TikTok for search instead of Google. This is an amazing stat, which Google confirmed during a recent event on how their products and services are changing. The queries that brands have historically seen are not the queries of Gen Z. Here are the recent changes Google will be rolling out to their products, to meet the demands of more visually rich experiences, intended to lure Gen Z back (Google Search On 2022).

  • Google Maps is now incorporating augmented reality, to meet the younger generation’s visually rich requests.
  • Search has been updated to make the experience even more natural with multi-search, allowing users to now search using images and text. Lens, which Google launched in 2017, answers 8 billion questions every month.
  • With 83% of Gen Z shopping on social media, Google added 9 features and tools to make it easier to shop on Google, including more visual ways to shop.
  • YouTube Shorts, which was launched to directly compete with TikTok in 2021 is gaining ground, watched by over 1.5 billion logged-in users every month.

Knowing a major US company is altering their offerings to lure this generation, it’s important to review your own business strategies and online experiences to ensure you are also meeting the expectations of Gen Z.

How Brands Should Approach Their 2023 Social Media Strategies

With their ever-increasing purchasing power and propensity to impact social issues, Generation Z is one we’ll all want to watch closely. Sprout Social recently conducted a survey to determine what they are expecting from their social media platforms, finding that:

  • 64% of Gen Z consumers expect a more personalized experience on social media based on previous interactions.
  • 61% of Gen Z consumers want companies to know them better based on their social media activity.
  • 52% of Gen Z consumers expect companies to read and analyze their social media posts.

What should brands do now? Though Gen Z is making the biggest splash we’ve seen in a while, they are not the only group to use social media. Every platform offers a unique purpose to each user, regardless of the generation. The key to a brand’s success is to use the platforms appropriately, authentically, and customized to your target audience.

If you are looking to court this new audience, keep these top social media goals in mind for 2023, as they apply to all generations on the platforms:

  1. Make shopping experiences easy. Utilize the online catalogs and shopping features offered by social media apps today.
  2. Begin content creator collaborations. A robust library of content, as well as the credibility UGC offers will be a critical component of social media strategies this year.
  3. Increase video content development. Gen Z has proven that they prefer to watch content.
  4. Utilizing UGC as well as in-house development should be built into all brands media strategies moving forward. Embrace the smaller and emerging social media platforms. They may be small, but they grow quickly. Brands who are early adapters can hone their message establish themselves as thought leaders on new platforms.

Remember, TikTok did not exist a few years ago, yet it is changing the online landscape we know today. Keep an eye on the smaller and emerging platforms, continue to test, and always keep yourself up to date on all platform changes and new offerings to be able to compete effectively.

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Google Authorship: An Often Overlooked SEO Strategy

In the SEO world, quick and simple opportunities to boost performance are about as common as a cactus in Siberia.  The reality is that successful SEO strategies are dependent on intensive content development efforts, carefully optimized on-page tags, and a thorough attention to detail with your site’s technical health.  Those tasks don’t come easily, so when an opportunity as simple and impactful as Google Authorship comes along, SEO professionals should take notice.

Despite its low-hanging benefits, Google Authorship has surprisingly gone overlooked by many marketers.  In this post we’ll discuss the key benefits of the program and why you should spend the minimal time required to enroll.

The most tangible benefit of Google Authorship is its ability to differentiate your search engine listings and ultimately increase click-through rate.  When content on your site is written by authors enrolled in Google Authorship, the ranking page is eligible to appear with a headshot from the author’s Google Plus profile.  In addition, the listing will appear with a byline giving credit to the individual author.  Consider the results that appear for the Google search on the term “Bid Op Tool:”

These two factors increase the real estate of your listing and add visual appeal, both of which are likely to positively influence your click-through-rate.  Google recently completed an eye tracking study to measure the impact of Authorship Tags on user behavior.  According to their study, they found that users had a “60% chance of fixating on the annotation when placed at the top of the snippet block.”  In plain English, search results with an Authorship tag are likely to get clicked more than standard results.

It is still unconfirmed whether Google Authorship is an active signal in Google’s algorithm, but many SEO professionals feel that strong “Author Rank” will be an important ranking factor in the future.  Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, stated in his book that “information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”  If this is true, we can also suspect that domains are likely to benefit if Google sees “expert” authors regularly publishing on their site.  This would give organizations the incentive to build in-house content development teams focused on creating unique and valuable content.

These are obviously less tangible benefits that are harder to measure, but it is clear that Google values credibility and expertise.  With increasingly more quantifiable metrics to support these qualities, it would be prudent to anticipate their inevitable impact on rankings.

Writers can sign up for Google’s Authorship Program in just a few minutes.  You’ll need to create a Google Plus profile (if you don’t already have one) with a recognizable headshot, and a work email linked to the domain(s) on which you regularly publish.

For such a simple process, Google Authorship can have a strong impact on your SEO strategies.  To learn more about building a Google Authorship strategy visit Google’s Inside Search Feature or contact us today.

Guest Blogging is Alive and Well

In a recent blog post, Google’s Matt Cutts discusses the pervasiveness of spammy guest blogging activities.  The head of Google’s Webspam team goes so far as to state, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”  The purpose of this article is to clarify Cutt’s statements and help marketers decide how to leverage guest blogging efforts moving forward.

Clarifying the Details
The main point of clarification is that guest blogging is still alive and well.  Cutt’s article and prior videos on the topic were specifically targeting two audiences: blog owners and companies using guest blogs in ways that violate Google’s quality guidelines.  Best practices related to guest blogging are summarized below for each audience.

Blog owners: Historically, numerous blog owners have accepted guest blog posts from various sources, including businesses with which they had no prior relationship.  Google is simply encouraging these websites to properly scrutinize submissions to ensure they are original and high quality and offer relevant content to their blog readers.  This suggestion is given to website owners to help them avoid damaging the reputation of their blog.  For blog owners the premise is simple: offer your readers high-quality content and we’ll consider your blog high-quality, but offer them low-quality content and we’ll consider your blog low-quality.  Of course, higher quality blogs will rank better than lower quality blogs.
Guest Bloggers violating Google’s quality guidelines: Websites can violate Google’s quality guidelines in several ways.  Cutt’s article specifically brings to attention the following violations:

  • Buying links: This one is pretty cut and dry.  You shouldn’t pay for links.
  • Requesting followed links: Google doesn’t like it if you specifically ask for a followed link.  Followed links should be a natural result of other efforts, including your content marketing initiatives.
  • Spinning articles: Article spinning (the practice of syndicating the same article or similar iterations of the same article to multiple websites) is frowned upon.  After all, how can you provide unique content if you’re syndicating the same content to multiple outlets?

In terms of link building, guest blogging should only be used as a means to acquire high quality links (as opposed to a large quantity of links).  Additionally, companies shouldn’t use guest blogs as a primary, or even secondary, method for acquiring links.  The issue that Google identifies is that many companies realized that they could drive significant inbound link volume by mass producing guest blogs. When you’re after volume, your content development efforts will inevitably yield lower quality, less unique content.  When this effort is multiplied by the thousands of companies engaged in guest blogging, the product is a sea of low quality, or even spammy, content that damages the integrity of search results.  Clearly, this is something Google would like to minimize or stop altogether.

Dos and Don’ts of Future Guest Blogging
To ensure your guest blogging efforts are providing value and are not violating any of Google’s quality guidelines, we recommend you follow the following dos and don’ts of guest blogging.

Focus on quality, not quantity: This should hold true for all of your content development efforts.  High quality, unique and compelling content is far more valuable than stale, mediocre content.  Strong content helps build links naturally, improves brand equity and can be used more effectively as part of an overall content marketing strategy (see #4 below).
Target the right audience: Your content is only valuable if it’s seen by the right audience: your target market.  Focus on outlets that allow you to gain visibility among your customers.
Build relationships with 3rd party websites: Once you find specific outlets that help you access your customers, build a strong relationship with them so you have the opportunity to promote content with them on an on-going basis.  Frequency is an important metric in the context of content marketing and brand equity.
Think holistically: Your content should be developed as part of an overall content marketing strategy designed to help you generate more business.  Don’t spend your time writing content simply to get a link; the link alone is rarely worth it.
If you’re a blog owner, have a solid review and submission policy for all guest posts: If you’re accepting guest blog post submissions, make sure you review the articles prior to publishing them. You should be looking for high quality, unique content that provides value to your readers.

Don’t pay for links: This is the most obvious violation.  Google has been pretty adamant about this for years.  Never pay for links.
Don’t request followed links: This is almost as obvious as #1.  Followed links should happen naturally, but requesting them is a red flag to Google and should be a red flag to blog owners as well.
Don’t engage in article spinning: Repurposing the same article and submitting to multiple blogs is a clear violation to Google’s quality guidelines.  If you’re even considering doing this, then you should rethink your entire content development strategy.
Don’t overreact: Google does not take kindly to “black hat” SEO practices and guest blogging is no exception.  However, if you are developing and syndicating content the right way (as discussed above), you should have no concerns regarding your guest blogging efforts.  Companies should be able and willing to collaborate with 3rd parties to develop unique, interesting and original content to share with their customers and other interested readers.

Keep in mind that Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the most relevant search results possible.  Over time, guest blogging has been abused so much for ranking purposes by certain marketers (for some that term is far too complimentary) that a shadow has been cast over the entire guest blogging community.  If you’ve been using guest blogging properly as part of an overall content marketing strategy, then you should have nothing to worry about.  If you’ve been using guest blogs in an effort to manipulate search results, then you should stop immediately and rethink your strategy.  Guest blogging isn’t dead; in fact, it’s more alive now than ever for those who choose to utilize it properly.
If you need help developing a comprehensive content marketing strategy, or if you’re interested in learning more about how guest blogging should be leveraged moving forward, please don’t hesitate to contact us.