Gen Z Influencer Strategy

Influencing Gen Z takes quality not quantity

I was recently asked to serve as a judge for the AAF District 9 National Student Advertising Competition. I have to say, I was blown away by both the caliber of work the students produced – creatively and strategically – as well as their ability to be at the forefront of emerging trends and processes. As a 20-year agency veteran, I can often blink and feel like I’ve missed a new trend, platform or app.

I’ll also say, the cynic in me felt they’d been lobbed a softball with Tinder as the assigned client and 18-19-year-olds the target audience. However, as I made my way through the plans, I could see how the students had really put their personal biases aside and dug deep into the target audience, both through primary and secondary research. I was also impressed by how well their understanding of influencers aligned with what I’ve been seeing in industry pubs and research for quite a while.

With my recent judging experience top of mind, it seemed like the perfect time to dive into what brands should be thinking about when exploring influencer strategies – especially when it comes to targeting Gen Z. There’s a good deal of debate over whether influencer strategies are still effective, how they should be implemented and who they target best. With that said, there were some very solid takeaways concerning influencer marketing that the students and I aligned on across the board.

Celebrities are sus.

No, “sus” isn’t a typo, and before you Google it, “sus” is just Gen Z shorthand for suspicious or suspect. They’re a skeptical generation, and celebrities with little to no brand connection are proving not to be the route to reach them. Despite Kylie Jenner’s followers, her impact on this generation just isn’t there.

Gen Z was primarily raised by Gen X with open lines of communication where no topic was off-limits. Gen Z is on track to be one of the most financially savvy generations to date. They’ve also had the world wide web and all its good, bad and ugly at their fingertips from birth. It’s no wonder they’re skeptical and on edge after watching the twin towers fall as kids.

Brands that win with Gen Z integrate the demo’s input and allow the brand to be an extension of the target’s personal values. Celebrities with highly curated lives with little contact with the “real world” have little to no connection with this “don’t BS me, bro” generation. Aside from the entertainment value of following celebs’ lives, Gen Z is unlikely to be influenced by a macro-influencer who doesn’t live like they live, have time for what they think, or share views on causes they care about.

Micro-influencers are who they stan.

For this audience, “stan” stands for the pinnacle of fandom, and micro-influencers are where it’s at. Gen Z is highly engaged with micro-influencers, those with followers in the 1,000 to 1 million range. Previously, the specific expertise of micro-influencers was mostly used for highly niche brands. Now Gen Z looks to micro-influencers almost exclusively for their authenticity and ability to be a voice for the issues they’re facing.

Despite Gen Z’s cynical tendencies, there’s still a lustful longing for a place where they belong, and this digitally native generation looks to their social feeds to get their fix. Not surprisingly, TikTok’s a key platform with 60% of its users falling in the Gen Z demos.

Micro-influencers not only possess the authenticity Gen Z is craving, but also provide a voice for their beliefs, passions and issues. Even the Edelman Trust Barometer shows that the most credible influencers must have a personal connection to the topic or interest.

Now finding the right micro-influencers can prove to be no small task. This is especially true when it comes to the vetting process. No brand wants to invest significant marketing dollars into an influencer strategy built around one key person who is suddenly plagued with scandal or some potentially avoidable catastrophe 6 months down the road.

There is an inherent risk any time you’re dealing with an individual – you can only predict their words and behavior so much. But working with the right partner who can help you properly evaluate the best micro-influencers for your influencer strategy is vital to ensuring long-term success. You need a partner who understands the calculated risks that go into an influencer strategy while mitigating those risks through proper vetting and evaluation.

At Unbound, we have extensive experience working with brands to uncover customer insights that lead to authentic, human-centric brand stories and customer journeys. We’re able to dig deep into the values and beliefs that make your highest-value customers who they are. Then we layer on our social media strategy expertise where we utilize social media listening tools and other methods to identify the influencers who matter most to your customers.

Give us a call at 816.589.3333, and let’s set up 30 minutes to talk about how we can help you pinpoint the folks who have your audience’s eyes and ears.

Sources: Klear, Kantar Media, 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, Comscore