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Gen Z Social Media: How They Use It and the Content They Want to See

Gen Z is a digitally native generation, immersed in the world of social media. They value and, to a large degree, respect the power of social connectivity, and they embrace the opportunities provided by technology. Generation Z is unmatched when it comes to using social media to connect with friends and family, while seeking community-based and positive content. And they are shaping the future of social media – ever-present on the most popular social media platforms and early adopters of new social platforms. Understanding how Gen Z socials? That’s going to be a critical part of your influencer marketing strategy.

Orange gradient graphic with green loopy icons, sparkles, and a speech bubble surrounding the text: How Gen Z Socials
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How Gen Z Socials

Let’s take a look at the social media habits of Generation Z and the role social media creators play in influencing their buying decisions.

How Much Time Does Gen Z Spend on Social Media?

The average Gen Zer spends about three hours a day on social media, with more than half of them spending 4 or more hours on social media every single day. While they’re not huge proponents of doom-scrolling, or even of using social as their go-to for work, Gen Zers rely on social media for leisure – using it for entertainment and connection.

Orange and green graphic of young characters above text: How Gen Z Socials

Using Social Media as the Great Connector

Generation Z’s relationship with social media goes beyond entertainment and just having something to do. Social media platforms are integral to their daily lives, serving as spaces for self-expression, connection, and information sharing.

They know what’s up when it comes to the latest online trends, from viral challenges to the coolest filters. And they’re all about keeping it real with genuine connections that they initiate, foster, and nurture on social often before transferring those relationships to the physical world.

For Generation Z, social posts aren’t a highlight reel like they were for Millennials. For them, social posts are more akin to a continual stream of consciousness or their train of thought – a connection point.

For Generation Z, social posts aren’t a highlight reel like they were for Millennials. They’re the social media equivalent of their train of thought. Their posts and stories are a window into their lives and passions. They look for authentic and relatable content, valuing transparency and open dialogue.

This generation’s online trends revolve around inclusivity, empowerment, and social activism, as they leverage social media to amplify voices, drive conversations, and champion causes that matter to them.

Gen Z Social Media Platforms: Where They Hang Out and Why

When it comes to their favorite social media platforms, one stands tall above the rest: YouTube. Pew Research reveals that a staggering 95% of Gen Z teens between the ages of 13 – 17 use YouTube, making it the undisputed champion among teenagers. In fact, 19% of teen YouTube users admit to being constantly glued to the platform, which just further cements its significance as a go-to platform for Gen Zers.

Sidebar… YouTube is also a favorite with Gen Xers and Boomers.

But YouTube isn’t the only platform that captures the hearts of Gen Z. According to SproutSocial, 81% of Gen Zers have a fondness for Instagram and YouTube as their preferred social networks of choice. These platforms provide them with an outlet for self-expression, connection with others, and access to a vast array of content.

Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat are the Hot Spots

When it comes to other popular social media platforms, Instagram steals the spotlight, with 62% of teens claiming to use it regularly. It secures the third position for teens’ most used platform, with Snapchat closely following at 59%. For 15% of teens, Snapchat is their go-to app – they’re basically on it all day long.

Gen Z Is In the Metaverse

Beyond just your run-of-the-mill social media apps, Gen Zers and their older counterparts, Millennials, are the most likely generations to spend time in the metaverse, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. The YouTube Trends Report revealed that socializing with friends and playing games are the most popular activities for Gen Zers when they enter this virtual realm.

So to recap: YouTube reigns supreme, Instagram remains a vibrant hub of self-expression, and the allure of the metaverse beckons. While Gen Z may be skeptical of social media as a trusted news source, they still rely on it daily for updates and connections.

Gen Z teens 13 to 17 years old use YouTube

Gen Z Preferred Content Formats

Gen Z has its own unique preferences when it comes to consuming content on social media. That means if you’re looking to engage with this tech-savvy generation, ya gotta know how to reach them on their own terms. So, let’s discover what type of content Gen Z prefers. 

It’s All About Short-Form Video for Generation Z

If there were a single content format that we’d say Gen Z was responsible for popularizing, it would have to be short-form video. Short-form video has taken the digital world by storm, and that whole trend pretty much started with Gen Z on and then TikTok. 

That Time Gen Z Made TikTok the Hot New Thing Everybody Was Doing

LinkedIn Screen Recording of Short-Form Vidceo in Mobile Feed

TikTok exploded during the pandemic and went from being a short-form video app teens were using to post 15-second dance challenges to being the most downloaded app in history. Seemed like EVERYBODY was on TikTok.

The following year (2021), Instagram launched Reels, a similar short-form video platform very much like TikTok that was [probably] low-key designed to stop the mass exodus from IG to TikTok. Then, like now, TikTok had INSANE reach and engagement while Instagram’s reach and engagement had been dropping drastically for years .

Unlike IGTV which was a separate Instagram app for long-form video content, Reels was an on-platform feature very similar to TikTok that Grammers could use to create, edit and post short-form video. The only major difference was that Instagram’s algorithm worked differently (which we’ll get into in a bit).

Nevertheless, in a very short time, all the major social media platforms were prioritizing short-form video content. Pinterest had Idea Pins; YouTube had Shorts. Even LinkedIn prioritizes short-form video content on mobile.

But that’s how impactful short-form video was and is for both content creators and those of us who are avid video watchers. According to the 2022 YouTube Trends Report, nearly 6 in 10 Gen Zers (59% of them) use short-form video to discover things they later watch in longer versions. These bite-sized videos provide a quick and entertaining way to catch their attention and leave them wanting more.

Gen Z x Podcasts: Audio Is an Important Format for Gen Z, Too

In a world dominated by social media and constant connectivity, Gen Z is always on the hunt for refuge and many take comfort in podcasts. Young listeners are turning to this medium for relaxation, escapism, and staying informed about the latest topics and social issues.

According to the Gen Z Podcast Listener Report  conducted by SXM Media and Edison Research, the number of Gen Z monthly podcast listeners between the ages of 13 and 24 years old (the oldest Gen Zers turn 26 this year, just an FYI) has increased by 57% over the last five years.

Approximately 24 million Gen Zers, or 47% of this demographic, have engaged with podcasts in the past month. Of those who are monthly podcast listeners, 75% listen to a podcast at least once a week.

To put this in perspective, there are about 66 million Gen Zers in the US, give or take. Of the ones who fall between the ages of 13 and 24 years old, 24 million of them listen to podcasts at least once a month, and 18 million of them are weekly podcast listeners.

Let’s break it down further:

  • 80%  of 13-17-year-old monthly listeners are also weekly podcast listeners
  • 72%  of 18-24-year-old monthly listeners are also weekly podcast listeners

This surge in podcast popularity can be attributed to a couple of different factors, including the trend of celebrities and influencers expanding their audiences and reach by adding podcasts to their content library.

43% Gen Z listeners make purchase social

Intimacy + That Personal Touch

Podcasts offer an intimate and personalized experience for Gen Z listeners, unlike other forms of media. Media scholar Henry Jenkins explains that podcasts are designed to be listened to on earbuds, creating a more personal connection between the listener and the content. This intimacy, combined with the focus on the human voice, allows podcasts to serve as a storytelling technique, making listeners feel like they are having a conversation with the hosts. As a result, podcasts provide a unique escape from the overwhelming noise of corporate media dominance.

Are Podcasts a Healthier Alternative to Social Media?

One thing worth noting from the Gen Z Podcast Listener Report is that podcasts offer a welcome contrast to social media in terms of emotional well-being. Over 80% of Gen Z listeners use podcasts for relaxation, escapism, and gaining a better understanding of their own feelings. This is important because a significant number of Gen Zers believe that social media has negatively impacted their emotional well-being. That feeling, unfortunately, is backed by sound science. A report by the McKinsey Health Institute highlights that spending more than two hours a day on social media can have detrimental effects on Gen Z’s mental health.

While the average Gen Zer spends 21 hours a week on social media platforms, of those who listen to podcasts at least weekly, 39% spend five or more hours listening to podcasts per week, and 22% spend 10 or more hours a week listening.

But the tie between social media and podcasts goes a bit further. According to the Gen Z Podcast Listener Report, 44% of podcast listeners 13 to 24 years old discover podcasts on social media, either by seeing something about the podcast in their feeds or through an influencer or someone they follow on social.

That’s not insignificant and just one more reason to focus your efforts on building omnichannel marketing into your influencer marketing strategy.

Do Podcasts Influence Gen Z Spending?

Yep. Podcasts not only provide a respite from social media but also have a tangible impact on Gen Z’s consumer behavior. The Gen Z Podcast Listener Report reveals that four in ten podcast listeners ages 16 and above have made a purchase after hearing a podcast ad, while one in three has asked someone to buy a product for them after hearing it advertised in a podcast. #thatpart

So, if you’re wondering if podcast influencer marketing and podcast marketing are effective methods of reaching Gen Z…  yes.

Visual Elements Matter

Overlays, visual effects, and stylized content should be a top priority. These eye-catching elements have proven to be marketing gold for both influencers and brands alike. They add a touch of creativity and make the content more engaging, attracting the attention of Gen Z and leaving a lasting impression.

And the Quirkier the Better

Both Gen Z and millennials have a particular affinity for quirky, quick, and high-quality content. They enjoy content that stands out from the crowd, captures their imagination, and provides a unique perspective.

So, if you want to connect with Gen Z, don’t be afraid to infuse your content with a dash of quirkiness and ensure it’s easily digestible.

How Gen Z Stays Up on Current Events

This Generation values staying informed, and not just grabbing a bunch of intel, but also being able to leverage it to share or impact outcomes.  So, it makes sense that Gen Z would turn to social media for news. While social media plays a crucial role in the lives of Gen Z, their trust in it as a news source is somewhat shaky 🤨.

Interestingly, despite the prominence of online news outlets, 60% of Gen Z still place their trust in newspapers (believe it or not).  And they consider social media the least reliable news source, followed by podcasts and cable news networks.

If they don’t consider it reliable, how is social media still a primary go-to for news? The answer is simple – UGC. While the narratives published by larger media outlets tend to elicit a side eye, a lot of breaking news now comes by way of eyewitness accounts that people post to their social feeds.

A good example of this is ATLSCOOP, an Instagram account that classifies itself as a community ( 👈🏽 important, right? Because of who the audience is), not a publisher.

UGC is a preferred source of news content for Gen Z

And much of the content that ends up in their feed is user-generated content from IG users who are finding situations and breaking news out in the community, posting pics or videos, and tagging @atlscoop in their posts.

Gen Z Content Themes

When it comes to social media content, Gen Z has their finger on the pulse of what’s trending and what captures their attention. This influential generation embraces a wide range of themes and trends that reflect their diverse interests and desires. Let’s explore the fascinating world of Gen Z’s social media content preferences and discover what makes them tick.

The Big Chill

You would think youth would automatically be about high energy, a fast pace, and quick pivots. But the math on that just ain’t mathin’.  In fact, the opposite is true. Gen Z teens and young adults are more thoughtful and slower to act. They value comfort, peace, and chill mode.

Check this out:

  • 83% of Gen Zers have sought solace in soothing content on YouTube, using it as a way to relax and cope with the pressures of life. From ASMR videos to calming nature scenes, they turn to social media to find moments of tranquility amidst the chaos.
  • A staggering 90% of them have watched videos that transport them to a different place. Whether it’s virtual travel experiences, immersive storytelling, or vicarious adventures, Gen Z craves content that allows them to explore new worlds without leaving the comfort of their screens. These videos provide an escape from reality and fuel their thirst for discovery and curiosity.
  • 69% of Gen Z say they return to creators or content that feels comforting to them.

Horror Content

Perhaps the other extreme is true as well in that 53% of them are drawn to online horror content, showcasing their fascination with the macabre. Whether it’s creepy stories, eerie videos, or spine-chilling experiences, they find excitement in exploring the darker side of the internet. So, if you’re looking to captivate Gen Z, don’t shy away from embracing the spooky and supernatural.

Online Community-Building Adventures: From Fandoms to Fashion Trends

Gen Z is all about embracing their passions and expressing their support for their favorite people and things. The majority of Gen Zers – a whopping 61% of them – proudly describe themselves as HUGE fans of one thing or another. Whether it’s a favorite band, an iconic TV show, or a talented creator, they wholeheartedly invest themselves in their fandoms.

Now, let’s step into the metaverse, where socializing with friends and playing games reign supreme. These two experiences have emerged as the most popular activities within virtual realms. Gen Zers gather with their friends, both old and new, to engage in lively conversations, explore virtual environments, and embark on gaming adventures together.

The metaverse has become a digital hangout where communities flourish, bonds deepen, and shared memories are created. What’s the metaverse, you ask? It’s like a digital wonderland where virtual and real worlds collide. Picture yourself exploring immersive virtual environments, attending virtual events, and interacting with avatars. Gen Zers are drawn to this cutting-edge concept, where the possibilities are endless and the adventures are boundless. 

Let’s play some games! According to YPulse, a whopping 88% of Gen Zers and 70% of Millennials regularly engage in gaming. Whether it’s console games, mobile apps, or online multiplayer adventures, gaming has become a significant part of their online lives. They immerse themselves in captivating storylines, conquer virtual challenges, and connect with friends through shared gaming experiences.

Fashion is another powerful thread that weaves Gen Z’s online communities together. A striking 60% of Gen Zers say they can replicate any fashion trend… on a budget. They’re savvy shoppers who have grown up during a time of economic uncertainty. So they know how to find affordable alternatives to popular trends and create their own unique styles.

Individuality is also an important theme, but for the content they consume and for the content they create. From thrift store finds to DIY fashion projects, they embrace their individuality and showcase their creativity through their outfits, ideas, and talents. Online platforms become their runway, where they can inspire and be inspired by fellow fashion, gaming, farming, music, (fill in your hobbies here) enthusiasts. 

Comfort Zones

Now, let’s talk about what keeps Gen Z coming back for more. A staggering 69% of them say they return to creators or content that feels comforting to them. Whether it’s heartwarming stories, relatable experiences, or familiar faces, they seek comfort and authenticity. 

And a Chance to Have Their Say

When Gen Zers land on your posts or websites, they want to do something. They want to tap, swipe, and click their way through the experience. Younger customers crave interactivity and engagement. So, make sure your content provides opportunities for them to take action and be a part of the journey. Whether it’s polls, quizzes, or interactive videos, give them the chance to participate and make their mark.

Gen Z x Social Media – a Distinctive Combination

The generation representative of young adults has pivoted away from many of the behaviors marketers have grown to recognize as pretty standard as it relates to young people and how they use social media. Gone are the days of painstakingly curated feeds and putting every purchase to a vote within your social network. Gen Z social media preferences and behaviors center around authenticity, individuality, and connection.

Instagram is the new phone number. The socially-driven algorithms that power Stories and DMs allow Gen Zers to rely on social media to build relationships that extend beyond the digital world. They are conscientious about engaging with content that promotes self-awareness, fairness, and relaxation. They’re about their grind, but only as a means of securing their financial futures, not for the bragging rights. The point is this – if you’re going to be successful reaching Generation Z on social media, you’re gonna need to know how to do it. An we can help.

Ready to 🐇-hole on all things Gen Z? Check out Gen Z catalog. 👀

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