Digital Marketing

Is Your Event Ready for Gen Z?

by Christine Johnson

Born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, the oldest members of Gen Z are now in their early 20s, graduating from college, and starting to enter the workforce. While event marketers have long considered how to reach and engage millennials, they’ll soon be turning their attention to this new demographic.

mdg Account Manager Christine Johnson shares the inside scoop on what to expect.

A New Digital Strategy
The go-to strategy for reaching young audiences has been through digital and social media marketing, which is still absolutely relevant for Gen Z. What we’ve seen through working with teens, however, is that millennials and Gen Z use technology differently. While millennials are still a strong demographic on Facebook, Gen Z favors Instagram and Snapchat where they can better control their privacy and their sharing settings. When Gen Z primarily uses Snapchat and Instagram Stories, which are shared with only a select group of people and only exist temporarily, it makes it much harder for marketers to see their online behavior and to target them. Reaching Gen Z is going to require a bit of creativity and working with new platforms and influencers to ensure that ads are reaching the right people. On Instagram, for instance, we are experimenting with new ways of storytelling using Instagram Stories to make our posts more engaging and draw in younger followers.

Invest in Video
Gen Z spends an astonishing amount of time watching videos. According to a recent study from Trifecta Research, 70% of Gen Z watches more than two hours of YouTube every day. In addition to YouTube, the newest hot platform for young people is a short-form video app called TikTok, where users can follow influencers, use fun filters, and see hashtag-driven trends. As 16- and 17-year-old students have told me, TikTok is where their younger siblings spend their time online—and it’s rapidly growing in popularity. Using these platforms for video marketing can also be incredibly cost-effective: we recently conducted a Snapchat video campaign that achieved a cost per click of $0.16, dramatically lower than the industry average cost per click of $1.06 on Facebook. To leverage this trend, we are working closely with video partners to capture event footage and testimonials that we can use to promote student events over the course of the year.

Find Your Authentic Voice
This trend started with millennials, but Gen Z feels an even stronger affinity toward brands that seem to have genuine values. They grew up with Google, social media, and Yelp, so they won’t just follow traditional advertising to make decisions; they will consult trusted peers and customer reviews.

While it’s absolutely a good idea to cultivate an honest company culture with strong, positive values, a faster and more straightforward way to harness the power of authenticity is by working closely with influencers. And if it seems cost-prohibitive to partner with a YouTube star or an Instagram trend-setter, remember that not every influencer is a Kardashian. Our PR team has developed a robust outreach plan to connect with both big names and “nano-influencers.” Nano-influencers have between 2,000 and 10,000 followers and are just everyday people with a strong digital presence—and Gen Z trusts their opinions the most.

On-Demand Communication
For better or for worse, Gen Z grew up with smartphones and has an expectation of instant access to people and information. The majority of Gen Z spends over three hours daily on messaging apps, according to a report from Think With Google. Almost all of them own a smartphone and over half are online for 10 hours every day.

We’ve learned that to reach these digital natives, we have to consider how we craft the mobile experience. Our web team ensures that all websites are mobile-friendly and knows the importance of having a killer on-site app. We also use instant messenger and social media to answer live FAQ so that Gen Z attendees always have the information they need while on-site.

Create Hands-On Experiences
One of the biggest pieces of feedback that we get from students at conferences is that they always want more interactive activities. Rather than being lectured at, Gen Z wants to learn by doing. In addition to creating engaging on-site experiences and hands-on workshops, consider extending the event experience online—according to research by The Center for Generational Kinetics, 85% of Gen Z has watched an online video within the past week to learn a new skill.

Reaching Gen Z and giving them a positive event experience will be critical to maintaining and growing events over time as they age into the workforce. As you refresh your marketing strategies this year, consider how these young people will receive your message and how your event will be viewed through their eyes. You might just make your event better than ever!

A version of this content originally appeared in PCMA Convene.