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There has been a lot of discussion about the role of millennials in social media. In general, they are the most active on social media, the most proficient with mobile-first social platforms, and the most likely to respond to messages in social media marketing campaigns.
However, the first members of the Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 1995) are already starting to “age out” of the all-important 18-to-34 demographic, and that can only mean one thing — marketers need to start thinking about the post-millennials (those born between 1996-2010).
Next year, the first post-millennials will be graduating from college, and according to demographers, this could end up being a bigger generation than even the Millennials or the Boomers. These post-millennials, also known as Generation Z, could account for 25 percent of the U.S. population, but what do we really know about them?
New mobile-first platforms
While the millennials were the first generation to grow up with technology and social media, Generation Z will be the first generation to grow up where the smartphone is the very core of how they define online social experiences. For marketers, that means the “online” world is really the “mobile” world. If social media doesn’t work on mobile, then it’s not going to work, period.
We can already see an example of this with their rapid adoption of Snapchat and messaging apps such as Whatsapp. This may end up being the first generation where Facebook is not the default option for social media. Like it or not, Facebook is being increasingly co-opted by older Americans (including parents and now grandparents!) and that means the youngest members of the generation are going to be looking elsewhere.
New marketing messages
From a social media marketing perspective, this may also be the first generation that is less receptive to traditional messaging from social media marketers around “the American dream.” For anyone over the age of 34, there are three hallmarks of the American dream – home ownership, car ownership and a college education.
But look at the changing trends within the U.S. economy — the new upstarts are Uber, Airbnb and MOOCS (massively open online courses). The new “American Dream” already is starting to take shape — based around less emphasis on material goods and more on values, whether it’s same-sex marriage, LGBT rights or the environment.
New demographics require new messages
And, finally, this could be the first American generation that will be predominantly non-white. The recent 2016 election offered more evidence of the tremendous rifts being created within U.S. society by topics like immigration and the rise of a non-white majority. By some estimates, the post-millennial generation will be at least 25 percent Hispanic, 15 percent African-American and 5 percent Asian.
This changing demographic composition, too, has implications for marketers. Social media marketing teams may require more bilingual messaging. And they may require a re-thinking of this generation’s role models. One name that has been mentioned as emblematic of Generation Z is Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 at the age of 17.
Going forward, social media marketers should keep their focus on Generation Y, of course, but they should also keep their ears to the ground for more clues about Generation Z – how they use social media, which platforms they are selecting, and how their goals and aspirations will require a change in the marketing approaches of big brands. Quite simply, a Facebook-first approach may no longer be enough in just a few years.