Living in a Gen Z World

communicating with generation z

Welcome to the Generation Z world! It is past time to understand how to communicate effectively with this generation. The oldest of Gen Z are about to transition from being students to the workforce, or they are in the process of wrapping up their college education. Like every generation, there are critical characteristics that set this generation apart from any other, especially in the area of technology.

Who Is Gen Z?

Gen Z definitely sounds like a superhero group, and it may be an apt description as we consider the fact that Gen Z is native to current technology. Being raised with technology older generations have only more recently become comfortable with (smartphones, easily portable computers, internet, etc.), Gen Z can look superhero-ish in their ability to incorporate and understand technology in everything.

Here are some important Gen Z statistics and characteristics:

  • Gen Z represents about 30% of the global population
  • Born roughly between 1996–2012; the oldest Millennials are now approaching 40 and the oldest Gen Z members are approaching 25
  • Use multiple social platforms
  • Use an average of 5 different screens for day-to-day living (phone, tablet, computer, TV, etc.)
  • Extremely open to experimentation including new experiences and new technology
  • Self-starters and creators
  • 8-second attention span
  • Trust influencers (authorities that are similar to themselves)
  • Extremely culturally and socially diverse while also being proponents of diversity and acceptance
  • Activism minded and socially conscious (humanitarian and environmental)
  • Crave authenticity
  • Love to share and give feedback
  • Multitasking ability is impressive

You can think of Gen Z as more technologically and socially extreme Millennials. They are more motivated, less attentive, more technologically savvy, and more socially passionate.

Since they are a more extreme Millennial, however, that means your communication methods don’t have to be radically altered to engage effectively with Gen Z.

Core Elements in Engaging Effectively with Gen Z Using Technology

To engage Gen Z effectively, the use of a multimedia approach is necessary. Being digitally present and aware has to be used in your selected mediums to engage with students. In promotion, teaching, or general conversation, technology must be integrated or invited into every communication.

Globally across all generations, people use the internet an average of 7 hours each day, and 2.5 hours of that is on social media. Technology cannot be ignored. If technology cannot be ignored, the question becomes, how is technology effectively used?

Five Principles for Effective Engagement with any Technology

Whether you’re teaching, communicating, or advertising to students, there are five principles for effective engagement with any technology.

  1. Entertaining
    • Gen Z uses the internet and social media to be entertained.
    • Content that is unable to hold attention will not be interacted with no matter how much it is pushed.
    • Entertainment can take many forms (educational, thrilling, shocking), but it cannot be boring and must have visual stimuli.
  2. Simple
    • Embellishment or overly-long content has no place next to all the other things that bombard Gen Z.
    • If content or messages are not easy to grasp or navigate, you’ll be overlooked instead of engaged with.
  3. Shareable
    • Gen Z wants to engage in a way that they can share their experiences.
    • Content such as articles or videos that is easily shareable is crucial to higher engagement with your Gen Z audience.
  4. Impactful
    • Content and initiatives that will engage with Gen Z the most is content that has some kind of higher purpose or story.
    • When trying to get Gen Z engaged, providing some greater purpose to anything will resonate better with them.
    • Gen Z needs know they are making a difference or impact on the planet or lives; simply being a part of something is no longer enough motivation to engage with something.
  5. Visual
    • A simple well-worded lesson, post, or story will not be enough to catch the attention of Gen Z.
    • A visual aid in the form of an image or video must be a part of what is shared.

Digital Platforms to Use

The bulk of your interaction with Gen Z comes on digital platforms.

  • Facebook
    • Facebook is alive and well. Facebook may be declining in usage among teens, but there is still a sizeable Gen Z population that can be engaged with on the platform.
    • Creating or sharing content on a personal or organizational Facebook account is still valuable. Creating student events, creating student groups, posting event photos, or posting student-relevant discussion and material are all easy ways to take advantage of Facebook.
  • Instagram
    • The fastest growing platform and easiest to generate content to engage with Gen Z is Instagram. Although videos and images are expected to be of generally higher quality, a larger portion of the Gen Z audience is engaged through Instagram.
    • Continuing conversations through images, posting photos, and using hashtags to organize content are easy ways to make an impact with Instagram.
  • YouTube
    • Gen Z goes to YouTube to consume video content. YouTube is the second largest social media player behind Facebook.
    • YouTube videos that teach something and those that are funny or moving have potential to take advantage of the traffic present on YouTube.
  • Messaging Applications / Group Messaging
    • As Gen Z is consistently bombarded with content, one of the only ways to be assured that you are getting their attention is messaging.
    • This can be as simple as group text messaging or group messaging applications. Take this avenue if you need something to go directly to your students and are desiring a response.

Other Useful Technology Suggestions

  • Consider using PowerPoint or Prezi with every lesson or study to add visual and other supplemental aides.
  • Attempt to incorporate brief videos into all lessons or event advertising.
  • Use Instagram Stories or Twitter to incorporate live and interactive polls into events or lessons.
  • Always have a designated photographer or group to capture video or photos from events or meetings.
  • Live stream events or teachings.

The big emphasis here is that communication with Gen Z does not happen without technology, so embrace this and find a way to use technology to your advantage.

By Mitchell Bruce, Alabama WMU Digital Media Specialist


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