Audience Engagement Platforms
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How Gen Z consume media: “It’s Snapchat first, second and third”

Opinion

Gen Z are one of the first generations born to have grown up using social media. Myself being a part of this generation, aged 17, I find it normal to have used technology from a very young age. 

At 11 years old, when I got my first phone, I had no idea how to use Instagram, Snapchat and especially not Facebook, which I still don’t know how to use, even today! But joining secondary (high) school meant you weren’t ‘known’ until you had a social media profile, so, I downloaded Instagram first and Snapchat came later. 

Instagram was initially more attractive than Snapchat as it offered things that Snapchat didn’t, like the tools to edit photos. However, as Snapchat began to update, it offered the exact same features as Instagram, it just made them easier, therefore rapidly overtaking Instagram in popularity amongst my peers. 

By the time I was 14 everyone was on Snapchat as well as Instagram. Snapchat had begun to offer things Instagram didn’t, like filters, and the ability to call (and video call) friends as well as the ability to delete messages after sending them, which became very popular. It provided something Instagram didn’t — two-way communication. 

Instagram was mainly being used for others to comment on your photos and having small DM conversations, but the comments on photos are public for all your followers to see, and Snapchat provided a place to privately message whilst sending photos at the same time, which was a crucial point of difference. 

Admittedly, Snapchat did take a big hit with its update in February 2018, when it redesigned its discover and contacts pages. This re-jigged the whole design, and made it more confusing to use, which put off our generation from using it. The backlash was severe – by last summer the company was losing a million daily users each month.

From an industry point of view, it appeared that Snapchat had shot itself in the foot and would fade into obscurity, but from a user point of view this was never going to happen. The need for messaging and discovering snaps is so great, that without Snapchat there isn’t another main messaging platform to offer exactly the same features — sure, daily users would complain about the update regularly, but they would never stop using it due to the high demand.  

Snapchat did recognise this decrease in popularity and rectified it fast, by adding new, innovative and attractive updates to combat the messy ones that weren’t so popular. After this damage control, Snapchat began to offer more, to keep us happy. A main update they offered was the ability to subscribe to news sources through Snapchat, such as Cosmopolitan and The Sun, mainly snack-size tabloids designed just like snaps, which provides an easily accessible and free source of news which we enjoy reading. 

In short, amongst my generation, Snapchat is the go-to media of choice.

As for other media Gen Z consume, here’s a brief overview:

  • We don’t tend to look at or use alternative news sources, like the BBC. Our generation doesn’t normally read hard news as it’s mainly about politics and we can’t vote yet, so we won’t look at sources like the Times and The Telegraph. We are more likely to read news on Snapchat.
  • Tabloids tend to cover a lot of fake news, so we have to be able to differentiate true stories. If we’re unsure, we just ‘Google it’ to get a better perspective. That said, we don’t always have time to do this, which is why fake news can sometimes proliferate.
  • We’re not anti-print. Gen Z are buying print copies of high-end magazines like Vogue, Economist, etc. Whether we read them or not doesn’t matter – there’s a certain sophistication associated with high-brow magazines like Vogue and our generation want to buy into this, so having the magazine in a print format allows us to gain a certain aesthetic.
  • We steer away from sites like Facebook and Twitter. We have no need for them; personally, I only use Facebook for work or for big group events, and I’ve never used Twitter in my life. These types of platforms were available before many in our generation were born, and they’re seen as old school. It’s all about the new, and there is no point in being a new generation if we are not using new generation tech. 
  • YouTube was very popular amongst Gen Z because of the amount of personalisation available. However, more and more recommended videos are appearing which are not suited to the user, but are just simply popular videos on the platform. As a result, we’re now dropping back from YouTube and moving to Netflix. Netflix has become a conversation point and is more portable than YouTube. You can download films and watch them without WiFi, whereas you can only use YouTube when connected (or else pay for YouTube Premium, which we won’t do). 
  • Our generation just doesn’t use TV anymore. There just isn’t enough time to sit down and watch live TV. It takes too long to search and find what you want to watch and when you do, it requires a lot of patience to watch through ads and normally, it ends with us sitting on the sofa, looking at the screen in our hand, instead of the screen ahead. 

In summary, as platforms like Netflix and Snapchat have grown in innovation and popularity, sites like Instagram and YouTube have begun to fade into the background. If you are a publisher looking to get our attention, here’s what you need to remember: Make your content “instant”, “on-demand”, “connected”, “easy to use” and “mobile”.

Sally Williams, Generation Z, Kent, England

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

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