According to consumer data produced by the Cassandra Report, 63% of Gen Z respondents preferred real people to celebrities when it came to ads.
Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z already makes up a large share of consumers – and a growing share of the workforce. Unlike previous generations, they grew up on social media. 25% of them are on TikTok every day, and 85% of them list YouTube as their favorite website.
Celebrities just don’t reach this younger audience in the same way that they did to previous audiences. Older generations didn’t have Instagram mini-stardom or Facebook fame. Actresses and pop stars and athletes were the only tastemakers they had.
Gen Z prefers realistic portrayals of people, rather than idealistic beauty standards and scripted lifestyles, which is why the new tastemakers are YouTubers and Instagram influencers with gigantic followings.
Combine that with Millennials’ stated preference for “authenticity” and you can see why influencer marketing is gaining steam over celebrity marketing.
Influencers on TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and even LinkedIn are increasingly commanding hefty sums from brands who want to partner with them. Even Fortune 500 brands.
But hiring outside influencers to get “real people” isn’t the only way to market your company.
You’ve Already Got Real People
Before you up your marketing budget, check around inside your company. You’ve already got plenty of “real people” who can promote your brand. They’re called employees.
Gen Z values transparency and Millennials value authenticity. What could be more authentic and transparent than letting them hear from your real people?
If you empower the voices of your engineers, your designers, your network security team, your maintenance people, or your accountants, younger buyers will respond. They’ll love hearing from these people. And they’ll respect your openness.
Gen Z not only want transparency from the brands they buy, they increasingly say they want to align their consumption choices with their values.
Let’s face it. Many of them don’t automatically trust a company just because the word “values” appears in its mission statement.
But employees can give these buyers the real scoop on what it’s like inside the company. If you know your brand lives up to its stated values, your employees can reassure Gen Z consumers that those values are not just boilerplate.
Employees can also answer the questions of consumers who want to know more. Product designers can take buyers inside the product development process. The software team can field questions about what a day in the life of a dev is really like. The R and D team can thrill hardcore fans of your brand with stories about research and testing.
When Pfizer rolled out its vaccine, the American public wanted a face to go with it. Americans didn’t just want to hear from the CEO of a giant pharmaceutical company. They wanted to know about the scientists who actually created the vaccine. Just look at the heroine’s welcome Dr. Katalin Kariko received, with profiles in the New York Times and other major publications.
You can help your customers put faces to the names of your products and services. You can give them access to the real people they want to hear from. And you can do this by letting your employees be your social media influencers.
It’s not really that hard to cultivate influencers inside your company. Many of your employees are probably quite good on social media already. They just didn’t list it on their resume because they work in software testing or in engineering or in the legal department or even in collections.
Encourage your employees to start putting their social media talents to good use.
Let them submit ideas, craft content, and publish in their, or even the company’s, social media accounts.
You can still manage the process and keep an eye on what’s going on an employee advocacy platform. Track the metrics of each individual post and reward their authors appropriately.
The Bottom Line
Whether you choose existing influencers, or make your own, understand that in order to reach younger buyers, you need to be on these new platforms (Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc).
But you should also understand that you don’t need celebrities repping you on these channels to gain a significant reach among members of Gen Z. Reach the youngest generation with real endorsements from real and relevant people.