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1. 3. 20241. 3. 2024
In an interview with AdForum, Jenna Studt, "social strategy director" at Critical Mass, says employers and brands need to actively engage in culture, sustainability and social responsibility to reach Generation Z.

Generation Z is redefining the world of content and communication as we know it through activism, authenticity and social media. Jenna Studt, "social strategy director" at Critical Mass, and her team give us a glimpse into their human and authentic approach to data and insights as they create strategies to reach younger audiences.

How are you leveraging new platforms and technologies to engage and reach digitally-oriented Gen Z and younger consumers? What channels and formats do you continue to prioritize and how do you adapt your content to these platforms?

One of the things we do really well at Critical Mass is understanding where our clients' audiences are, what social media trends they are indexing, and how that client's organic social channels (among other touchpoints and channels) are performing compared to competitors. By refining our signals into audience and category insights, we learn how to engage with people through specific platforms, channels and keywords. But that doesn't mean we can ignore basic best practices or discount our own experience or undeniably popular trends.

When looking at data and information in strategy planning, we need to think about the audience first and foremost in every step of strategy development. All the tools are great, but if you don't take that information and approach it in a human and authentic way, you'll never get anywhere - especially on social media.

How are you adapting your messaging to match the values and interests of modern consumers, and how is this different from your approach to previous generations?

"Make real connections." This is a challenge in social media that is rarely met, even by the world's best brands. Many brands talk about it, but too few do it. It shows on their sites and in their communities. They just don't engage authentically, they sell a story instead of telling a story and building a connection.

To make real connections, we need to be smart, sophisticated and authentic enough to understand how to connect with an audience of real people and accelerate a never-ending journey through the entire brand ecosystem. And to do that, we have three truths.

A brand is a connected ecosystem of experiences and social is the front door.

There is a perfect audience for every brand in the world, and to understand and invite them in, we need to leverage the most powerful tools, data and platforms in the world.
Above all, we need to be authentic and relatable because authenticity and relatability lead to trust and trust builds loyalty.

What role do culture, sustainability and social responsibility play in your brand's communication strategy to reach a younger population?

Generation Z, more than any other generation, seeks out brands that not only match their personal values, but also prove it through their actions. And it's not just about what they buy, they are also looking for employment. Employers and brands must actively engage in culture, sustainability and social responsibility to appeal to Generation Z. Period.

Generation Z is also redefining norms in everything it touches, from careers to communications to consumption. What was previously considered traditional and fixed is no longer the case. Taking this into account is crucial - you can't rest on your laurels or make assumptions based on how things are "usually done."

When creating content, even the simplest changes can relate to younger generations and stand out in their eyes. For example, when planning a photo shoot, a simple change is finding models who actually look like the audience you're relating to and portraying households that aren't traditional white heterosexual households.

How are you using user-generated content and interactive experiences to connect more personally with younger consumers?

For most UGC brands, mainstream content leads the way significantly. It is authentic and opinions are not paid for like influencers. Creating a consistent UGC posting program motivates the online community to post content regularly because brand fans get excited when they are recognized in this way. Consumers are also 6x more likely to purchase from a brand that includes UGC because they trust it.

In the case of interactive experiences, this builds a much more engaging relationship. They feel 1×1, which leads directly to brand loyalty. That's why community management is so important. Just by liking or replying to a user's comment, you're providing the personal, human connection that users crave.

Can you share any examples of successful campaigns or collaborations with young influencers, organizations or platforms that have helped shape your brand's communication approach for Gen Z and beyond?

Absolutely! One example is Lactaid. While Generation Z is the next generation of lactose-sufferers, the brand struggled to make its presence felt on TikTok because most of the younger audience associated Lactaid with something their grandparents would drink. By leaning into what Generation Z celebrates - real content they can relate to - Lactaid was able to evoke relevance and connection on the platform.

Another very important point: be willing to take risks, which you can't do unless you've cultivated a strong, trusting relationship with your client.

We're not saying everyone has to choreograph a dance on TikTok. We're looking for trends, platforms and formats that make sense, and finding opportunities for connections between them and the brand.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of niche influencers and communities. This goes back to brand authenticity. It feels more natural for a brand to connect with a person who is close to their audience's community than it does to try to connect with a much larger audience.

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