Gen Z vs Millennials: What Marketers Need to Know on Social Media

Fab Giovanetti
min read
Gen Z vs Millennials: What Marketers Need to Know on Social Media


  • Understanding Millennials on social media
  • Connecting with Gen Z on social
  • Why you should create value-driven content
  • Make the most of video formats
  • Why your brand identity matters
  • How to harness social selling with Gen Z and Millennials

Millennials and Gen Z are the two driving powerhouses of social selling and brand championing in the social media marketing world.

Among different niches and segments, Millennial and Gen Z audiences are getting more and more attention when it comes to social media strategy. Should you be marketing with LOLs because you talk to a younger, more informal audience?

Not necessarily. However, how you target and refine your social media content may shift slightly. Millennials and Gen Zers are among the most proactive and vocal consumers you can engage with. 

They can quickly become your brand champions on social media and loyal advocates

How do you adapt your social media strategy to make this a reality? It all starts with understanding the fundamental differences between Millennials and Gen Z.

Understanding Millennials on social media

According to research, you are considered a Millennial if you are born between 1981 and 1996 (currently aged 25 to 40).

Millennials are a segment that most companies have been focusing on for the past five years, mainly thanks to this generation's immense spending power of $1.4 trillion.

Millennials have evolved massively over the past five years. I am a Millennial, and I can see myself in the natural shift from early adulthood to taking on more responsibilities, future planning, and a different mindset that has shaped the way I show up, even on social media.

What makes Millennials and Gen Zers so different?

However, the most significant shift in perception regarding social media is that Millennials saw the internet blossoming and flourishing, being the early adopters of Instagram filters and Facebook status updates. 

Gen Zers were born with smartphones in their hands (well, almost). At the same time, Millennials brought curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism to the mix, which is reflected in their behavior online.

According to Content Science Review, 74% of these Millennials spend at least 5 hours engaged with online content each week. They are inquisitive. They still strongly rely on word of mouth and peer reviews.

Millennials are also nostalgic, which is something social media marketers can truly harness when it comes to their messaging. Looking back at the “life before," the Internet is a bitter-sweet habit that has welcomed the rise of memes and curated content trends.

Adding Gen Z to the marketing mix

If Millennials have seen the birth of the Internet, Gen Zers are digital natives. They can see a future (and often a career) online and are open to cultivating connections with others.

Gen Z has a projected spending power of over $140 billion, and it's the most diverse and savvy generation to date. 

Gen Z does not want to be sold on social media, even more so than Millennials. They seek value, inspiration, and entertainment. In fact, they care about connections and community.

As Gen Z is currently a vast audience, spanning from 10 years old to 24, identify the specific age range you are looking to target. Most active Gen Zers on social media are between 18 and 24. 

Such a diverse, socially-conscious generation is the driving force of community in the social space and, as such, has seen the rise of crucial differences in the way we market to Millennials and Gen Z. 

Thankfully, the core values and strategies overlap despite the divide as they focus on value, customer experience, social proof, and user-generated content practices.

Value-driven social media strategy

Value-driven social media is at the core of Gen Z and Millennial practices. With the rise of what is known as "positive impact marketing," using social media to showcase and vocalize what you stand for as a company has fast become one of the core content pillars of most dynamic and successful brands. 

While Millennials are still looking for recommendations and word of mouth as part of their decision-making process online, they also consider the brand's values more than ever before. 

Socially-conscious brands find massive success in today's market, both as a form of social currency and to make a statement about how they spend their money. Gen Zers are more willing to purchase if your company supports a cause. 

Research shows that Gen Z has been called the "socially-conscious generation." You've probably noticed an uptick in teens speaking up on important issues, especially those that affect them. 

After all, 70% of Gen Zers are committed to supporting ethical companies and are more likely to engage with raw and unpolished content over sleek branding. 

As a clear example, Millennials are more active on Instagram (more curated in its style) while Gen Z is a TikTok generation, looking for realistic brands over staged content.

Harnessing video-centric platforms

Interestingly, Millennials and Gen Z are swiftly moving away from platforms like Facebook and exploring different social networks.  When it comes to where their time is spent, we can see the divide. 

Millennials have been exposed to different formats of content, making them more prone to spend their time across various platforms, such as Pinterest, Instagram, and even LinkedIn.

In fact, according to research, Millennials are more likely to divide their time across a broader range of platforms, while Generation Zers spend more time on fewer platforms.

With attention span shortening generation after generation, creating content that entertains and hooks on social media has become a necessity. As Millennials divide their time across multiple platforms, Generation Zers focus more on mastering the platforms where their community exists (namely YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat). 

When it comes to Gen Z, we can easily assume that short-form content, especially video, is at the forefront of their minds. It's no surprise that TikTok and Snapchat are the two leading platforms you can find Gen Zers actively engaging in. TikTok was the platform that 13–18-year-olds were most likely to call addictive, with 32% choosing it for this descriptor in a user survey from Y Pulse.

A bit more surprising to find YouTube high on that list, and this is not just for the Gen Z audience. More than 80% of Generation Zers (89%) and Millennials (86%) use YouTube at least once a week.

The platform reaches more viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 years old than all TV networks.

As a result, when crafting your strategy and choosing platforms to be active on, variety truly is the spice of life. Yet again, video content seems to be the king format for most. 

Let your brand identity shine

As a newcomer, LinkedIn has grown in popularity not just for older generations as a place for audiences to get to know brands and the people behind them. 

With the wave of “great resignation” among Millennials, LinkedIn has become the perfect place to give a more honest view of your brand and its identity as Millennials are looking for new opportunities.

There are 78 million global Gen Zers on LinkedIn, representing roughly 10% of LinkedIn's global member base. According to its latest Gen Z report, the platform is unique in that younger generations focus primarily on hard skills and prefer to do their learning on weekends.

80% of Gen Zers say they're interested in following more companies and organizations on LinkedIn to understand the company culture and their personality better. 

Similarly, TikTok's content direction also reflects Gen Zers' need to express their individuality, something they expect to be mirrored by brands.  As everyone's the main character, entertainment and storytelling about weird and wonderful things and sounds perform very highly on the platform.

Gen Z appointed TikTok as the "most entertaining" platform, beating out Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, and other major media on this metric.

Whether you want to fulfill Gen Z's self-expression needs or relate to Millennials' outlook for new opportunities, let your brand identity and personality shine. 

Social media and the new shopping experience

Harnessing the power of peer review and user-generated content to get Millennials' attention is critical, while 40% of Gen Zers give online reviews "very often." 

As "content creators" and more active social media users overall, Gen Zers are more comfortable with social shopping. Being mobile-first, Gen Xers are twice as likely to purchase their smartphone than Millennials.

They also rely on influencer marketing from relatable and a diverse range of creators to help them with their purchase decision, showing once again TikTok (and Pinterest) as two strong main for social shopping among Gen Zers.

In a study from Deloitte, 51% of Millennials say that being able to see consumer opinions has a greater impact on making a purchase decision. They are more skeptical and conservative than their Gen Z counterparts and need a slightly different level of nurturing on social media. 

As 65% of millennials start interactions with a brand online, they want to build a strong relationship before committing to any purchase. A recent study shows that Millennials have higher expectations than all other demographics regarding their overall level of connection to brands throughout their purchase journey.

Users expect to get questions answered on social media, doubling platforms as micro customer-service outlets and checkout carts. You can now explore a new avenue for social selling, but it poses one risk, over-complicating your strategy. 

Millennials are looking for trust-building activities and content, and according to 2020 Salesforce research, 50% of them trust brands and businesses compared to 42% of Gen Z.

Where does it leave Gen Zers? Masters of (video) content, younger generations crave a broad sense of community and support through social media platforms. When possible, try to put value, personality, and entertainment first. 

As both generations lean heavily on reviews and word-of-mouth when making buying decisions, the difference between the passive and active nature when using social media. 

Despite some minor differences, this strategy clearly shows that getting clear on your values and being able to vocalize and showcase them through video content should be at the foundations of any Millennial and Gen Z marketing strategies.


UNUM is your best tool for planning, creating, and executing a strong social media strategy for both Millennial and Gen Z audiences. Signup today for a free account.


[Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels]

April 7, 2022

About the author

Fab Giovanetti

Fab Giovanetti

Fab is an award-winning entrepreneur, supporting people in making a positive impact through their marketing. She is the founder of Creative Impact, a collective of hundreds of creatives making a positive impact on others and the planet. She’s also the CEO of Alt Marketing School, on a mission to raise a new wave of marketers.

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