Social media is the key to connecting with younger generations

Creating brand experiences through social content and community engagement

yoluyla India Fizer , AdForum

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New York, United States
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Liz Hanna
Strategy Director Swift

Keeping up with social media and cultural influences gives brands an opportunity to engage with younger consumers on a personal level and build brand loyalty. Liz Hanna, Strategy Director at Swift, a VML company, speaks on utilizing social listening to move at the speed of culture.


In what ways are you leveraging new platforms and technologies to engage and resonate with the digital-native nature of Generation Z and younger consumers? Further, what channels and formats are you prioritizing and how are you adapting your content for these platforms? 

At Swift, a VML company, we develop unique content for each channel that leverages the latest features and caters to the behaviors of the platform. For example, we will create an Instagram Story that is designed for fan engagement using a trending interactive sticker or sound, while our Reels content may focus on deeper brand storytelling to leverage the interest graph and expand our reach over time. 

According to eMarketer, the top Gen Z social activity in 2023 was watching videos. While video remains a crucial component of the content mix, social video tactics are constantly evolving. In the past year we have been experimenting with video length, production value, animation, UGC and creators to develop video content. By testing different tactics, we evolve each client’s video strategy to improve engagement.

To connect with younger consumers, we must adapt to their ever-evolving preferences and meet them where they spend time. Social is constantly evolving from new platform features to new platforms. While TikTok is the platform of choice for Gen Z, Gen Alpha is discovering social media through YouTube Shorts. This is a generation that never knew a world without YouTube! They have an affinity for the YouTube brand as early as a toddler. Therefore, we predict that YouTube shorts will continue to explode with Gen Alpha into 2024 and beyond.


How are you tailoring your messaging to align with the values and interests of modern consumers, and how does this differ from your approach with previous generations? 

We believe the brief is in the comments. Our always-on social listening and community managers mine for insights that inform our creative development. This constant feedback loop allows our team to move at the speed of culture with relevant and reactive content built to cultivate authentic connections that align with the values and interests of young consumers. 

Gen Z uses social media as their go-to source for news, brand discovery, trends and self-expression. This generation has a very strong desire to celebrate their individuality and social media is where they curate and share their various “core” aesthetics.  After all, last summer's tomato girl is this week’s Mob Wife. 


What role does culture, sustainability and social responsibility play in your brand's communications strategy for engaging with younger demographics? 

Sustainability is a great social-media contradiction for Gen Z. Despite their deep concern for the environment and the planet's future, they are also highly focused on following trends and expressing themselves, which has led them to become the largest segment of the population purchasing and then sharing fast fashion “hauls” via social channels.  

Authenticity is more important than ever on social media. As a brand, if you share a sustainability message, you better have your house in order because Gen Z will be the first to raise red flags.  Our approach is to tread lightly and identify behaviors that satiate young consumers’ desire for sustainability but are also in line with our client’s genuine values and business practices.   


In what ways do you utilize user-generated content and interactive experiences to connect with younger consumers on a more personal level? 

Social media is a direct line to fans. We recommend clients use their social channels to engage with young consumers both IRL and virtually. Last year there was the emergence of faux OOH designed to generate social, but we are also seeing brands purchase OOH to give fans an IRL place to interact with the brand and share back to social. We believe that if people are not talking about it on social media then it probably didn't happen.  Brands need to create IRL brand experiences and installations that are worth talking about and adding fuel through social content and community engagement to drive conversation.


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 Generation Z and beyond?  

Social moves at the speed of culture. To increase our speed to feed and quickly tap into social trends (before they go stale), we have in-house content creators and have developed a Creator Content Network. For timely content production, we identify and contract a roster of fully vetted up-and-coming creators who can strategically execute trends with brand authenticity. We leverage these creators for their storytelling strengths and analyze effectiveness to continuously refine the content niches we ideate against. The fluidity of the process results in culturally relevant content and allows us to remain nimble.    

We have found that a diverse mix of creator content in combination with higher produced tent-pole social executions results in a hardworking social eco-system designed to meet today’s client needs and the desires of younger consumers.