Move over, millennials — the savviest, screen-loving generation is here! And it’s no surprise they’ve quickly become a key targeting demographic for marketers across the world. Even with the fluctuating nature of the social media landscape, one thing is sure: Gen Zers are largely responsible for the shift in content display and consumption — even if they don’t realize it. Their online behaviors are laying the groundwork for the future of social reach and retention.

And advertisers are taking note.

In an ever-dwindling attention economy, it’s up to social media giants and brands to determine how to keep this large online audience engaged, intrigued, and hungry for more. Since Gen Z will be the primary demographic targeted in 2023, here’s everything publishers need to know about how this generation ticks (and what will get them to click).

Platform Popularity: TikTok Versus Instagram

Before we dive into the patterns of social media’s youngest and most ubiquitous users, there is one platform that needs some formal recognition. Gen Zers have commonly become synonymous with TikTok, the trendy, bite-sized video-sharing app. In its first quarter of 2020, the app reached 315 downloads worldwide — a significant increase of 58% from its previous quarter. As of this year, the short-form video app has amassed one billion active users spread across 154 countries. It only took 5 years for the platform to hit this milestone, an impressive feat compared to Instagram’s nearly 8-year culmination. 

Clearly, TikTok has demonstrated its longevity amongst consumers and the teen fixation on the platform reflects that. These are just some of the 2022 statistics that prove Gen Zers can’t get enough of this videocentric app:

  • 67% of teens aged 13-17 reported using the platform, with 16% saying they use it almost constantly.
  • 61.3% of the Gen Z cohort in the U.S. uses TikTok at least once a month.
  • 58% of teens visit TikTok on a daily basis.
  • 40% of people aged 18-24 use TikTok for any purpose, with 15% using the app for news-related content. (This is a five times increase from 3% in 2020 to 15% in 2022.)
  • Over 40% of Gen Zers spend more than 3 hours per day on TikTok.

And while TikTok has been dominating social media, Instagram is still a worthy and well-favored contender. The photo-sharing app ranks fourth (two spots above TikTok) as the most popular social network worldwide. With over 500+ million daily active users, the monthly active user base is equivalent to the population of the European Union and North America combined. That’s a pretty massive achievement, considering the platform is also accessed by 2 billion monthly average users worldwide. Here’s how Gen Z usage on Instagram stacks up:

  • 62% of teens aged 13-17 reported using the platform, with 10% saying they use it almost constantly.
  • 50% of teens visit Instagram on a daily basis.
  • 43% of Gen Zers prefer following brands on Instagram.
  • The Gen Z cohort spends approximately one hour per day on Instagram.
  • Global internet users aged 16 to 24 prefer Instagram over other social media platforms.

The Success of Search on Social

Regardless of which platform reigns supreme, the two social media giants have a major statistic in common: 40% of Gen Zers turn to TikTok and Instagram for their searches, instead of relying on Google for information. When it comes to this skyrocketing social app, social proof is everything. This generation on TikTok is more likely to visit a hot new restaurant or try a skin serum if hundreds of thousands of their peers have reviewed it. By receiving confirmation from others, Gen Zers can move forward with the confidence that they have used their purchasing power for good. With that being said, here are some of the most commonly searched topics across the app:

  • Makeup, beauty, and skincare-related content
  • Fashion trends
  • Book recommendations
  • Restaurant recommendations
  • Recipes
  • DIY content
  • Home decor

And as of this year, the platform has become a fast-growing platform for news, with 10% of users using the app for this function. That’s a threefold increase since 2020. Gen Zers can be intimidated by the tonality and crisis coverage that floods mainstream news channels. It’s easier than ever to find accounts that post news-related content and evoke a casual, intimate feeling. Now, publishers like The Washington Post and The Telegraph are utilizing the app to obtain newer, younger readers. If publishers want to reap the rewards of this burgeoning hub for entertainment, news, and search, they will have to rethink how they present their content — and keep Gen Z’s attention.

Whether it’s an influx of branded videos or shoppable content for both social giants, without a doubt, Gen Z is projected to alter the framework of engagement for publishers and marketers on a global scale. From here on out, this is the dynamic audience to keep tabs on, especially since their purchasing power has the ability to shake up the e-commerce approach.