Gen Z are helping to redefine what apps will survive as social media matures.
Something odd is happening in the evolution of social media. For quite a few years social media has become less social. Many members of Gen Z (born 1995–2012) don’t even have a Facebook account.
Many of them use Instagram only sparingly. Gen Z have outgrown Snapchat and use it mostly as a communications chat app. While YouTube and TikTok remain popular among this group, that’s not really social media per se, that’s education and entertainment.
Digital Detox and the Future of Apps & Platforms
In March 2018 a study showed 34% of Gen Zers say they’re permanently leaving social media, and 64% say they’re taking a break from the platforms, according to research from Hill Holliday’s in-house research group Origin, cited in Campaign.
From Twitter to Reddit, we can see the decline of monthly active users. Gen Z do not like social media when it is abused by trolls, political spam or otherwise.
Social Media Exodus Must Begin with the Youth
For social media, something died when it became less genuinely social. When sponsored content and glam overtook more original IG accounts, when Facebook groups became more like propaganda and spam, when our feed of stories now have ads in them. That’s not social media, that’s spam.
When former Facebook executives and founders are calling on Facebook to be broken up, you know social media needs to change in order to adapt to a better world, a world where social media contributes more than it creates a toxic online arena. Gen Z are pragmatic and inclusive and many have realized social media went down a dark path.
Facebook still has advertising ROI for brands, but it’s mostly because the space is vastly unregulated and there isn’t much else that works as well. That’s not a testimony to Facebook’s product, it’s an indication that the internet is no longer a free place where fair competition among platforms can take place. All respect to Google and Amazon as digital advertising platforms, but Facebook has created a scenario where Gen Z despises ads and considers them interruptive and worth blocking.
Gen Z Uses Social Media Differently
Most people from Generation Z use social media. Yet the way they use it is different. Gen Z will find niche content on Discord or live streaming on Twitch. They will keep in touch with friends on Snapchat, while surfing the occasional viral meme story on TikTok. They have more apps in their arsenal and less loyalty. For brands, this means it’s very difficult to target them.
As Gen Z graduate and enter the workforce, they are also realizing they have less time for social media. After all, it competes with Netflix, music, mobile gaming and video consumption that’s more helpful to their actual lives, YouTube, for example. The social media apps are a bit gimmicky then for them to find real value for sustained periods as they enter the “real world”.
Gen Z aren’t just Digital Natives — They’re Digital Entrepreneurs
Those Gen Z members that do invest seriously in social media may be growing a side hustle, becoming a micro influencer and having a real voice with their creativity.
Gen Z, after all, are themselves the original digital natives. They would be the first to leave stale, fake platforms filled with fake accounts. For real though, Facebook has removed 3 billion fake accounts over a six-month period. That’s not exactly inspiring to a generation that has seen the most digital ads among all global citizens. It’s a testament to how fake social media has become. Facebook’s reputation is so bad it’s even having more trouble attracting talent.
Gen Z are also hyper aware of the mental health costs of social media apps like Instagram. Many are taking the decision to leave toxic social media ecosystems that are increasingly fake, inauthentic, dishonest and reputation scams with fake followers.
While authenticity might have felt more genuine 5 years ago, a lot can change in a few years online. Especially when being authentic is no longer about being honest.
Social Media Enhanced with a Token Economy: A Glimpse into the Future
This is where the WOM Protocol comes in to transform how word-of-mouth works with an ecosystem of app partnerships that implements blockchain. Gen Z don’t just want to be gamified, they want to be liberated. A token economy is likely to enable and empower them to be digital creators while finding both community and more practical incentives.
Blockchain’s distributed ledger technologies and the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies might enable a model of social media that’s more in line with Gen Z’s digital and creative aspirations. Crypto and influencer marketing in the future are likely to be tethered together in a way that uplifts Gen Z and the creativity of the youth, instead of exploiting them.
If social media doesn’t adapt to teens and the preferences of young people, those platforms won’t have a viable future and other apps and online experiences will take their place. From Berlin to Zug, Singapore to Malta, Blockchain startups have a role to play in how they mediate that transition and inspire the next transformation for digital creators.