Needless to say, Generation Z is obsessed with TikTok.
TikTok For Business, the brand and platform home to the company's current and future marketing solutions, recently released two white papers about the needs, interests and habits of these users. The first, the TikTok For Business White Paper on Official User, released in March of this year, was a quantitative research on more than 17,000 users of ages between 15 and 69. That is now followed by the TikTok For Business White Paper on Generation Z, a qualitative research of approximately 80 Gen Z users.
One of the findings from the first white paper was that TikTok users prefer content that appears ‘real’, and thus ‘trusted’, with 80% of the respondents saying that they’re likely to trust a certain piece of content from an influencer more if it aligns with their own life experiences.
Ryo Hiroya (below), creative strategy director of TikTok For Business Japan, says, “Originally, the concept of TikTok was ‘users first’. We didn’t differentiate between influencers and users, with the former existing amongst the latter. As time went on, and as influencers learn more about TikTok users, they’re producing better and better content. Their voices are now amplified amongst users. I feel brands need to shift their way of thinking as well.”
Three notable traits of Gen Z users emerged from the white paper.
First of all, Gen Z is multifaceted. 73.4% respondents say they 'care about what other people think of them', while 74.9% say it’s important to have 'a personality that is different from others'. Although they feel a strong need for approval for their contents, Gen Z users are also creating content because it brings them joy. While these two statements might be contradictory in nature, it also shows that they are, perhaps, more comfortable with different values existing alongside one another than previous generations.
The second Gen Z trait is the acceptance of imperfectness. 49% of Gen Z respondents say they “trust posts or videos which show failure” - compared to 27.4% of above-25-year-olds. In essence, the more ‘real’ a piece of content appears, the more they trust it. They accept - in fact, welcome - users who post their wacky or wild side instead of their perfect lives.
The last trait is a willingness to try out different things - what the white paper calls ‘snacking’. Gen Z-ers are more open to trying out different media & platforms to look for one they find most aligned with their values and needs. This openness extends to personal relationships. 49.3% respondents say they 'made a friend on social media’, while 35.5% say they have ‘friends who they only communicate with on social media”. These numbers are significantly higher than above-25 respondents.
How should brands engage with a generation whose needs and habits seem so different from their predecessors? “First, brands need to bear in mind that users come first as users and influencers have more power than brands [on TikTok]. The reason is, in the present day, you can find all kinds of information by doing an internet search. More than 40% of users feel that content lasting more than a minute is too long. Users often skip content that stresses them out. Brands [who utilise TikTok] still think that messaging delivered with the right amount of creativity and slogan will have no problem in engaging consumers. In the days ahead, what brands need to think about is how to entertain them,” says Hiroya.
When utilising UGC, Hiroya says it is critical to strike the balance between instruction, for example, what kind of poses they need to do, and the freedom that content creators have in exercising their originality. Honesty is also indispensable, especially for brands and influencers who are promoting a product.
“Users can immediately feel and judge if a product that an influencer is showing off fit with his, her or their character. Creating hype doesn’t work if the post or video doesn’t feel genuine”
For Hiroya, one unexpected finding from the research was the reason behind the 'snacking' culture.
“At first I thought, oh it must be because they are young, so are naturally curious. But I was wrong. It comes from a need to - perhaps this is rather negative - ‘insure oneself’. They’re forever searching for new platforms and content, using their smartphones, their tablets or on television, because they want to find something they’ll definitely enjoy,” he says. “Amid the pandemic, they could easily transform their ideas from what they can’t do to what they can do. They’re constantly thinking of alternatives. They would get depressed if they don’t have alternatives. I think they’re equipped with the tools and way of thinking to survive all sorts of situations.”
He further points out that Gen Z could be a key at a time when “marketing is facing a great turning point”.
“When there aren’t that many products on the market, all you had to do was to make consumers ‘recognise’ your product, then they would buy them. When more and more products come into the market, ‘differentiation’ became key. As competition intensified, marketers started offering product trials. Now, I feel we’re putting all our focus on the end of the marketing funnel - which is purchasing. I have a feeling that we’ll go back to the early days of marketing after we try all these different means like a game of sugoroku. That is to say, the next stage of marketing isn’t going to be about optimisation, it’ll be about the ability to create products, campaigns or videos that people genuinely enjoy. When that new phase kicks in, Gen Z will be a key consumer segment,” he says. “And they will be looking for the things that bring them joy. That will be where marketing lies.”