With all the data breaches and the Facebook privacy scandal in the past few months (you can read our take on how it affects advertisers here), it’s only natural that, as a whole, we’re all starting to think differently about our online personal information and its security. Technology has changed so much in the past 10, 20, 30 years (and more!) that it’s no surprise each generation has had staggeringly different online habits, especially in regard to privacy.

Generational differences

While some remember a time before the Internet, others, like the ascending Gen Z, have always known smartphones and data-mining social platforms as mundane facts of life.

Even between Millennials and Gen Z, behaviors and attitudes are wildly different. While Millennials use social media as a tool for engagement, interaction and perhaps even validation via likes and shares, Gen Z has started to retake their online world. In short, they value privacy over popularity.

This doesn’t stop Gen Z-ers from using social media. Kantar research shows many of them have multiple social media accounts for different audiences: their parents can follow their “finsta” or “friendly/fake Instagram account” while their friends are to follow their “rinsta” – their “real Instagram.” Many — 95 million of them, to be exact — are also using incognito social media sites like Sarahah and Minds.com. I found this especially shocking because I, a fairly tech-savvy millennial, had never heard of any of those things.

Another interesting note is that Gen Z is uncomfortable sharing their location. According to a Jawing poll, 64 percent of Gen Z-ers said they were uncomfortable publicly sharing their location via Snapchat’s friend mapping feature. Contrast that with your great aunt Bertha who’s checking in via Facebook to her mammogram and writing a three-paragraph play-by-play of her experience. The data seems to suggest Gen Z-ers prefer to move anonymously. Can you blame them when their lives have been so public from the get-go?

How brands can respond

So, what does this mean for brands? Hard to say. Gen Z is an interesting group in that they are very private, yet they want to share in experiences and relate to people, brands and celebrities. Ultimately, they cultivate their public personas to an extreme degree — it has been a part of their social structures from the very beginning. In addition, they generally see past the pandering of marketers of brands; they want something real. They want to share in a cause that means something to them on a personal level.

When it comes down to connecting with these young folks via content, we believe that marketers who highlight human stories, who step out from behind the brand veneer will perform the best with Gen Z in the coming years. These folks crave the authentic and the relatable, whether we connect with the sum of their personas or a single fragment.

For tips on content creation, check out our blog post on Transitioning to a Content-Driven Mindset.

Hillary Hodges

Author Hillary Hodges

Hillary is an Account Supervisor at InQuest Marketing. She helps with strategy, communication and project management for client accounts. Her favorite things about her job are that no two days are the same and she's always on some new learning adventure. Hillary loves to hang out with her dogs and eat popcorn for dinner when her husband isn't home. She describes her spirit animal as a mixture of each character from one of her favorite shows, Parks & Recreation.

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