TikTok marks a new age of influencing for marketers targeting Gen Z

Gen Z are engaging in authentic freeform content from TikTok creators over the polished Instagram brand deals spruiked by influencers of the past, according to social and influencer marketing experts.

Sharyn Smith, founder and CEO Social Soup

The centrality of creators to Gen Z engagement with brands was the point of conversation at Youth Marketing Australia day 1 session Authenticity And Alignment: Influencer Marketing Strategies For Gen Z hosted by AIMCO and presented by Social Soup.

The summit, which was moderated by Social Soup founder and CEO and AIMCO board member Sharyn Smith, featured guests Katie Palmer Rose, MD of Social Soup and Ben Stavert, director of content at Hello Social.

Smith is also one of three founders of newly created Australian influencer marketing services firm The Influencer Group, alongside former local CEO for  Dentsu Aegis Network’s, Henry Tajer, and director of Social Soup and Pollinate CEO Howard Parry-Husbands.

According to Palmer Rose, what we traditionally thought of as influencer is dying, thanks to Gen Z’s calls for a more authentic, relatable and unpolished delivery of branded content. The shift here is more than just in the type of content that is being distributed by brands, but also in the way it is distributed.

“Practically, from a way that the media and marketing industry is working, the traditional marketing funnel is over. We can’t just assume that we put a lot of  work out there and build awareness that that will take you all the way down to purchase.”

Katie Palmer Rose, MD, Social Soup

Stavert added that creators are ‘influencer 2.0’, and that audiences no longer want to see polished, celebrity influencers spruiking brands in stylised product placements. Creators, who are predominantly just ‘everyday people’ offer a more authentic connection to Gen Z audiences.

“Content creators are master of their craft who have accrued an audience by being very very good at something,” he said.

Importantly, creators go ‘hand in hand’ with TikTok, according to Stavert, and their recent growth is thanks in part to the immense success of the TikTok platform. He explained that the platform’s success was somewhat thanks to luck, having experienced most of its growth during the pandemic, when people were stuck at home. He also attributed its popularity amongst Gen Z to the fact that it was the first platform built for this group.

When it comes to what kind of content is working on TikTok, marketers should be sure to use the app themselves to get a grasp of formats that are trending, what kind of content the algorithm is pushing and what kind of subcultures exist on the platform.

Stavert said that Gen Z resonate with content that is funny, educational, oddly satisfying and surprising. He also added that shorter content is not necessarily better, with Gen Z audiences very happy to stick around for a full three minute video if it is engaging.

Ben Stavert, director of content, Hello Social

For Stavert, brands should use creator’s knowledge of their own audiences to build engaging and effective content.

“What I often say to brands is if you want to engage Gen Z, use a creator as your translator,” said Stavert.

Key to the success of influencer marketing is working with the right creators, whose audience fits with the objectives of the campaign.

Palmer Rose noted: “finding the right influencers or creators for your brand is paramount as you’re entrusting them with your brand”. She recommended that marketers first select their audience, find out what platform they are on and what kind of content resonates with them, and finally pick a content creator who ticks all of those boxes. She added that brand fit and brand safety are also both important – marketers should ensure that what a creator has been involved with historically aligns with the value of the brand.

Check out this week’s podcast for more on the growth of influencer and the outcome of recent changes to the TGA’s advertising code for therapeutic goods.


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