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Gen Zers are in charge on social media

Gen Z’s entry into adulthood will be the main source of growth in US social media users over the next five years. While there are some parallels with millennials, this is a generation that has long been immersed in social media and has come up with its own rules to navigate it. They are self-aware, quick to adapt, and ready to push back on the standards set by their predecessors.

  • Snapchat is more popular than TikTok among Gen Z teens. TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram each draw roughly 80% of Gen Z social network users, but only Snapchat draws a higher share of Gen Z teen users (ages 12 to 17) than Gen Z adult users (ages 18 to 24).
  • Instagram’s Gen Z user base will be the largest—but TikTok will still win more time spent. By 2027, 80.9% of the Gen Z population will be on Instagram, compared with 71.9% on TikTok. For now, Gen Z adults will still spend more time on TikTok than on Instagram.
  • Gen Z Twitter users are slow to leave the platform. Paradoxically, the socially conscious generation will be the slowest to leave Twitter despite its problematic leadership, with Gen Z seeing a 2.4% drop in users next year compared with decreases of more than 9% among other generations. This is likely due to Gen Zers’ view of the platform as entertainment along with their mastery of “Twitter humor,” making it a breeding ground for popular nonvideo memes that eventually spread to other platforms.
  • Gen Z has embraced social media ads and commerce. Adult Gen Zers are more likely to pay attention to social media ads than to TV, print, or other digital ads, according to a February 2023 CivicScience survey. Social network users ages 18 to 29 are more likely to start their product search on TikTok or YouTube than through family and friends, per an IZEA study from last December.
  • Gen Z is trying out new platforms in search of authenticity. Though CivicScience found a majority of adults had never heard of BeReal as of July 2022, the app saw 31 million US downloads in 2022 overall, according to Apptopia. It was Gen Z that sparked BeReal’s sudden (but fleeting) burst in popularity. Much like TikTok, BeReal offers Gen Zers an opportunity to be themselves, away from the pressure of a perfectly curated Instagram grid (and from their parents). And now that Instagram has released Threads, Gen Zers have another platform to test out—but they’ll be quick to leave if it doesn’t successfully capture their attention.

What does all this mean?

Gen Zers’ use of social media is the most sophisticated out of all the generations, as they are true digital natives, comfortable with most social platforms and tools, including social search. Look to them to set the pace of all new social media experiences—because they have the time, the interest, and (increasingly) the income.