Gen Zers Understand Social Media Better Than You Do
The members of Generation Z are digital natives. They’ve grow up with the internet, and the smartphone has been ubiquitous. They understand social media better than you do. They know what people are interested in seeing and sharing. They know what makes a tweet go viral. So why aren’t you asking them to help you?
Writing at Forbes, David Hessekiel relays several tips for engaging members of Generation Z in your social impact efforts. Keep these things in mind:
Accept the 8-second attention span: Communicate more frequently with short bursts: images, emojis, symbols, picture, video, multiple screens
Collaborate with them: Mentor - and allow yourself to be mentored.
Trends change quickly: Research and focus groups can get stale almost immediately.
Treat them as equals: Respect is a two-way street.
Appreciate their network: Gen Z has a much larger global network of connections and friends.
Learn from their social media skills: Use social media to perform and self-promote, not just to share.
Stated differently, you have to work at social media and work with those you are trying to reach. How people use social media is always changing, as are the matters discussed online.
For churches to use social media effectively you need to be nimble, attentive, and wise.
You want to go viral for good things, not for an uninformed or insensitive comment. Encouraging quotations, excellent photography or graphics, well produced audio, and sharp videography are more likely to be shared than are updates about what is being served at the Wednesday night fellowship meal, even if your chicken nuggets are the best in town (even though I bet there are Gen Zers that could do something fun with this idea). As Hessekiel notes, Gen Zers can mentor you. They can teach you, both by instruction and example, on how to use social media in a way that is interesting, engaging, and that will connect with those of emerging generations.
If you are using social media and you have members of Generation Z in your congregation, invite them to lunch and ask them to help you better understand the ways they are using media and how the church can use digital tools more effectively to communicate the good things that are happening in your church. Ask them for guidance on how to design images or to send text in a manner that is crisp, concise, and visually appealing. Ask them if they will help you with design.
Then, empower and execute. Maybe there is a member of Gen Z you could hire part time to manage your social media presence. Maybe you can appoint a person on your staff to routinely share congregational news and notes online, or to take pictures at your events. Rather than being haphazard with social media, be strategic.
Youth workers often remind their congregations that teenagers and children are not the church of the future, they are part of the church today. So ask them for help. Equip and empower them to serve. And invite them to join you in God’s work.
Generation Z has grown up in a post-9/11 world. This means that their experiences and worldviews have been formed in ways no previous generation's has. Generation Z is the most-observed and monitored group of people in the world. This short book is a primer on what we know so far, and where they appear to be headed.