What Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” Can Teach Social Media Marketers About Gen Z

Bo Burnham’s new movie, Eighth Grade, opens with protagonist Kayla recording a painfully awkward YouTube video on how to be yourself. As the film continues, Kayla uploads videos to her YouTube channel (that receive no views), falls into Instagram rabbit holes, communicates with her classmates via Instagram direct messages and notes at one point in the film that she first started using Snapchat in fifth grade.

At age 13, Kayla is a member of Gen Z. As I watched the film, it dawned on me just how differently Gen Z uses social media than my generation, millennials. While I grew up using AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and signing up for Facebook at age 14, Gen Z has abandoned Facebook in favor of YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. In a recent interview with Refinery29, actress Elsie Fisher, who plays Kayla, was asked if there was anything that she could correct writer/director Burnham (a millennial who rose to fame as a YouTube star in the mid-2000s) on about her generation as they were making the film. She answered, “The only thing I had [Bo] change was, originally, all of Kayla’s DMs and social media stuff was through Facebook. And so I went up to him and went, ‘Nobody uses Facebook anymore, what is this for, my aunt?’ So, he changed it from Facebook to Instagram.”

As Gen Z takes over social media and becomes your future customer, brands will have to adapt their social media strategy to reach them. Here are a few of the ways Gen Z is using social media differently:

  1. Gen Z is abandoning Facebook. As Elsie Fisher told Bo Burnham, Facebook wouldn’t make sense as the vehicle Kayla used to communicate with her classmates. In fact, a recent study from the Pew Research Center found that only 51% of individuals aged 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, which is a huge drop from the 71% who said they used it in Pew’s 2015 study. Additionally, when asked which social platform they used the most, only 10% of teens responded with Facebook. While some teens continue to use Facebook, 34% of US teens admit it is for “old people.”
  1. YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the dominant platforms. In the same Pew study, it was found that Facebook use was “notably lower” than the percent of teens who use YouTube (85%), Instagram (72%) and Snapchat (69%). In the 2015 study, only 52% of teens said they used Instagram and 41% said they used Snapchat – no wonder Fisher told Burnham to switch to Instagram! As brands explore updating their social media strategy, they will need to shift from Facebook to other social media sites like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat if their target audience is Gen Z.
    As brands explore updating their social media strategy, they will need to shift from Facebook to other social media sites like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat if their target audience is Gen Z.Click To Tweet
  1. Gen Z prefers fun content over friends. At one point during Eighth Grade, Kayla spends hours upon hours going deep into a social media rabbit hole, showing just how much her age demographic uses social media as one of their main forms of entertainment. In a survey by the Global Web Index, it was found that teens are more likely to use social media to fill up time and for fun entertainment than to connect with their friends.
  1. Gen Z is most susceptible to influencer marketing. While millennials enjoy following brands they like on social media, Gen Z is actually 40% more likely to follow actors than brands they like on social media. Gen Z prefers marketing that is less in your face and will be more susceptible to a brand recommendation from a celebrity they follow. As brands look to capture Gen Z, it is imperative to invest in influencer marketing as the most likely way to be noticed.

So, how will your brand keep up with the ever-changing social media landscape and the rise of Gen Z? Keep up with the trends. Get creative. The most important thing is to create content that cuts through the noise, and on the right platforms.

And see Eighth Grade. It’s incredible.

For more insights on communication and brand strategy, industry trends and more, subscribe today to the Weekly Buzz here.

Related Posts: What This Year’s Top Films Can Teach Us About Brand Strategy (Part 1) Gen Z: Five Key Insights for Healthcare Brands Everything you need to know about Snapchat’s On-Demand Geofilters for your next campaign Everything You Need to Know About Snapchat TV 5 Ways Food and Nutrition Brands Can Reach Millennials Ruling the Realm of Teendom: What Snapchat’s Doing Right