Social Distancing and Gen-Z

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Generation Z, those born between 1996 and 2010, are becoming a critical group for brands to engage to ensure loyalty at the earliest stage possible as they continue to gain spending power. However, since these digital natives have a very different worldview than the generations that have come before, it can be a challenge to build connections with this growing cohort, particularly as Covid-19 has severely impacted everyday life.

Social distancing and self-quarantining have changed the world in a matter of weeks. How is Gen-Z responding? They are flocking to apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat to pass time and interact with family and friends. Facebook and WhatsApp have lost their reign over the competition during lockdown 

To get a better understanding of Gen-Zers’ habits, routine, and lives during the pandemic, Brainly, the world’s largest peer-to-peer learning community, surveyed over 1,700 of them. 

The Video Marketing Movement 

Nearly 60% of Brainly users stated they are watching more video content than previously. With most of the content being consumed on YouTube (40%), traditional streaming services like Netflix and Hulu followed at a distant second at 24%. Brands are taking notice and marketing accordingly.

The Washington Post took advantage of the lockdown and used TikTok in an attempt to attract a new audience for their content. Companies like Chipotle and apparel company Guess followed suit. Chipotle launched iconic slogans like, “Less Tok, More Guac” and incorporated the #boorrito challenge over Halloween. Guess incorporated their highly successful #InMyDenim campaign and now leads competitors as one of the only clothing retail brands on TikTok. Leading brands targeting Gen-Z prioritize video.

For any business with a digital presence, the thematic focus is clear for targeting this generation — support Gen-Z’s call for personal expression. Let’s consider the most popular brands among Gen-Z: Google, Netflix, and YouTube. These platforms, found via a mobile app, are highly personalized. The more users successfully interact with these brands, the more loyal they become.

Gen-Z resorts to Google for emails and information, their cultural touchstones come through Netflix, and they attempt to make their own YouTube videos to emulate some of their online role models. Gen-Z has become loyal to these brands, not because of their branding, but because of the opportunity for easy-to-access self-expression. Whether by offering tools, inspiration, or a virtual megaphone, the brands that help along the new renaissance will be remembered for it. 

Facebook Loses its Luster 

Gen-Z has shifted gears in social media as well. Brainly’s survey revealed this demographic spends most of its time on Instagram (59%), followed by Snapchat (50.3%) and YouTube (42%) with Facebook far behind at only 13.2%. For brands, these platforms’ targeting capabilities, in combination with the ability to leverage more authentic, low-cost content as opposed to professionally produced creative, can provide great opportunities.

Generation Z prefers Snapchat and Instagram as go-to social networks. When it comes to media, they have all but abandoned traditional television viewing, opting to watch shows, movies, and other digital content on their phones, tablets, and laptops. With the increased access to mobile devices during quarantine (they do not have to put their phones away like they would during a school day), this elusive generation is spending more than three hours a day watching videos online.


Gaming continues to be a critical outlet for Gen-Z to let off steam and connect with friends. Two-thirds (64%) of teenagers are gaming, with 42% gaming more than two hours per day. In addition, gaming outlets have become a form of communication for friends and family, as the results found 40% use gaming to stay connected.

The esports market is expected to grow 16% during the 2019-2025 period. According to Verizon, overall video game internet traffic has increased 75% since restrictions were imposed in America. 

While it’s still too early to tell what the lasting impact of the pandemic will be on young adults and Gen-Z, experts and historians say it will undoubtedly affect how they choose to communicate and express themselves for years to come. Gen-Zers are trying to stay connected, and brands need to pay close attention to the outlets to which they are resorting while in quarantine to establish loyalty at an early stage. 

Eric Oldfield is chief business officer at Brainly.