Students are often portrayed as hyper-connected to the world around them through social media, unable to go anywhere without flashing a quick selfie and unable to eat out without logging a couple of artistically filtered shots of their food.
This perception could, however, turn out to be a little off the mark. The last few years have see the shine come off the social media craze of the last decade, with many people beginning to wonder if constant connection to your peers can have negative side effects.
Student marketing agency Seed surveyed 1,000 UK students and found that 77% are considering taking “extended time out” form social media. While 10% said that they really depend on social media, 35% said they would be willing to take four weeks off. 41% said that they would if their friends did it too, suggesting that ‘the fear of missing out’ plays a large part in keeping people logging in.
As a generation that has always had the internet, today’s students are finding that social media can be a source of anxiety as well as fun and connection. 74% said that they feel pressure to “attain perfection both in the digital and physical worlds”.
“It looks like there is a tide of social media scale-back on the horizon,” Seed’s Managing Director, Joe Brailsford, said. “And, this poses a challenge to all the youth-focused brands that are heavily dependent on social media. The question is: are you going to help or hinder Gen Z on this journey of finding balance?
“Are you considering how you can seamlessly integrate on-the-ground, real world experiences into your strategy? Similarly, if you’re a brand that student audiences look to for direction, are you brave enough to be a pioneer who encourages imperfections and new models of beauty?”
Expectations for brands
The study also highlighted the importance of ethical behaviour for students, and how they expect the brands they choose to interact with to act. 60% of respondents said that they think that artists should be paid fairly for their music, suggesting that the trend of illegal downloads may begin to cool off in the coming years.
94% said that it is important for brands to be completely honest about their business practices, especially brands that specifically target young consumers. Brands should aim to be “utterly transparent” so that their internal and external cultures can be aligned.
And, while in the past brands have been extremely reluctant to take side on political and social matters, this may no longer be the case. Students have come to maturity in an age defined by financial and environmental crisis, and as a result 89% consider themselves to be ‘pavement protestors’ and ‘keyboard warriors’. This means that brands that take a stand on political and social issues could find themselves very popular among ethically minded students.