When you think of Generation Z, what comes to mind?

When I think of the generation coming of age behind Millennials, smartphones and social media define this group. While I may have grown up at the dawn of these things, members of Gen Z grew up surrounded by it. I think of my 13-year-old cousin, who has had an iPhone for many years already, while I somehow lived without one until I was a junior in college. A recent survey found that members of Gen Z believe you should receive your first smart phone by age 13 – nearly everyone else, millennials included—thinks it should be closer to age 18.

Growing up as digital natives has changed the way that Gen Z uses the internet. They chat with friends on Snapchat and Kik, they turn to YouTube for tutorials and self-help, and their celebrities are internet stars with huge followings on Instagram and Vine. As Gen Z creates a life within their smartphones, it has been crucial for marketers to find creative way to reach them. Enter Influencers.

Influencers are the celebrity endorsement of the new generation. They are everyday people with large social media followings, who share information about products they have found. According to a survey, teens trust the opinions of YouTube stars more than they trust TV and movie celebrities, which brands have started to capitalize on by sharing samples of their products with influencers, or paying influencers to share their product. It’s a form of native advertisement that puts a plug for a product or service right into the organic content. The audience doesn’t feel like they are being advertised to, they feel like they are being given product recommendations from a friend.

Influencer Marketing 1There are some brands that have been highly successful in influencer marketing. Think of BarkBox, for example. While they dabble a bit in social media advertising, they rely heavily on influencers. The brand sends products to Instagram users with large followings, who in return post about how much their dogs love the product. If this internet star’s dog loved the product, shouldn’t yours too?

To be successful at using influencers, marketers need to find the right influencer for their brand; it wouldn’t make sense, or seem authentic, for a candy brand to use a fitness blogger. It is also important to build a relationship with your influencers. Start off by thanking them for sharing their opinion and go from there. The harder marketers work at building genuine relationships with influencers, the more likely it is that they will continue to promote and benefit the brand.

Influencer Marketing Chobani

This fitness blogger often posts photos of healthy meals and fruit. This photo doesn’t feel out of place and feels authentic to the audience.

Influencer Marketing Alcohol

This user became an internet star after a stint on a Bravo reality show in which he is a bartender. Providing drink recommendations seems natural to his fans.

As Gen Z begins to graduate from high school and enter the “real world,” we can expect to see a shift to more brands trying to use influencers to reach this generation. The real question is, what does this mean for the rest of digital advertising?

Let us know what you think by tweeting with us at @SolomonMcCown!