How do consumers discover new brands on social media?

Croud Luxe Marketing Team

20th May 2024

~ 8 min read

Brand discovery on social media

Four generations now use social media starting with Boomers (born 1946-64), Generation X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1996) and Generation Z (1997-2012). It might surprise you to find out that Facebook has become a digital ghetto for affluent Boomers and Xers and a news source more trusted than traditional outlets to Gen Zers and Millennials.

Social media could be something that’s been there all of our lives or something we first got introduced to in our sixties. While there are many generational similarities in social media usage and behaviour, there are also many distinct points of divergence.

In this article, we consider:

  • How social media usage in the UK has stabilised in the past 5 years
  • Which consumers are using popular social networks
  • What Gen Zers and Millennials want from social media
  • Why Gen Zers and Millennials use social media

Social media usage volume has stabilised

Other than in the Middle East and Asia, social media usage globally has plateaued. According to the GWI Social Media Trends 2022 report, time spent by the UK’s 57.6m social media users has dropped from 2hr 34m in 2017 to 2hr 27m in 2021. The pandemic saw social media user numbers rise by 4.6m.

Current social media platform user numbers in the UK are:

Most used social network platforms Percentage Active users
Facebook 73.50% 49.24 million
Instagram 56.30% 37.72 million
Twitter 45.10% 30.21 million
Pinterest 30.20% 20.23 million
LinkedIn 28.90% 19.36 million

Key general findings in this year’s GWI survey were:

  • A quarter of consumers view at least one brand-created video per month.
  • User-generated content was particularly effective at raising brand awareness and preventing shopping cart abandonment.
  • Usage of Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Shopping increased by 8%
  • Augmented reality is helping to drive engagement. On an AR screen, computer-generated imagery or text is overlaid on a live camera picture (think on-screen direction graphic prompts on some satnav apps). Purina’s AR campaign featuring an animated, pettable cat drove 1870 million paid views!

The survey also detailed how social media was used differently around the world. In Asia-Pacific countries, live streams are particularly popular while in Latin America, transactional e-commerce is far more important. In Western countries, it’s a place to meet and exchange ideas, opinions and media with friends and family.

GWI noted that many non-Western use cases are slowly being adopted in the West including business decision-makers using social media to research commercial products and services.

What people use each social network for

Also interesting for brands looking for suitable advertising platforms were GWI’s findings on why members used particular social media platforms.

For messaging friends and family, users of Facebook and Snapchat rated this as their top use case (1st on Facebook, 3rd on Snapchat). This feature didn’t matter at all to users on other platforms.

For the other traditional social media use case, posting and sharing videos and photos, this was important to Snapchat and Instagram in particular. It did not feature in the top three reasons for Reddit and Twitter users.

Keeping up-to-date with the news was most important to LinkedIn and Twitter users. Surprisingly, it was the third most important reason for TikTok users too, a platform more associated with fun short videos.

Finding funny and entertaining content was cited by Reddit and TikTok members as being the most important use case for them. Reddit, Twitter and, unexpectedly, LinkedIn members rated it their second most important reason for logging in.

Of most interest to brands is where users go to find and follow products and brands. Pinterest users liked the platform the most for this particular reason, closely followed by LinkedIn and Instagram.

  Message friends and family Post/share photos or videos Keep up to date with the news Follow/find information about products and brands Find funny/entertaining content
Facebook 1 2 3    
Pinterest   3   1 2
LinkedIn   3 1 2  
Snapchat 3 1     2
Instagram   1   2 3
Reddit     2 3 1
TikTok   2 3   1
Twitter     1 3 2
Top 5 uses case by social media network (Data Source: GWI)

Social media brand discovery strategies to reach Gen Zers and Millennials

Most brands tend to target Gen Zers and Millennials. Therefore, it’s how they use social media and the features they want to have that ultimately drive platform evolution.

The 2022 GWI survey showed however that Gen Zers and Millennials worry about the time they spend on social media and they want to reduce their dependence on it.

In another article, we wrote about the recent rise of BeReal, the filter-free Instagram alternative that shot up in popularity in 2022. This reflects GWI’s research that Gen Z isn’t as bothered about impressing others online and they feel much more confident in posting photographs that don’t “show their best selves”. This could explain why lo-fi content created by advertisers generates some of the best returns on investment.

Rather than visiting standard news sites, Gen Zers and Millennials rely on trending social media topics for news and content from influencers and online personalities especially on Twitter. In fact, 64% of respondents to GWI state that they want brands to engage more in Twitter Communities/Topics so they can get news direct from the source.

Who do they listen to? They listen to bands, singers and other musicians (29%), influencers (23%) and beauty experts (18%) the most. Sports stars like Simone Biles and Marcus Rashford are rapidly gaining influence too, especially when their back story contains personal struggles and they speak up about social and environmental campaigns. This generation hates it though when an influencer uses filters but isn’t honest about it.

Connection is important. A third play online games with their friends every month. They even hold remote media parties where the same music, TV show or film is played concurrently in different people’s houses but they can talk about it as if they were sitting next to each other on the same sofa.

Sharing is a way of connecting on a deeper level. Instagram and Snapchat are very popular with both Gen Zers and Millennials. Six in ten now create/view at least Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat stories. Instagram Reels have also increased in popularity. The pandemic may have driven this higher as remote interaction became the norm during lockdowns.

Being active on social media in these ways helps 11% of users feel more connected to their online friends than their real friends, positively affecting online engagement levels.

84% of users trust online reviews as much as they do reviews from their friends and family. Gen Zers and Millennials were the same also citing positivity as top purchase influencers. When making a purchase, behaviours change according to platform with Instagrammers preferring to click on social ads and Facebook users using the platform’s checkout.

And brands should not believe the unfairly earned reputation they have for long-form videos (20 minutes plus). Gen Zers and Millennials enjoy long-form content more than Gen Xers and Boomers.

Notes for brands

  • Social media users in these cohorts are rethinking the part social media plays in their lives and how to be more positive about themselves and their lives. Brands could create hashtag and paid-for campaigns to raise awareness and align themselves with their target customers’ life goals.
  • Involve followers and ad recipients more by sharing news direct with them about your brand and its products and services. Let them be the first to know before they read it in the media to create a deeper connection to create a feeling of exclusivity.
  • Influencer marketing still works well because of the trust followers have in their influencers’ opinions and judgements. Consider using celebrities or influencers who are identified with social causes to create authentic messaging opportunities that reflect your target audiences’ worldviews.
  • User-generated content is arguably social media’s killer app because it’s organic content that users trust and you can reuse on social media and beyond. Run campaigns and competitions to generate it in volumes.
  • Creating a community of users is important as Gen Z and Millennials seek meaningful connections with each other. You may not choose to host your community on a social media platform but you can use social media as a way to get them to join, wherever your community is hosted.

Social media brand discovery strategies to reach Gen Xers and Boomers

Gen Xers and Boomers are far more relaxed about the time they spend on social media. Their desire to impress others and be open about themselves and their lives is a lot lower. They are also much less prone to lack confidence in what they do post. That said, they are far less likely to post about their social lives.

For these cohorts, social media was originally presented as a way to connect with friends and family and that’s what they use it for the most. They’re up to three times less likely to follow celebrities and influencers and up to half as likely to be bothered about what’s trending or making brand new contacts.

The GWI survey found that internet users over the age of 55 described themselves as creative (43%), adventurous (28%) and ambitious (26%).

Gen X uses social media a lot to search for information on companies they are considering purchasing from. They value regular updates to companies’ profiles and quickness in response to questions and complaints

Both Gen Xers and Boomers have a strong aversion to excessive advertising, bad-quality products and poor customer service. They also like discounts and loyalty schemes. While many may share similar feelings on social and environmental issues to their Gen Z and Millennial counterparts, they’re less prone to switching off a brand entirely for ESG reasons. In fact, Boomers are less likely to share political content nor get into “culture war” type arguments online.

Gen Xers and Boomers enjoy the short-form video content on TikTok in increasing numbers with 32% more in these cohorts becoming users in the last year.

Notes for luxury brands

  • Facebook usage is primarily led by Gen Xers and Boomers. It’s no longer a young person’s thing.
  • Create downloadable content and upload articles to your knowledge base regularly to encourageGen Xers and Boomers to visit your site and that they can redistribute
  • Gen Xers and Boomers view the relationships they have with brands as transactional and not particularly personal. Create content based on your competitive advantages like speed of customer response, case studies and online review site scores.
  • Be careful not to alienate Gen Xers and Boomers with political content, no matter how well-intentioned. Corporate participation in social and environmental debates is a relatively recent phenomenon not particularly welcomed by these generations.
  • Create fun, empowering short-form video content for Gen Xers and Boomers on TikTok to reflect their growing usage of the platform and their perceptions of themselves. 

Create a social media brand discovery template for your business

Social media drives brand awareness and revenues for brands but, as we’ve seen, there are distinct advantages to creating strategies for each generation based upon their shared general behaviours and interests.

To speak to a Croud Luxe social media specialist about refining your social media brand discovery journeys, please get in touch. We look forward to working with you.

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