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There's a new wave of influential consumers on the horizon, and now is the time to pay attention. This past month, our media team attended the Her Campus GenZology Summit where we learned how marketers can connect with Generation Z, an emerging demographic of rapidly evolving consumers. Whether your brand is primarily targeting Gen Z or trying to gain a foothold among younger consumers, these takeaways can help kickstart your Gen Z marketing strategy. 

Who is Gen Z?

  • Born in 1998 or later
  • Digital natives and early adopters of technology
  • Socially conscious and culturally diverse
  • Establishing their independence: 80% of Gen Z makes their own purchasing decisions

GEN Z’S CONSUMER BEHAVIOR

Brand Discovery and Consideration Starts Close to Home

New to adulthood and financial decision-making, members of Gen Z are thoughtfully developing their brand preferences. When considering whether to buy a new product or service, Gen Z is eager to learn about the brand and will consistently seek information throughout their consumer journey. Not all information sources are equally impactful, though – Gen Z primarily looks to their social circle to guide purchase decisions. 

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Gen Z strongly values social relationships, so it’s no surprise that these connections are also key purchase drivers. Gen Zers are most likely to be won over by recommendations from friends and family, as well as positive real-life experiences with brands.

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For marketers, a Gen Z-targeted media strategy should prioritize channels that have a trusted presence within their market. 

What are some effective tactics?

  1. Social: Paid & organic social posts
  2. Content promotion: Sponsored content on sites with a large Gen Z readership
  3. High-impact creative: Eye-catching visuals that make your brand the topic of conversation is the cherry on top for earning Gen Z loyalty

FreeformFreeform’s 6-week OOH campaign made a lasting impact by inspiring a wave of organic social engagement.

Let’s Get Virtual: Consumer Trends in the Age of COVID-19

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, and social distancing poses a challenge to both community-seeking Gen Zers and the brands trying to reach them. However, digital platforms present innovative opportunities for Gen Z to stay connected during these difficult times. eCommerce and virtual experiences have also allowed consumer activity to stay strong. 

Here are ways that brands can grow relationships with an engaged Gen Z audience: 

  1. Give Back: Be a force of good by contributing to the community and communicating with empathy and reassurance.
  2. Virtual Experiences: Host interactive virtual events that bring consumers together.
  3. Promote Self-Care: Food, clothing, and skincare products are popular purchases that help Gen Z feel uplifted while staying home.
  4. Steals and Deals: Encourage future IRL purchases with incentives like samples, coupons and loyalty programs – Gen Z is looking forward to shopping in person again! 

SOCIALLY DRIVEN

Utilizing Social in a Socially Distant Environment 

While the future may remain uncertain, social media platforms have remained a constant in helping Gen Z feel connected. Pre-COVID-19, Her Campus reported that 51% of Gen Z college students spent 2 hours a day on social media, and 28% spent upwards of 3-4 hours a day. 

Since then, there has been a surge in social media usage among Gen Z, as today’s state of social distancing has made maintaining relationships more important than ever. With this in mind, brands should leverage their social platforms to connect with the Gen Z audience in a meaningful and impactful way. 

Specific Social Habits

When it comes to social, Gen Zers have very specific habits unique to each platform, and brands should adjust their social media strategy accordingly.

Instagram – Preferred Source for Brand Interaction

Instagram allows for a wide variety of content to be produced and consumed, making it Gen Z’s preferred choice when it comes to brand interaction.

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Additionally, likes are no longer the main KPI on Instagram. Number of shares are equally as important and can lead to increased followers, helping to boost your brand’s overall success. 

How can your brand increase its following?

  1. Post High Quality Content: Brands should post relatable, relevant and authentic content to drive increased engagement among the Gen Z audience.
  2. Interact With Your Audience: Replying to your audience when they comment or mention your brand goes a long way in making the Gen Z audience feel seen.
  3. Learn Their Language: Gen Z has their own way of communicating, so it is important to keep up with the new slang to better relate to this audience.

Twitter – Personalize Your Brand

Once fading in its appeal due to the rise of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter has once again become a highly relevant source of content for the Gen Z audience. From meme culture to article promotion and interactive polls, Gen Z is eager to consume relatable content on Twitter and feel as though your brand cares.

How should your brand adapt its Twitter platform to draw Gen Z in?

  1. Understand You Are More Than A Company: Company accounts that take on a more personal approach resonate much more with the Gen Z audience. Gen Z wants to feel as though your Twitter handle is managed by an individual and not a buttoned-up corporation. 
  2. Reply and Retweet: Like Instagram, taking the time to respond to user mentions and replies can help your brand connect with its audience and grow its following.

Facebook – Groups, Events, and Content, OH MY! 

Facebook is still considered an important social platform for Gen Z, and is primarily used for three key purposes:

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How can your brand cater its marketing strategy based on each of these three purposes?

  1. Groups: Ensure your brand is consistently posting relevant updates and articles specific to your brand’s group pages to keep Gen Z engaged. 
  2. Events: Utilize Facebook to raise awareness around key brand events for greater interest and attendance.
  3. General Content: 76% of Gen Z utilizes facebook solely to consume content, so it is important to make sure your brand consistently posts high quality content such as videos and branded articles for increased awareness. 

SnapChat – Mainly for Peer Interaction

SnapChat is a hot spot for Gen Z. However,  they use the app mainly for peer-to-peer interaction and are less likely to engage with brands. Brands should focus their marketing strategy on social platforms that show stronger engagement among Gen Z, such as Twitter and Instagram. 

TikTok – A New Opportunity for Consumer Interaction 

TikTok is the latest craze among the Gen Z audience, used solely to consume and create video-specific content. 

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With roughly 1.5 billion downloads (more than Instagram and Facebook), TikTok is a key source in reaching the Gen Z audience. The 60 second video limit forces TikTok content creators to be innovative and impactful in a short period of time. Brands must follow suit by promoting short, yet impactful creative to stand out in such a fast-paced environment.

TikTok offers a wide variety of advertising opportunities, allowing brands to pick and choose the most effective tactics for their specific marketing strategies. While like SnapChat, Gen Z is slightly less likely to engage with brands while scrolling through TikTik, your brand can still make an impression on this unique audience. 

Influencer Partnerships: Brands should tap into influencer partnerships as they provide a less invasive and more organic way of putting your brand in front of Gen Z. 

AUTHENTICITY MATTERS

Authenticity: The Key to Gen Z’s Heart (and Wallet) 

Gone are the days of the “perfect” brand. When it comes to Gen Z, they are much more interested in a brand that is “real” than a brand that portrays a “perfect” persona. They relate more to ads from micro-influencers than celebrities, and strive to find brands that have a sense of community. An easy way to begin creating this community is to invest time into strong community management. When Gen Z interacts with a brand on social media, they expect a response. Whether it’s commenting back or replying to/reposting an Instagram story, Gen Z wants to feel like they are a part of the brand’s community through social interactions, so community management is crucial.

Influencers: The Trusted Voice

Every day, a celebrity posts a #sponsored #ad for a product that influences people to scramble to find their wallets so that they can use the same product as their favorite celebrity. What’s more, the past few years have given birth to non-celebrities becoming influencers, and Gen Z is very receptive to these influencers. Some fast facts about Gen Z’s purchasing behavior based on a panel of Gen Z consumers:

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If your brand wants to reach Gen Z, utilizing Influencer Marketing is a good place to start. A few tips on how to develop an influencer strategy:

Step 1: Instill A Sense Of Community

  • Work with influencers who are open to attend local meet-ups or networking opportunities that are hosted by your brand, and that make the Gen Z consumer feel appreciated. They don’t want to feel like it is a simple transaction for your brand through the influencer.

Step 2: Form Strategic Partnerships With Your Influencers

  • Strive towards long-term partnerships. This not only establishes authenticity with the Gen Zers by letting them know that the influencer uses the product/service long-term, but also allows you to retarget top audience segments. You should also look to take a deep dive into the influencer’s audience when planning your campaign – just using their baseline stats only allows you to scratch the surface.

Step 3: Create Premium Experiences with Influencers

  • When possible, aim to continue the conversation with Gen Z and brand influencers through meaningful activations in relevant moments and environments that matter to Gen Z. Here, you should be adaptable; experiences don’t just have to be face-to-face. They can make just as much of an impact when they happen virtually, too.

To successfully market your brand to Gen Z consumers, it’s clear that genuine connections matter above all else. With a mix of authentic messaging, strategic media planning, and an understanding of the Gen Z community’s values, brands can win their loyalty (and dollars) when it matters most. 

 

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In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for September 2021. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month.   A Return To The Typical For September 2021 After a weird August 2021, last month’s queries looked more like the ones to which we are accustomed. There were a few phrases that were queried over 10 million times.  Deadly weather events weren’t a top search topic - thank goodness - and the return of the NFL brought back many of the top team names back into the daily top 3. September did have its unique qualities too. We noticed some intriguing reporting on some Google Doodle clicks - phrases that were in the top 3 one day and then gone the next. Also, the sad story of Gabby Petito can’t be ignored as her name appeared in our capture 6 times last month. Lastly, coffee had a moment in September as a national day held in its honor was searched a bunch on the 28th. With that, let’s get into the top searched phrases of September 2021.   The Curious Clicks of Google Doodles When Google changes the logo on its homepage with what they call a Google Doodle, people click. When people click, it leads them to search results. When they are led to search results, it’s counted as a query. Here are three queries that we counted because they were attached to a Google Doodle; Christopher Reeve - 9/24/2021 - 10,000,000+ queries Google - 9/27/2021 - 10,000,000+ queries Rodolfo 'Corky' Gonzales - 9/30/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Two of last month’s Doodle were published to celebrate the lives of people of note, the actor Christopher Reeve and political activist Rodolfo Gonzales.  The other Doodle, noted by the query “Google” was posted to celebrate the company’s 23rd birthday. One thing we noted as a team was the reporting of Google Doodle clicks on September 5th.  Since we check the daily search trends from Google Trends every day, we saw that it was initially reported that Google’s 2021 Labor Day Doodle had driven over 10 million clicks. It appeared as a query for “Labor Day” on Monday.  But since we know there is an adjustment period for these results, we recorded the top 3 queries for Sunday on Tuesday and found the Labor Day query was no longer there.  We didn’t know what to make of it. Since there were no Google Doodle-related queries in August, we wondered if Google Trends was changing how it reported Doodle clicks. If there was a change, it was temporary as we saw more Doodle clicks and the queries related to those clicks late last month.   The Non-Doodled Holidays Putting the cryptic Labor Day Doodle query aside, here are the holiday related terms that people searched for the most in September:  Rosh Hashanah - 9/5/2021 - 500,000+ queries Labor Day meaning - 9/6/2021 - 200,000+ queries 9/11 - 9/10/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Yom Kippur - 9/15/2021 - 500,000+ queries National Coffee Day 2021 - 9/28/2021 - 200,000+ queries “Labor Day meaning” did make the top 3, interestingly enough. We interpret this query and the number associated with it are connected to a genuine interest of learning more about the holiday. The Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur both occurred in September this year as did the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Lastly, and we love to see this type of “holiday” query appear in the daily top 3, National Coffee Day 2021 had a resurgence as compared to the last 4 years.  The peak for this holiday may have happened in 2015 but it’s clear that more of us were searching for a way to celebrate coffee this year.   The Films and TV Shows We Watched To gauge the popularity of video entertainment, AMP Agency takes note of the search volume behind movie and television show titles.  The film industry has taken a hit and we are not sure if going to the movies will ever come back to the way it was but here are the films that drove the most search volume in September. Shang-Chi - 9/2/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Matrix 4 - 9/9/2021 - 500,000+ queries Malignant - 9/10/2021 - 500,000+ queries Cry Macho - 9/17/2021 - 500,000+ queries Venom - 9/30/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries With the exception of Matrix 4 (that film’s trailer dropped on the 9th), all of these films were released last month.  Dancing With the Stars 2021 - 9/8/2021 - 200,000+ queries Ted Lasso - 9/19/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Dancing with the Stars - 9/20/2021 - 500,000+ queries For TV shows, people still love Dancing With The Stars as it began its 30th season. The cast announcement and its premier episode drove people to search.  Interestingly enough, Ted Lasso is the only query related to the Emmy Awards that were held on the 19th. That show won 7 awards and may have picked up a few more viewers after the Emmys.   September 2021 News Events For these monthly analyses, we typically do not report on queries related to celebrity deaths or other tragedies unless the search volume dictates that it can’t be ignored.  Queries related to  Gabby Petito’s disappearance and death made the daily top 3 of 6 days in September. Gabby Petito - 9/15/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Gabby Petito found - 9/16/2021 - 500,000+ queries Gabby Petito found - 9/17/2021 - 1,000,000+ queries Gabby Petito found - 9/18/2021 - 500,000+ queries Gabby Petito - 9/19/2021 - 10,000,000+ queries Gabby Petito Autopsy - 9/21/2021 - 500,000+ queries The other big news story that drove millions of queries was related to the California recall election.  Californa recall election - 9/13/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries California recall election - 9/14/2021 - 5,000,000+ queries It’s interesting to see the number of queries increased the day after the election as people wanted to learn of the results.    Gaming  Keywords related to video games make the top 3 rarely so we thought it was a treat to see three phrases last month. Deltarune - 9/16/2021 - 100,000+ queries Nintendo Direct - 9/22/2021 - 200,000+ queries New World - 9/27/2021 - 200,000+ queries The second chapter of the Deltarune game was released on the 16th and New World was released by Amazon Games on the 28th.  Nintendo Direct announced all the games updates for their Switch console that are rolling out this winter.   Just the Top Sports Keywords Of the 90 phrases we collected in September, 37 were related to sports.  Since there were so many, let’s just keep it to the keywords that were queried 2 million times or more: Dallas Cowboys - 9/9/2021 - 5,000,000+ queries Georgia football - 9/4/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Parkers - 9/12/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Cleveland Browns - 9/12/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries NFL - 9/12/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Raiders - 9/13/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Thursday Night Football - 9/16/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Ravens - 9/19/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Packers - 9/20/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Christian McCaffrey - 9/23/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries UFC - 9/25/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Dallas Cowboys - 9/26/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Packers - 9/26/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Chiefs - 9/26/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Bengals - 9/30/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries Yes, gridiron football is back and the stadiums are filled with people. You can see the NFL dominate the number of sports keywords in this list.  The Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers seem to be winning the popularity contest so far this season.   Apple News A new iPhone?  Oh, you know people want to know more about that.  The iPhone 13 series was unveiled on the 14th and the latest iOS version was released on the 20th.   iPhone 13 - 9/14/2021 - 2,000,000+ queries iOS 15 - 9/20/2021 - 500,000+ queries All in all, a good month for Apple. If they ever launch a search engine, they can celebrate their company’s birthday with a doodle of their own. Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, we utilize search trends data for all of our clients and we invite you to learn more about our SEO services. Until next month.

In my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, many of the sidewalks are original - built when the neighborhood was coming together in the early part of the 20th century. You can locate stamps at intersections that have both obsolete street names - Sprague Street is now known as Rosemont; Margarette is now 34th Ave - and the names the contractors who poured the cement, along with the year they were poured. These small reminders of the recent past are fun to find, but point out a glaring inequity in their construction: These old sidewalks are not accessible, and not safe. An unimproved intersection The city is in the process of converting each of the city’s intersections into curb cutouts that are friendlier to those who may require assistance (wheelchairs, kneeling scooters, crutches, probing canes) getting up and onto sidewalks from the street. The brand new curb cutouts include a yellow rubberized traction pad that signals the transition between street and sidewalk, and there are eight on each improved intersection - two on each corner of a standard intersection. An improved intersection. This effort is happening not because the improvements and bright yellow traction pads are attractive, or because the contrast between the fresh cement and the old cement is nice to look at - but because it is the right thing to do for the citizens of Portland and those who have mobility issues who might otherwise need to be in the street in order to avoid the curb. This abides by the regulations set forth in American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The benefits go beyond supporting only people who have disabilities, though - anyone who has tried to use a rolling suitcase on the sidewalk, pushed a baby stroller over a curb, or can’t ollie on a skateboard can attest to that. By doing the right thing, Portland has chosen to make their city more accessible to more of its citizens. In our web development projects, we often support clients who need to do the equivalent curb-cutout improvements. Their sites may have been beautifully designed, but fall short in visual and technical areas that would help make their site more accessible. By bringing the site up to a baseline of accessibility standards set forth by the WCAG, the site becomes more equitable, inclusive, and usable for more people. The add-on effect for the client is that they have just widened their potential customer base by not excluding people who may consume web information in different ways. The improvement process also helps shake out other technical issues around markup structure, meaning the site may become more SEO-friendly and may render better in a wider range of devices after the improvements are implemented. While these efforts may be initially driven by legal justification (avoiding ADA lawsuits), or for marketing reasons (reaching more customers), improving your site’s accessibility is the just and correct thing to do. Our process begins by using a suite of tools that analyze the website to identify problem areas. This includes using voice-reader to read the website’s content - not everyone who browses your website will use their eyes to do so. We also see how the site renders without styles applied, validate the markup of the site to ensure the proper document structure & hierarchy is established, and closely scrutinize how interactive elements work. Particularly complex interactive elements like carousels or interactive navigation menus may require an entire rebuild in order to be accessible, but the goal is to maintain the current design or as close to it as possible. The end result of such an effort should not sacrifice visual design or interactivity, nor should it even be noticeable to those users who use standard means to interact with websites. But for those who need assistance, the improvements are welcome and appreciated. For sites that we build from scratch, we design and develop with this equity in mind from the beginning. By starting off with a requirement of accessibility, the new site enters the digital world already with accessibility in place. The level of accessibility, set forth by WCAG standards - “A” to “AAA”, with the latter being the most strict - may be dictated by the customer’s requirements. Projects for larger clients, non-profits, or government clients typically have a minimum accessibility level mandate for digital properties. But even for those without the mandate, doing the right thing results in a site that behaves nicely across different input types and allows for a wider audience to engage with the site. Do you need help with your site’s accessibility? Are you concerned your site is unintentionally excluding users?

A friend and mentor once spoke to clients about his three questions (Yapp’s three rules) that any home page must answer. They were:   Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for? These questions are the most important goals to accomplish with any home page, as you need to quickly communicate to users about your brand and why should it be relevant to them. Why the urgency? Well, for any new or uninformed user, they will spend perhaps a total of < 3 seconds reviewing the site depending on where they came from and why they are there. It is important that they understand your brand and what it means to them.  This is part of the Brand and Messaging problem that most websites face. They fail to understand who they are and what they want to communicate to their customers. Don't try to be everything for everyone The second common challenge on many websites is part of the inherent value of the web and leads us to our next set of three rules: Focus, focus, focus!  Most company websites try to communicate to their audience everything that the company wants them to hear. The two challenges inherent here are a lack of priority and not focusing on what the user’s needs are. For any site — E-commerce, Marketing site, etc. — there are multiple audiences who come to the site. A company needs to prioritize its audiences into a hierarchy and prioritize its messaging and home page real-estate to communicating to them. This has as much to do with messaging as design and user-experience, but the lesson is the same: Focus on the most important users and tell what they need to hear to act on what you want them to act on. The second challenge stems from the very nature of the web. A website is available to everyone. However, it doesn’t need to speak to everyone who could possibly come to your site. Common secondary audiences for most company sites are press & analysts as well as job seekers. Both of these types of users are motivated to interact with your site and don’t need precious home-page real estate dedicated to them. They know where to find the news and careers sections (in the About Us) of your site with little effort as long as your navigation is clear and you have a site map. It's about your audience - not you My organizations architect their websites as a reflection of their internal structures and hierarchy.  This is a common mistake.  Websites should be designed to the needs of your audience in the way they want to engage with your brand and their needs.  Not designing your website's architecture, messaging, value proposition and navigation to your primary audience's needs will create frustration and lower levels of engagement.   Think mobile first The majority of website traffic today are typically from mobile or tablet devices.  Therefore, you need to ensure that the website be equally as effective in the mobile format as this will likely be the first impression your brand has with your target audience.  Designing a website to be effective in a smaller format is challenging and requires extreme diligence to properly tell your brand story and drive engagement.  Companies who neglect the mobile experience are making a big mistake.  However, we still find many companies that are not prepared for a mobile first world.  Brand experience needs to be consistent beyond the website When our team evaluates digital ecosystems and website for our clients, we are keen to examine the swim lanes in the customer's journey.  The reason is your customers are likely to visit varying digital properties representing your brand from Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Email, Landing pages, Whitepapers, Mobile Applications and beyond.  If the brand experience and story are disconnected across these varying assets, you will create confusion and lose the ability to drive home the key brand impressions you hope to achieve.   Basic website evaluation benchmarks: 1. Clearly articulate your Brand Value Proposition through a structured Messaging Architecture which addresses the main three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for? 2. Focus your efforts on your home page on convincing the primary users of your website on what you want them to do. 3. Prioritize your messaging through clear design and user-experience on focused messages to your users satisfying what they need to know and how you want them to act. 4. Is your website designed to the needs of your audiences first? 5. Is your mobile optimized website effective? 6. Are all your digital properties working in synergy to reinforce your brand? Our Offer If you would like a complementary review and assessment of your website, we would be delighted to evaluate your website and provide some insights and thoughts.