How to make friends and NOT alienate Gen Z


I attended two really interesting events last week – a seminar about finding friends in a digital brand and a breakfast conference examining the complexities of marketing to Generation Z.

It got me thinking about the many questions we hear asked about how best to approach this challenge. Questions centred on the different behaviours and expectations of their generation. Employers are striving to develop a stronger understanding of this current crop of talent. What should we be talking to them about? How should we be talking about it? And where should this conversation be happening? These are all valid questions. But I can’t help think that sometimes we have a tendency to overcomplicate things.

In order to answer some of these questions we need to look at and understand the basic principles of a friendship.

Friendship is about people, and unless you really trust someone, they can’t truly be your friend. Trust is something that enables the walls and defence mechanisms everyone puts up to come down. If those barriers are up, it makes it very hard to relate to one another, regardless of age.

This effect does however does seem to be amplified when it comes to Generation Z. Partly due to the fact that they’re marketed at relentlessly. They’re in a position of power, and they know it so they can afford to be picky.

This is the first generation with a truly global view. A generation raised in recession, who are constantly told by the media how there’s very little opportunity out there for them and how tough it is out there.

It’s a generation that sees millionaires made overnight with the invention of a game or an app. A generation that sees how an average Joe becomes a YouTube or Geordie Shore sensation and achieves near celebrity status. These are the aspirations of this generation – they want to stand out from the crowd and be heard. They want to make and impact on the world. And this is where brands can play a really strong role.

Last week I heard two students stand in a room of 240 graduate recruiters and tell them that they want to feel proud of the brand they work for. And they want the employer to feel proud to have them too. They want employers to help them enrich their lives – to give them access to ways they can make an impact on the world. And in return, they’ll become your advocates and make an impact on your bottom line.

So if you want Gen Z to feel the love for your brand what do you need to do?

Well, unfortunately there’s no quick fix. You can’t create an image, or change perceptions overnight. If you try to be something you’re not you’ll only succeed in achieving the opposite.

But there are certain things you should consider when planning your communications. The key thing to remember here is to think of your relationship as a friendship, not as a hiring process. Yes you need to be part of the conversation, but as a person, not a brand.

So, let’s look at what (most!) friends do for each other.

  1. They understand each other. Use the data you have available to develop a deep understanding of what makes Gen Z tick, how they consume media and what content resonates. It’s all out there, but currently there’s too bigger gap between the amount of data available and how it’s used. However, be mindful of what’s socially acceptable and don’t come across as creepy.
  1. They make each other happy. This could be through the stories they tell each other, the jokes they share, the support and guidance they provide and the care they show for each other’s wellbeing. Make sure that the content you share and the stories you tell achieve these things.
  1. They add value to each other’s lives. However that value is perceived it definitely exists otherwise why would the friendship continue? Ask yourself before every piece of communication whether it will add value and help others.
  1. They’re there for each other. It’s not enough to start a conversation and then think the job is done. Millenials expect brands to be always on. They want you to be there for them when they need a question answered. They expect to be rewarded for connecting with you.
  1. They place trust in each other. Trust is gained by being honest, human and personable. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Understand what characteristics your brand has and ensure these come through in your messaging.

Written by Tam Salih, Communications Consultant at Tonic Agency

5 tools to help graduate recruiters make sure they’re not a proper Charlie.

A couple of weeks back, there was a party that Charlie and Jon decided to head to. Neither of them knew anyone that was going, except for the host of course.

As they arrived they got into the swing of things. Charlie, who was loud and gregarious, jumped right in – he started doing the rounds, interrupting people’s conversations to introduce himself, talking about his job, his girlfriend, where he lives and so on.

Jon however was a little less sure of himself. Being the shy type he was not so keen on interrupting people mid-party to talk about himself. He wanted to make a good impression, but he decided that maybe listening and understanding these people – background, personalities, preferences – was perhaps the more intelligent approach.

The night was going great, the two friends were enjoying themselves, the music was good and the drink was flowing. Jon had lots of people around him, engaging in good conversation, laughing at his jokes and buying him drinks. They wanted to spend the evening with him because they felt he understood them. He was connecting so well with other guests.

Charlie however was not having such a great time. He was speaking to lots of people, sure. But nobody was really listening. He found that after 5 minutes people would wander off and he’d be left looking for the next group of guests he could start talking to.

Jon left with a whole load of new friends and even a girl’s number…the lucky rascal.

Charlie on the other hand didn’t – and he couldn’t figure out why.

We see a lot of approaches to social from a broad range of employers who ask us to plan their strategy and begin conversations. The key trend we always seem to spot is that they all want to jump right into the party, much like Charlie. They want to use social media as a megaphone to shout about their message. When what they should be doing is taking a leaf out of Jon’s book and using it instead as a set of speakers to listen to what people are saying.

Social listening is quite literally that. Listening to what’s being said about your brand online within social communities – blogs, forums, corporate pages and social channels. It can help you understand where you’ve been mentioned, and in what context. You can then begin to compare that to those you compete for talent with which is incredibly useful for benchmarking your strengths and weaknesses.

Knowledge is power as they say and understanding the good, the bad and the ugly will put you in a great position to build out a plan of action – whether that plan focuses on being disruptive, challenging misconceptions or outright education – you need to truly listen before you speak.

Here are a few free tools to help ensure you don’t make a proper Charlie out of yourself.

Hootsuite & Tweetdeck – widely used to plan outbound messages, but have some functionality to monitor and allow you to gather data and respond in real-time.

Twazzup – great for beginners looking for a Twitter monitoring tool

Social Mention – allows you to monitor and collect data across multiple platforms with basic analytics to help you measure positive and negative sentiment

Icerocket – specialises in blog searches but has the functionality to watch Facebook and Twitter too

Google alerts – a very basic way to discover when a websites is posting about you. Doesn’t cover social and is probably the least useful in a recruitment sense

We hope you’ve found this little introduction to buzz monitoring useful. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you really listen, then pop over to and get in touch.

10 steps to becoming a more attractive graduate employer

Reputation is a funny old thing. By definition it’s a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic – something that makes it unique.

In today’s employer marketing arena, being unique is a commodity that many simply don’t have. When it comes to standing out from the crowd, being heard and generating real space between you and the competition, many employers think they’re #winning, but in reality they’re out there sounding and acting just like everyone else.

There’s a Dutch photographer called Hans Eijkelboom. He’s created a collection of ‘anti-sartorial’ photographs entitled, ‘People of the 21st Century.’ He walked round town with a camera round his neck and the trigger in his pocket, snapping people while they were unaware. Sounds a little stalkerish but the way he arranged these photo’s is what we’re focusing on here.

In a world where we all think we’re individuals choosing to look, dress and act in a way that reflects our personality and celebrates our individuality, it’s remarkable just how identical we all actually look.

Have a quick look here to see what we mean.

So where are we going with this?

How can you grab someone’s attention, and keep it, when you’re only as appealing as the next employer down the road? How do you really take that step from aspiring to be different, to truly leading the pack and setting a great example? How do you become the envy of the competition?

In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing 10 pieces of content with you, the graduate recruiter, as you begin to assess your recent performance, define goals and objectives and plan for the year ahead.

Our aim is to make your life easier, so we’ll be sharing success stories, examples of client work and the results achieved, as well as some of the latest thinking that will help you to effectively manage your reputation, persuade and influence your audience and build those all important conversations on and offline.

Follow us on Twitter, Linked In or Google + to stay up to date, or follow our blog using the follow button to the top right of this post to receive an email each week when new content drops.

Of course, if there’s any topics you’re particularly interested in then be sure let us know, and we’ll even create your own personal bit of content around that topic and share it with our wider community to fire up a discussion and get our readers input.

See you next week and have a fabulous weekend!

The team at Tonic