Let’s play ‘first word comes to mind’.
Here’s your card: Gen Z.
Your answer? Probably “TikTok”, right?
But the “TikTok Generation” label can be misconstrued. Sure, Gen Z and TikTok hit the ground running, but our What Gen Z Actually Do Online report has found that their most used and favourite social app is, by quite a long way still, Instagram.
When we asked them which social networks they use regularly, 89% said Instagram compared to 60% for TikTik. In fact, YouTube (76%) and Snapchat (75%) were both considerably above TikTok in their usage by Gen Zs too with Facebook (56%) just a little below it.
So have we misunderstood Gen Z’s relationship with TikTok?
Instagram vs TikTok: The Rivalry
The news headlines have poured in: TikTok Doesn’t Stop: How To Reach Gen Z Consumers, What The Rise of TikTok Says About Generation Z, How TikTok conquered the world, Here’s the real reason Mark Zuckerberg is so afraid of TikTok…
Advertisers sat up. Marketers began wondering how to utilise it. TikTok was suddenly the new portal into the lives of people many years younger than them just like how Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook had been before it.
So what sets it apart from other social networks with Gen Zs?
As this 18-year-old female from Western Australia said, it’s TikTok’s focus on the more mundane parts of life.
“I love how TikTok is moving away from the ‘perfect life’ that Instagram has made,” she said.
“It just makes me feel less pressure.”
An 18-year-old female from Victoria was more pointed.
“Where other platforms make me feel shit and lonely, TikTok makes me feel like I have friends,” she said.
“Hearing people my own age share their thoughts, be creative, educate and have fun is so incredible. It feels the same as when you finally find that group of special people you click with. I have genuinely learned so much from TikTok, from life hacks to history, religion, music knowledge, skills, I hope it can be around for a long time. I think it will really empower our generation.
“I say: ‘bye’ performative draining social media, the kind that feels like a highschool popularity contest with likes and comments; ‘hello’ raw sharing of emotions, creativity and passion that empowers and inspires us to create and live interesting lives in the real world.”
The established social networks were more negative according to a 20-year-old female from Victoria.
“Personally, Facebook and Instagram make me feel negative, lonely and less connected as I see my feed full of people I know achieving things and loving life,” she said.
“Whereas TikTok makes me feel connected, inspired and educated as I see people I don’t necessarily know cheering me on, going through the same things as I’m going through or being interested in the same things as me.”
Despite all this Instagram is still actually used by roughly 50% more Gen Zs on a regular basis than TikTok (89% vs 60%).
Given it’s a virtual baby in social media years compared to Instagram, that’s not to be unexpected for TikTok. But it could also point to TikTok’s appeal simply being less widespread than Instagram’s. While it’s had lots of downloads, the real metric is engagement and how many keep using the app or let it fade into the app graveyard.
The Gram, ever the mutating beast, has managed to absorb the best parts of Snapchat and TikTok to stand strong against the buffeting waves they’ve brought against it. The question now is if TikTok and Snapchat can’t shake Instagram from its top spot with Gen Z, can anyone?