It’s not easy to be a photographer, especially now, during a time when the definition of photography keeps transforming within a quickly evolving digital landscape. The centennials, also known as Generation Z, are growing up alongside social media (i.e. Web 2.0). This post-1995 generation is a “mobile-first” culture, where portable, cordless technology has enabled users to move from their traditional passive role as observer to actively creating and distributing their own content.
350 million pictures are uploaded daily on Facebook alone, and Instagram now has more than half a billion monthly active users. Although this democratization has expanded the sharing potential of users, it has made it particularly difficult for established photographers to successfully disseminate his/her work. That being said, visual literacy is necessary if you are to thrive as a photographer in the social media marketing world.
Here are a few ways to help make yourself through the maze of Gen Z Visual marketing.
1. Be Interactive
When it comes to social media, there’s one important tip to remember: Leverage a trend in order to create shareable content. 60% of Gen Z-ers talk to their friends and family about brands, while 52% connect with their favorite stars on social. It is important to capitalize on this flow of information by creating content that is trendworthy. In addition, it is important to share across multiple platforms in order to increase your viewing range. Compared to Millennials who use three screens on average, Gen Z-ers use five: a smartphone, an iPod/iPad, a laptop, a desktop, and a TV.
2. Embrace “Selfie Culture”
It’s hard not to recognize the quintessential selfie and the “selfie culture” that Gen Z-ers have shaped. Though one could argue that this suggests an increased sense of self (bordering on narcissism) this address of the self in a particular environment is an extension of a desire to “be real,” to show behind-the-scenes, and, ultimately, create a personal, unique story. Gen Z-ers want an outlet for their own original content, and to view original content. More than 25% of Gen Z-ers post original content weekly compared to the 26% of adults who have ever posted an online video, and 80% consider creative self-expression very important.
3. Inspire Emotion & Action
Because images have always been the currency of communication, it is important to capitalize on emotion, very quickly. The average Gen Z-er has an attention span of about eight seconds. Therefore, content must be efficient. Genuine human feeling must predominate the reasoning behind the photo. Emotion is what leads to action, and Gen Z-ers are known do-gooders: 60% want their jobs to impact the world, 26% of 16 to 19-year-olds currently volunteer, and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.
Furthermore, a recent Facebook study found that 60% of users say they have learned about products or services on Instagram, and 75% of users take an action such as clicking a link, doing a search or telling a friend about a product after being inspired.
This is certainly not the end of photography’s evolution — drone photography, Web 3.0, and VR are but a few of the hurdles that photographers will have to jump in the near future. But for now, the form itself reflects the ambivalent, shape-shifting nature of today’s technological environment. It is the plurality of the modern photography that must be realized in order to make it through the maze of today’s social culture.