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A Gen Z subculture enjoying music and spending time together, unique characteristics
| | 3 minute read

The Importance of Gen Z Subcultures with Social Media

Gen Z subcultures consume online content and interact with social media in ways different from the generations before them. Click here to learn more.

A snapshot of the likes, dislikes, and habits of a generation is a quick and handy tool in a marketing kit. Shared experiences amongst age groups are treasured, shape who we are, and even create generational inside jokes.

But Gen Z has some unique characteristics including their current youth, diverse identities, and online habits that make them hard to pin down on a simple list of characteristics. Rather, we should view this generation as broken out into subcultures that are reinforced by the algorithms they live by.

Gen Z Subcultures - Preview

  1. The Media Super Fan
  2. Aesthetic Everything
  3. Vulnerability

Gen Z is Breaking the Mold with Streaming & Social Media Usage

Those clichés that follow this up-and-coming generation around do have a grain of truth to them. The digital advances they’ve grown up with and their diverse makeup have left this generation more fractured than others.

Subcultures have been around for a long time, but Gen Z’s take is less John Hughes. Rather, they feel free to weave in and out of these groups as they please. With streaming and social media facilitating and capitalizing on these mini trends, subcultures continue to become more relevant and defining for this generation.

Knowledge of these 3 major Gen Z groups will demystify how Gen Z define themselves and how they interact with online content.

The Media Super Fan + Streaming Tools

When it comes to streaming content Gen Z were already reliable viewers, but a couple years spent in quarantine has made them into super fans of the media they watch. The variety of a streamer’ catalogue is what gets this generation to subscribe is what Regina Sommese, Group VP of Subscriber Growth and Media for Warner Bros Discovery, told Variety in a round table with other streaming leaders late last year.

They’re open to watching just about any TV and film genre. From reality shows to high drama series to indie comedies they hop between genres and their associated groups with ease.

Not content with sitting back and being a simple viewer, super fans seek out immersive experiences to get even more out of their favorite titles including franchise focused social media campaigns and local pop ups.

Even while on the couch they take an active role in their viewing, using streaming’s customization tools as a means for discovery; Essentially leveraging a site’s algorithm to recommend their next binge watch perfectly suited to their tastes.

Jonathan Goodstadt, senior director of global ad sale media and entertainment for Roku Inc, also revealed on the Variety panel that Gen Z aren’t ad adverse and around 70% are open to utilizing free or low-cost ad-supported streaming options. The draw of exploring the content and experiencing what these sites have to offer is worth utilizing an ad-supported tier, and that’s where you’ll find most of Gen Z viewers.

Aesthetic Everything and Feeding the Algorithm

Many of Gen Z’s subcultures are based around aesthetics denoting a certain style. Though it’s another space where they’re happy to move freely between various groups, aesthetic subcultures still give them a sense of identity. They’re not just going to the gym but they’re Barry’s Bootcamp goer, not just a makeup lover but a Glossier Girl.

These aesthetics extend past clothes and beauty too. Dark Academia, for example, is Gen Z’s own take on preppy style as well as a community of books, both romanticizing and taking a critical look at the world of academics and intellectuals.

The algorithms of social media, streaming, and advertising are a big reason Gen Z has broken into these subgroups. When platforms allow for highly individual experiences it encourages users to dive deeper, creating even more specific micro trends and content amongst themselves. As they create new and even more niche aesthetics, Gen Z further develops their unique habits, style, and behavior.

Learn How to Leverage Micro Trends and Niche Interests with Targeted Marketing

Like the streaming algorithm, social media in the hands of Gen Z is a tool for discovery so much so that this Horizon study on the generation’s subgroups notes that this generation is less attached to individual creators and celebrities, often remembering the content itself rather than the person who created it.

Vulnerability and Privacy on Display

Gen Z’s greatest strength is their ability to move in and out of these groups. Though it may seem like they’re being flaky, it’s can also feel like a huge dose of honestly being able to connect with a variety of cultural touch points without feeling chained to one point of view.

Social media has been an essential tool for this generation to connect with each other, even on emotional topics. Between the global events that have taken place in their lifetime and the volatile nature of their age (ranging from 26 to 13), Gen Z has found the value in being vulnerable online. They’ve created spaces to openly share stories of the obstacles they’ve faced from ‘story time’ videos to the rise of poetry with Rupi Kaur and Amanda Gorman.

It can seem like Gen Z is baring it all online, but there is a limit. When it comes to their personal information Gen Z tends to be choosier overall. The allure of privacy has even bled into different subcultures like the push against fast paced technology with the whimsical style of CottageCore or this generation’s take on minimalism with the ‘clean girl’ and simple living trends. They crave the balance of the two so the value and depth of content needs to be there before they exchange their personal information. 

Gen Z Media Use

Gen Z is actively fighting against the idea they can be contained in a simple list of characteristics. Furthermore extending into politics, as well as media-usage habits, and media appetites. To them, individuality triumphs and they expect it out of the content they consume. With this demographic Horizon says media doesn’t necessarily need to tailor to the individual but follow the individual to these subcultures they’ve created and work from there.