5 Ways For Media Companies To Stay Relevant To Generation Z

Every summer, I interview summer interns — bright-eyed social media aficionados — who name their favorite media companies. And every year, that list changes ever so slightly, something that reflects the always evolving media landscape which makes our space so exciting.

Here are the answers I’ve gotten over the years:

2008: Chictopia, Myspace, Hearst or Conde Nast (insert magazine name) |2009: Chictopia, Facebook, Twitter |2010: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter |2011: Instagram, Youtube, Facebook |2012: Instagram, Youtube, Facebook |2013: Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube |2014: Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube |2015: Snapchat, Youtube, Vice |2016: Snapchat, Youtube, Netflix

The answers that these candidates give may not predict the future of social media, but they do help surface trends and help showcase future demand for content and how that content is presented. That, in turn, becomes important for media companies to analyze and determine how their (social)media mix can remain relevant for years to come.

For 2016, I’ve compiled 5 traits that make a social media company relevant in today’s digital landscape. (For more on this topic, also check out Jayson DeMers’s list of 7 Social Media Marketing Predictions)

  1. Being the King of Original Content

With all media companies in the Silicon Valley racing to hire more engineers to improve their server storage capacity and site load speed, two non-social media companies are still winning the game — Netflix and Vice. As much of a technology lover as I am, I’ve come to believe that the winner takes all when it comes to content. What these two companies continue to do is make original content that is both relevant to viewers interests and passion and has a strong brand point of view. YouTube, the trailblazer in self-made original content, continues to invest top dollar in its YouTube Creator program and YouTube Red, seeing how marketing its original content and creators can help expand its dedicated viewer base.

2. Open the door for content creators to express another dimension of themselves

To anyone over 30 (myself included), Snapchat may seem like a toy app that helps the younger generation waste time. But in reality, it’s a powerful self-expression tool for content creators to showcase the most authentic version of themselves. YouTube is another social channel where being one’s true self is rewarded with millions of tuned-in subscribers and has made instant celebrities out of people for being relatable to the general public. If “raw” is the emotion that helps Vice win its audience, then the same word can be used to describe Snapchat and YouTube.

3. Surfaces content that is exclusive to that platform

Many have wondered why Google+ didn’t take off as a social platform. After all, it must have the best search algorithm. The point to mention here is that there is nothing new found on Google+ that cannot be found on other social networks. Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and even blogs allow content creators to create unique experiences for their followers on that platform and keeps them coming back for more. The winning media companies provide content creators the tools and services to create and share fresh + original content exclusively for that platform. We also saw Chictopia’s platform grew with exclusive content from influencers.

4. We do care about the numbers

More and more, the platforms that cater to content creators provide tools to help creators refine their content. By providing analytics that dive into follower growth, follower engagement, and trending topics, content creators are able to better analyze their performance and produce better and better content. While it is also important to not be defined by the numbers, as quality content can be produced by creators of all sizes, it behooves companies to help all creators achieve success through numbers. Albeit a pointless game for my generation, Snapchat’s score and trophies get teens obsessed over these milestones, producing amazing results.

5. The new generation of content creators want to do what they love, with people they love

With the abundance of media creation tools and platforms out there, the demand of the young generation is pushing the envelope with media creation. More and more, we are seeing talented content creators like Mylifeaseva go from 100K to 1 million followers in less than 24 months. From collaborating on original series, to creating their own animation studio, the next generation of content creators are hungry to create, inspire, and network. Who will be the media company that will serve them well?

For those of you who would like to geek out even more about trends, check out Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends presentation.