Friday, November 20, 2015

Does Gen Z care more about social proof than Millennials do?

Who is Gen Z?  That would be those born between 1995 and 2010 -- currently ages 5 - 20.  And, while they are already quite good at pestering their parents for what they want, they will soon have incomes of their own to spend.  So it's worth considering how their preferences are differing from those of their predecessors.

Not surprisingly there seems to be a bit of a backlash -- with Gen Zer's preferring in-person interactions to online.  (Levit, 2015)  And perhaps even demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice career ambitions for family.  I'm sure that Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, was shocked when her kids told her "We grew up with a mom who was never there."  But given that perspective,  it makes sense that they would seek a different alternative. (Feintzeig, 2015)

Two other things caught my eye.  The first is that they like people they can relate to, not celebrities, so 32% say YouTube is their favorite form of social media.

The second is that they need validation for every purchase they make.  Apparently something isn't good until someone else "likes" it.  (Mahoney, 2015) 

I suspect such a heavy reliance on social proof is the direct result of growing up with social media.  What do you think?  How important is social proof in your decision-making process?  Does it vary by category?  Do other age groups care more than you do?  Or is this just another form of "authority" featuring peers instead of celebrities, enabling short cuts to avoid decision fatigue?

And what about the other observations?  Are the Gen Zs that you know eager to have in-person interactions?  Are they potential stay-at-home parents?

Levit, A. (2015, March 29)  Make Way for Generation Z.  Retrieved November 20, 2015, from

Feintzeig, R. & Rexrode, C. (2015, October 1) Still a Long Road To Gender Equality.  Retrieved November 20, 2015, from

Mahoney, S. (2015, November 20)  Gen Z Basics Include Personalization First, Validation Second.  Retrieved November 20, 2015, from


  1. I do not think Gen Z care more about social proof than Millennials. Millennials follow celebrities, crazy about how many “likes” do they have, and care about authority. These show that Millennials care very much about social proof. For me Gen Z care more about connection. They are the generation grow up with grandparents instead of parents. They prefer face to face communication over social media, and they like people they can relate to. These findings show that they care more about connection instead of social proof. I do not know much about American Gen Z, but I have Chinese Gen Z siblings. American Gen Z and Chinese Gen Z share some commons. They all grow up with social media; they follow someone who they can relate to. However, since most of Chinese Gen Z are single child in their family and receive too much attention from their families, I would say Chinese Gen Z care more about social proof than American Gen Z.

  2. I definitely think that the Gen Z care a lot about social proof, more than Millenials. My little sister is born 1998, and much of what was said in these articles and this post fit perfectly with her.

    One difference when it comes to social media that I have notied, is just what is mentioned here, that they like YouTube a lot more than Millenials (which I personally think is a little weird, since YouTube is one of the "older" social media platforms). My sister follows lots of "vloggers" (video bloggers), watches different types of tutorials (e.g. for makeup), and music videos. Many of the videos that she is watching are uploaded by "regular people", hence not celebrities, which I think is interesting. It seems like this generation can both trust and look up to anyone, and he/she doesn't need to be famous. However, this leads to that more and more "regular people" on social media platforms, especially YouTube, actually become famous and get celebrity-status.

    Another thing that I have noticed about this genration and social proof is that my sister and her friends all buy almost the same things. Yes, Sweden is not a big country, so it is easier to see trends in fashion etc., and I guess it is a teenage-thing as well to want to follow/copy others before finding an own style. However, I think that you see much more teenagers nowadays that look really alike and wearing the same clothes, than what it was a few years ago when I was her age. The Gen Z seems very conscious about other people's lifestyles, clothes, etc., and what "everybody else" likes. I absolutely think that it has to do with the fact that they have grown up with social media.

    Social media is almost like a "trend-barometer"/mesurement, that tells us (sometimes even without us concsiously thinking about it) what to wear, what to buy, where to travel, who to follow, where to "check-in", what to like etc. Hashtags, geo-tags, etc. also make trends very strong and powerful, and I think it can be very hard nowadays not to follow the stream when we see all these other people and all these trends daily on our social media accounts.

    I know that I am influeced by this too, and that I am sometiems affected by social proof when it comes to decision-making. However, I am still brought up with hearing that it is good to go your own way and not care so much about what others think. Also, what influenced me with trends while growing up were probably mostly TV and magazines, which I think isn't as constant, intense, and strong as social media.

    In regards to in-person interactions and Gen Z, I don't know. I would probably say that they aren't as eager about it since they are so used to communication via technology. To use my sister as an example again, she absolutely hates to talk on the phone. I don't know if it is just her, but I can imagine that many other G Z's are the same.

    Lastly, I believe that this generation will change the traditional work life. I believe that many people in this generation will have to be more creative when it comes to their future jobs, and that many will have to create their own jobs and come up with jobs that don't even exist today. For example, I think that we will see more men staying home with their kids, and also more people that will work from home thanks to technology and the fact that you can bring your office with you wherever you go. Hence, I think it will be the change in gender roles and technology that might make this generation stay more at home.

  3. I think that Gen Zer’s do want social proof as much as the other generations. I think that’s what being a teenager is all about. But once you get passed a certain age of say mid to late 20’s, social proof doesn’t mean much to a person any longer. I am happy to find out that the Generation Zer’s prefer in-person interactions to online as we’ve lost a lot of that from Gen Yer’s/ Millennials. I have a couple of nephews who are Gen Zer’s and noticed that they do like in-person interactions. My Mom tells me that she would have nice face-to face conversations with my nephews - her grandsons -whenever they would visit her and she loves those times spent with them.
    Gen Zer’s may be potential stay at home parents as the technology will enable them to work from home as well as take care of their family easier than parents who has to go to work outside the home.

    I don’t consider Social proof when it comes into in my decision-making process. Why should I consider other people’s approval when it only concerns me? The only considerations I would take into account are the people I love if it involves them, otherwise why should I let society influence my decision-making?

    Yes, I do think social proof varies by category and Millennials are the worst as they have lived most of their lives with social media. This is how people like the Kardashians become famous for just being famous! Kim K is the most followed person in Instagram- and she’s got no talent!

    And having said all that – Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

    Girlie E. Gaviola

    1. Girlie, I completely agree with you! After a certain age, you don't need social proof after a certain age. I would love to know if Millennials grow out of it or if they still need social proof when they are in their 40s and 50s.

  4. This is very interesting, in particular, because even though I only miss the Gen Z cut off by two years, it seems to be a different world.

    I prefer face-to-face interaction, am averse to online shopping/banking and post on Instagram maybe twice a month. With that said, I think the shift in consumer behavior with Gen Z is representative of social proof.

    This concept reminds me of the student body at a Top 10 school, where many students come from the surrounding area (state) and spend 4 years together in an otherwise barren college town. In these situations, students tend to think alike, act alike and behave alike. My experience at NYU, on the other hand, offered a lot of agency and independence over my decisions.

    With this in mind, perhaps this is a phenomenon that has always existed but has just now been magnified on social media and impressed the most impressionable minds - young people.

    -Gabrielle Wuhl

  5. Social proof does not have much at all to do with my buying behavior; I am generally going to buy something I like, regardless of of what brand is popular. I can admit when it comes to Facebook, I occasionally wait for someone else to say something regarding a current event before I would post or share my personal opinion. I have a few cousins that are under 20, my observation is that their social media tendencies are screaming for attention. I don't observe any propensity for in person interactions. I remember growing up and sitting on the back of a truck with buddies and swapping stories, not finding the best filter to apply to a picture of my food. I don't really have an answer for Gen Zers being potential stay at home parents, because I find that to be more specific to the families household income or social benefits rather than a generational equilibrium.

  6. I am caught between Gen Y and Gen Z, being 20 myself. I find myself agreeing with the research that we prefer to meet in person and relate ourselves to regular people more than celebrities. I have never really been starstruck and have always wondered why there is so much buzz with celebrities who I never follow on social media or the news. Furthermore, texting just doesn't cut it for me. Maybe it was the fact that my father is a doctor and had spent long hours at work that makes me cherish face-to-face interactions more than texting.

    With regard to purchasing stuff that other people "like", I would say again that that is just the fact that at ages 5-20 we don't have much experience using or buying stuff. Therefore, social proof is one way to learn from other people's mistakes and failures. I rely heavily on social proof when purchasing anything nowadays because it is so conveniently available and educational. If I'm purchasing clorox wipes and 5000 people like it while 20 people dislike it, I'll get it. Doesn't make sense otherwise not to listen to what people say about the product.

  7. I’m glad the pendulum has finally swung the other way with Gen Z wanting face-to-face time rather than texting and not being impressed with celebrities. Regarding the need for social proof, I actually wonder if this is due to their age or if it’s due to social media. I hope that it’s the former because it would be odd to know that some 40+ individuals needing social proof to make decisions.

    Now the validation part really perplexes me. Why do you have to wait for someone else to tell you to like something? Is this one of the byproducts of helicopter parenting? Again, I hope this is just an age thing.

    For me, I don’t need social proof or validation in making any decisions, no matter how trivial or important. Actually, I prefer to have things that are not popular and will go out of my way to not go along with the crowd.

    My niece is a Gen Z, but I can’t really tell if that generation is eager about in-person interaction, because she’s a typical teenager. I think she’s fluid in both unlike a friend’s daughter who is a very young Millennial and prefers texting over personal interactions. Will this mean there is a greater chance that Gen Z’s will want to be stay-at-home parents? Not sure, but I think Gen Z’s may value the importance a little more since they went without.

  8. Social proof is important only when necessary, at least in my case. I find it as someone else reviewing the product or item to help my decision-making process. But I have to agree with Matilde, at the end of the day it is up to me when making decisions. I also find that Gen Z-ers are highly dependent on social proof and the constant need to fit in and be accepted by others with current standards. Going back to social proof, from my understanding, YouTube content creators are “real people” therefore people, in my opinion, are more likely to buy into their recommendations and comments because these individuals may not have the lavish lifestyles that celebrities have.

    As for in-person interactions, I think this depends on the person and their situation. If the individual rarely saw his or her parents because of demanding careers then these individuals may end up finding a career that will allow for more family time or they will just become stay-at-home parents. I think that Gen Z-ers are always in favor of having in-person interactions – they have this constant need of showing the world that they are social and are always out and about or doing interesting activities. They don't call but instead text yet they still want more in-person interactions. You don’t get to do as much if you resort to online interactions, especially if you always want social proof. I think that Gen Z-ers are more focused on relationships due to their parents who push for this focus, as well.

    -Sweta P.

  9. Social proof is generally not important to me. I look for products that work for me as an individual. I rarely look to consensus because it is an opinion which can differ from mine. I may look to social proof regarding a pain reliever or possible medicine. I think the Gen Yers and as mentioned the the Gen Zers care more about what others opinions are and use this to make their decisions. I do also believe that the social proof or liking factor is a type of authority persuasion where the peers are the experts. I can understand how this can help with decision making but I think it is just another selling tactic using people "like yourself."
    The Gen Zers I know are about 10-16 and are my younger cousins. They enjoy very much the person to person interaction. Academics and sports are important to them as well as family time. Three of them are female and 2 of them are male and I cannot see them as stay at home parents. Although I can imagine them being very available and active in their family life I also see them pursuing careers and goals.