By Maibh Shiels
Social media surfers, scrollers, and now self-employers; Gen Z may be the generation that are making social media work for them.
Gen Z has undoubtedly reached the working age, and it is also becoming undeniable that social media marketing is making its mark. The surge in self-employment and especially social media-based businesses shows that Gen Z can use social media professionally almost as much as they use it personally.
Gen Z: making themselves self-employed
While the pandemic has had an effect on almost all employment, statistics show that self-employment was at its highest point preceding the pandemic. This was at the end of 2019, the same year the first members of Gen Z would have left University and entered the working world.
It is unsurprising then that Kathryn Doyle, a member of this generation, sought for self-employment, too. Kathryn started a baking business in July 2020, called ‘KD cakes’, and sells cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and blondies.
Kathryn spoke of her business passionately and often smiled widely as she did. When asked why she decided to become self-employed, she said simply –
“I always liked baking. I worked in a bakery, so I just went out on my own.”
Kathryn talked, too, of the creative freedoms of her business, “I just wanted to do something different.” It seems that for Kathryn at least, her hobby became a business, and she wakes up in the morning wanting to go to work!
Gen Z: making a business on social media
When Kathryn did begin her business, she started it on social media, “I started off with Instagram because it’s easy to use and what I’m used to, and I thought Instagram would [allow for] more arty stuff.”
“After a couple of months, I decided to make a Facebook page, and once I made the Facebook page [the business] got a lot bigger. It got a bigger audience.” Kathryn currently has a following of over four-hundred fifty people on her business page on Instagram and just under five hundred people on Facebook.
Kathryn has never promoted her business by any means beyond social media marketing. She said, “Other than word of mouth it’s through social media.”
The entrepreneur was honest about the fact that social media seemed like the easiest marketing strategy, saying her main reason for using it “was the convenience”. With most members of Gen Z spending almost three hours a day on social media, the fact that social media marketing seems easy may be why it is a common choice.
Kathryn did have other reasons, though, “Personally, if I was looking for a business, I would look on social media. I wouldn’t go and look in a newspaper or at advertisements.” She is not alone in this, as Gen Z prefer social media for finding products and services.
It makes sense, though, that if Gen Z uses social media to find businesses, they would use it to start one. It is also understandable that they would use it professionally when they are so used to using it personally.
Gen Z: making the most of social media
Kathryn was open, too, about the advantages and disadvantages of using social media marketing. She admitted that being self-employed was challenging in itself and that promoting her business on social media occasionally made things more difficult.
The young baker said, “It’s really time-consuming. There’s a lot of research, and replying to emails, and shopping, and taking stock. I used an app to make my logo. I spent a while figuring that out.” She also spoke of the issue of balancing her University work with her own business, “Whenever I was on placement it was difficult. It [was] a lot of late nights to try and get things organised.”
There is no denying that running a business on social media isn’t always easy, and Kathryn acknowledged that she felt she would spend less time working if she were in normal employment. However, she remained upbeat as she talked about the rewards of working in such a way.
She said she had invested in an iPad for her business, but otherwise, “It’s cheap to [run] it on social media. You can have [a] paid ad, but you don’t have to. I use it as cheaply as possible.”
She shared some of the ways in which she does this, “I schedule my posts to a time when my audience are most likely to be active. I also share everything on my story as I get more views. I use loads of hashtags and have found this attracts others within the industry. I [use] polls and question boxes to see what people are interested in,”
It is clear that Kathryn understands the importance of appreciating other people’s work on social media, too, “I’ve learned it’s important to support small businesses. It isn’t always buying stuff; it’s liking posts and sharing and commenting.”
So many young people are supporting one another as they become business owners, making the online workplace something to … want to be a part of. Despite the challenges, working on social media seems to be working for many members of Gen Z.
Gen Z: making it through a pandemic
One key challenge faced by everybody in employment, and especially the self-employed, was the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Almost a year into lockdown, even with the government continuing to support the self-employed, there is no denying that some have struggled.
Kathryn is no different, as she divulged, “I’ve had orders cancelled because people have been isolating or have decided not to have [events], so I’ve been affected.” This particular start-up did, however, begin business during the pandemic, and Kathryn spoke to the benefits of doing so.
“I was talking about doing it before the pandemic, but I didn’t really have the time. The pandemic gave me time.”
Kathryn admitted being self-employed on social media was time-consuming, but thanks to the pandemic, she finally has all the time she needs, “I’ve been able to balance my [work for] Uni and a business, whereas if I wasn’t at home I don’t think I’d have the same time.”
Despite the fact that the Coronavirus had cost her some orders, Kathryn made it clear that she simply could not have started her business before the pandemic. Some self-employed individuals have unfortunately had to stop working, but some businesses, including Kathryn’s, have been able to blossom despite the problems the pandemic poses.
While many in employment may have had to take time off since the pandemic started, many who are self-employed, especially on social media, can continue working. They were working from home before everyone else was, and will be for long afterward.
So, while there are challenges for these social media-based businesses, some have overcome the biggest obstacle of all, a virus that’s infected almost every industry: Coronavirus.
Gen Z: making social media work for them
It seems clear, from Kathryn and the statistics, that Gen Z are a generation of self-employed social media marketers. From the convenience, to the cheapness, to the creative freedom, its easy to see why, too. It is not without its challenges, but Gen Z are not just working on social media. They are making social media work for them.