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Generation Y
Generation Z

Mobilize And Engage The Next Generation Of Members Through Social Media

Social media is becoming an even more integral part of everyday life. For your association to remain relevant in this digital age, you need to reach, mobilize and engage your next generation of members on social media.

There are a few things your association needs to know about social media in 2014:

  • 72% of people using the internet are active on social media
  • 89% of 18-29 year olds are using social media (think: Gen Z and Gen Y)
  • 71% of social media users access it through a mobile device

Social media is becoming an even more integral part of everyday life. For your association to remain relevant in this digital age, you need to reach, mobilize and engage your next generation of members on social media.


Social media sites are already bringing people together and driving action during natural disasters, search and rescues efforts, even flash mobs. Social media is an effective way to quickly share information that motivates people to action. That action could be as simple as attending your conference or responding to a survey. That action could mean rallying membership around a cause and spreading the word about your involvement in it.


Trade unions have been using Facebook to mobilize their members for years. Issues pop up quickly that need member attention, especially when it comes time for signing petitions and staging protests. Facebook posts, especially those shared by others, reach people faster than a postcard and often even a phone call or email.

Facebook is also a great place to share photos and updates as events are happening. Social media apps make sites like Facebook mobile and convenient for your members. Sharing updates on social media allows you to drive action at events and keep those not attending current on what’s happening.


Fact: lack of engagement is one of the top three reasons members don’t renew their membership with an association. Your association needs member engagement to survive, and you aren’t going to get it from the next generation if you’re not engaging them on their platforms: on social media.


Twitter is a great place to get organic buzz going about your events and your association member perks, but it requires that you’re active there. Twitter is a platform where information moves very quickly, and people tend to share often. If your association is on Twitter, make sure you’re tweeting regularly, and not just to push your events; keep it conversational.

Keep up with your membership by following them on Twitter. You want them to see what the association is up to, and guess what, Gen Y wants the association to care about what they’re up to too. Keep a running Twitter list of your members, make it public so your members can subscribe to it and keep in touch with each other better too. Check in to see what members are tweeting about, and jump into the conversations or start your own.

Use social media to drive real-world action. Make your young members feel like the integral part of the association conversation they are and encourage the to act. Be available, give them a voice and listen to them on social media. The next generations are already talking to friends, family and professional networks on social media, your association needs to talk to them there too.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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