Navigating today’s digital landscape, Millennials and Generation Z, as digital natives, significantly impact trends and reshape consumer behaviour

This blog examines the platforms they prefer, their inclination towards conscious consumerism, mental health issues, and effective marketing strategies that resonate with them. 

Most Popular Social Media Platforms Among Millennials and Gen Z

In South Africa, the digital engagement of Millennials and Generation Z is intensely shaped by the social media landscape, highlighting dynamic preferences and behaviours. A closer look at Meltwater’s Social Media Statistics reveals a diverse palette of platforms leading the charge. 

  • WhatsApp tops the list, engaging an impressive 93.9% of active social media users each month. 
  • Facebook comes in close behind, roping in 88.4% of monthly users. 
  • Likewise, visually driven platforms, TikTok and Instagram, see immense monthly traffic, engaging 73.6% and 71.8% of users, respectively. 

Conscious Consumerism

The rise of conscious consumerism among Millennials and Gen Z marks a significant shift in market dynamics, as these generations become increasingly attentive to the societal impact of their purchasing decisions. 

They’re not just buying; they’re buying into the ethos of brands, seeking meaningful connections that echo their social, economic, and environmental values.

Embedded in this trend lies the critical role of social media as a powerhouse for brand activism. It’s a landscape where awareness and accountability flourish, with Millennials and Gen Z leveraging these platforms to align with brands that transparently champion causes close to their collective heart.

On social media, Millennials and Gen Z are seen supporting past initiatives like KFC’s “Movember” campaigns, or SAB’s stance on gender-based violence, and celebrating brands like Patagonia and Gucci for their stands against consumerism and gun violence, respectively. Nike’s support for South African athlete Caster Semenya, faced with challenges, resonates significantly with these generations and serves as a compelling example of a brand gaining loyalty through sincere activism, as discussed in the Business Live article.

This generation isn’t just asking for change — they’re demanding it, promoting and patronising brands that reflect their desire for a just, equitable, and sustainable world. As these socially-conscious consumers become increasingly influential in the marketplace, they underscore the necessity for brands to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to activism and ethical practices.

The Mental Health Movement: Gen Z’s Step Away from Social Media

The dialogue around mental health has taken centre stage, especially among Generation Z. This demographic, digital natives born into the age of the internet, are both keenly aware of and significantly impacted by the mental health implications of social media use. 

Insights from sources like detail just how intertwined Gen Z’s lives are with the digital world, indicating a considerable portion of their day is spent online. 35% of Gen Z’s in the US spend more than 4 hours a day on social media. According to Meltwater, the average South African user spends 03:41 hours on social media. Yet, amidst this connectivity, there’s a growing movement towards digital wellness.

Prompted by an increasing awareness of how social media consumption can affect mental health, Gen Z is leading the shift. The reasons for this pivot are numerous, ranging from the desire to reduce anxiety and depression linked to social media usage to reclaiming time for face-to-face interactions and outside activities. 

An essay on Business Insider illuminates why and how this generation is consciously deciding to limit or modify their social media habits. They are prioritising mental well-being over online presence, a move that resonates with their value of authenticity and well-being.

Gen Z is not just stepping back in a vacuum; they’re turning to various platforms and tools to help navigate social media in a way that protects their mental health. These include apps that monitor usage time, offer reminders to take breaks, or even platforms that emphasise building real-life communities and connections. Features within social media apps, such as Instagram’s dashboard that monitors daily screen time and Facebook’s “Your Time on Facebook,” also support this push towards healthier consumption patterns.

This generation’s actions highlight a critical turning point in the digital age: the recognition that connectivity, while enriching, also demands a balance to safeguard mental health. 

As Gen Z leads the charge in enacting boundaries with social media for personal well-being, the ripple effects may inspire other generations and the platforms themselves to rethink and innovate towards healthier digital ecosystems.

Also read: The Struggles Faced By Young Adults In South Africa

Impact of Global Events on Social Media Usage

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered social media usage patterns, highlighting its relevance in contemporary life. It forced lifestyle changes globally, leading to increased internet reliance. In South Africa, a study found that pandemic-induced stress, impulsivity, and compulsion traits were closely linked to problematic usage of the internet (PUI). 

This surge in online engagement underlines social media’s dual role as both a vital communication channel and a potential source of stress. The pandemic underscored the importance of social media in maintaining connections during unprecedented times, yet it also spotlighted the need for managing digital wellness amidst increased online activity.

How Brands Can Effectively Market to Millennials and Gen Z

With a dynamic shift in consumer behaviours, brands need to strategically align their marketing efforts to appeal to the values and habits of the socially-conscious and digital natives, Millennials and Gen Z. According to the Bizcommunity article, here are some pivotal strategies that brands need to consider:

  • TikTok on Top

TikTok has undeniably taken centre stage as a platform of choice for both Millennials and Gen Z, offering brands a dynamic space to engage with potential customers through creative and authentic content. 

  • Mental Health Matters

Modern consumers seek brands that prioritise mental health and well-being, reflecting a deeper societal shift towards mindfulness and self-care. Integrating messages that support mental health awareness or offering solutions that contribute to well-being can significantly improve a brand’s relevance and appeal among younger demographics.

  • Hustle and (Cash)Flow

Millennials and Gen Z are acutely aware of the importance of financial stability and the gig economy’s opportunities. Brands that offer products, services, or content that empower users in their hustles or financial journeys can expect to see a stronger connection with these groups.

  • Brand Values Create Brand Value

This demographic wants more than just goods or services; they seek to support businesses whose mission and impact align with their own values. Demonstrating a genuine commitment to social and environmental issues can significantly elevate a brand’s value in their eyes.

  • Doing Diversity Right

Gone are the days when shallow tokenism or surface-level inclusion efforts were enough. Today’s consumers demand deep, authentic representation in the brands they support. This involves not just diverse marketing imagery but inclusion at all levels of the organisation and in how products or services meet the needs of diverse consumers.

  • Community. Community. Community.

Brands that succeed in establishing genuine connections and foster a sense of belonging around their products or services can count on the loyalty and advocacy of Millennials and Gen Z. Whether it’s through interactive social media strategies, hosting events, or delivering on the promise of adding value to their daily lives, the goal is to make consumers feel part of a larger narrative.

Incorporating these insights into marketing strategies can help brands more effectively reach and resonate with Millennials and Gen Z. It’s about creating meaningful interactions and offering value that goes beyond the product, cultivating a culture where customers feel seen, heard, and understood.


Millennials and Gen Z navigate social media with a blend of authenticity, social consciousness, and a deep appreciation for mental well-being. They prioritise genuine connections, both with individuals and brands that reflect their values. As digital natives, their online habits underscore a shift towards more mindful and purpose-driven social media usage.