The YouTube Generation: The Influence of YouTube Celebs on Gen Z
Why today's youth are more influenced by YouTube stars than Hollywood celebs.
Today's youth are the leaders of tomorrow — our future entrepreneurs, political leaders, doctors and artists. So…what's influencing them? Or better yet, who?
A 2015 study by Variety suggests that, while Millennials are more likely to look up to traditional TV and film celebrities, Generation Z shows a significant preference for YouTube stars.
Why the YouTube Craze?
With streaming apps allowing you to watch all your favorites from anywhere at any time, it's easier than ever to sit back and enjoy the vast amount of content YouTube has to offer. As of 2017, people around the world were watching a combined one billion hours of YouTube content per day. That's a lot of YouTube! So why are Gen Z'ers so taken with this online platform?
For starters, they were raised in the digital era. They never knew life without smartphones and touchscreens. Devices are like a second language to them, so connecting through a digital medium feels innate.
Gen Z'ers are also intelligent consumers. In a world curated by corporations and marketing campaigns, today's teens are looking for authenticity. YouTube stars are much more low-key and relatable than their Hollywood counterparts. They address the audience directly, forming a more intimate relationship with their viewers.
They're also likely to respond to comments on their channels, which makes them feel accessible. In Variety's 2014 study, teens rated YouTubers as more engaging and relatable than mainstream celebrities, a contrast which has significantly contributed to the rise of the YouTube star.
YouTube as a Career
YouTube provides a place in which today's youth can cultivate a sense of connection to the outside world. Teens can even use voice remotes to access YouTube Kids from their own living room and engage with someone across the globe. YouTube's top stars describe the platform as synonymous with family and community. These are real people doing what they love, which is part of the appeal — anyone can be a star. Ryan of Ryan's ToysReview made over $22 million last year on YouTube, and he's only eight years old! These success stories are enough to entice anyone to quit their day job.
A generation of independent thinkers and entrepreneurs, Gen Z'ers see YouTube as a viable career option. They place value in doing jobs they love. Rather than answer to a boss, most Gen Z'ers would prefer to forge his or her own path. According to one study, 72% of teens say they'd like to start their own business someday. They've seen previous generations get swallowed up by student debt, which means they are less likely to go to college or trade school and more likely to take a non-traditional path, like teaching themselves skills on the internet and finding other creative ways to make ends meet.
A Virtual Sense of Identity
Gen Z'ers are also big on individuality. There's so much content on social media these days; everyone has done everything. Twice. It's, therefore, becoming more and more necessary for today's teens to define themselves, and the vast majority are turning to the internet to do so. According to this video, 92% of children have an online presence before the age of 2. Much time is spent cultivating one's own personal brand, so creating a YouTube channel is not a very big leap for most.
Most YouTube personalities start their channels because they're doing something they love. From hair and makeup tutorials to musical debuts, the creator's passion leaps off the screen and into the hearts and homes of countless viewers worldwide. For many, YouTube is the ultimate form of self-expression, free of corporate motives and consumer marketing strategies. It breeds genuine connection, giving today's youth the opportunity to forge identity and community, and to find a place where they truly belong.
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