FOR many of us, we use social media to create and curate collections of our day-to-day ‘highlight reel’, the micro-moments in our lives.

Social apps have unlocked the potential of individual story-telling and democratizes the channel of distribution. Everyone can now be a content creator.

Globally, social media users have surpassed 3.5 billion, according to the Global Digital Statshot Report released in July 2019 by We Are Social, a marketing and advertising agency, and Hootsuite, a social media marketing and management platform.

Among the social media users, Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives, grew up learning about the world through early exposure to the Internet, apps and social networks.


In an era where social connections are enhanced by real-time visual micro-moments, Gen Z, as an expressive, social generation, are more open to sharing snippets of their lives through collaborative, user-generated content.

Members of Gen Z are ‘hypercognitive generation’, much savvier in cross-referencing information and navigating the online and offline experiences. In an article by McKinsey&Co, Gen Z is described as consumers who are well educated about brands and care about what the brands stand for, both in principle and in reality.

As Gen Z’s social influence grows, brands and social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are each scrambling to offer the most enticing visual storytelling and social features that would appeal to Gen Z.


At the recent Southeast Asia Creators and Content Marketing Conference organized by TikTok, a short video social platform, they’ve brought together several industry experts, offering insights into the trend of short-form videos and its relation to Gen Z.

During a panel discussion on the power of short-form videos, Rana Deepender, Head of Kantar Millward Brown for Greater China, stressed that while Gen Z spends more hours watching videos on mobile, their attention span easily wanes. Thus, it is advisable for marketers to experiment with short-form videos as a strategy to brand building.

‘Gen Z is a mobile generation who believes that brands should be more responsible. They want to do good. To resonate with Gen Z, brands need to be authentic and creates content that is appealing in a fun way’, Rana added.

Further to the insight from Rana, Chito Jusi, Head of Media at Kantar Singapore, highlighted that Gen Z looks for authenticity on social platforms and gravitates toward peers who gain popularity by their own merit. “They like authentic entertainment”, Chito elaborated. Videos that are over-polished may not necessarily appeal to Gen Z.

The panelist shared the view that easy to digest, shorter video formats paired with authentic storytelling can be a powerful combination to empower brands to capture the attention of consumers who are multi-tasking across channels and platforms.

A panel discussion on


How do we tell our story in 15 seconds?

Today brands, publishers, marketers and social platforms alike, are battling to win audience’s attention as the media consumption habit evolves and as audience switch between different mediums. Every day we are presented with vast amount of information that we have to make conscious decision on what we take time to read and watch.

How should brands and marketers make their 15 seconds video content worthwhile to the audience?

The short answer to that is video storytelling. In a media driven culture, videos have a far-reaching effect in terms of engagement and developing emotional connection.

Equipped with in-app filters, stickers, video editing capability and access to music library, TikTok serves the demand for digital natives to creatively express themselves while catering to instant gratification with micro entertainment content that is most suited for mobile consumption.

With its 15 seconds and 1-minute video format, the platform has accumulated more than 500 million global monthly active users since launch in September 2016 by ByteDance, a Chinese Internet technology company.

Globally, TikTok is among the top 5 social media platform based on monthly active users, after Facebook (2.41 billion), YouTube (2 billion), Instagram (1 billion) and QZone (572 million). (Source: Global Digital Statshot Report, Q3 2019)

A screenshot from the Global Digital Statshot Report released in July 2019 by We Are Social, a marketing and advertising agency, and Hootsuite, a social media marketing and management platform.

In order to continuously engage its users, TikTok works with partners in individual markets to develop campaigns such as hashtag challenges, customized based on local cultures and digital trends. Some of the most engaging content and campaigns created in Malaysia this year include #BetterMeBetterInternet with 74M views, #myearthhour2019 at 5M views and #experiencepenang which accumulated 22M views.

While the social platform offers wide ranging types of crowd-sourced dance or duet challenges, some US-based news organisations such as the Washington Post have also joined in the TikTok short-form storytelling bandwagon to appeal to the younger mobile generations.

The Washington Post's official account on TikTok publishes content that appeals to the digital natives. Pic Astro AWANI/Cherish Leow

Young people empowered by technology are connecting with their peers and the rest of the world at an unprecedented pace. Some even rallied behind meaningful causes and strive to make a statement and positive impact in the world. In a recent report by BBC, TikTok users created short content via the social video platform to spread awareness about the effect of global warming to earth via #Globalwarning (a wordplay in reference to global warming).

The digital age is posing increasingly complex challenges as the platforms become more fragmented. Audience now have a myriad of options to share and connect with their peers, be it through social network or social chat apps. Having said that, the fast-evolving technology are opening up exciting new avenues for brands and marketers, leverage on digital trends to reach and engage with the audience in a non-traditional approach.

The real question is, can we move quick enough to adapt?

*Cherish Leow works at Astro AWANI and is a content strategist specialised in branded content. A tech enthusiasts who enjoys geeky conversations.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.