In 2023, every brand should have working with Gen Z influencers on their radar. As an audience, Generation Z holds massive economic power and an outsized influence over mainstream culture. They also rely heavily on recommendations from online personalities when making purchasing decisions.
This creates the perfect opportunity for brands to tap into Gen Z eyeballs and wallets through strategic influencer marketing.
But where do you start? With new TikTok stars and Instagram personalities rising up every day, it can get overwhelming trying to decide who to work with.
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll be sharing:
- Exactly how valuable Gen Z consumers are for brands
- My top tips for identifying and vetting Gen Z influencers
- Profiles of over 15 top Gen Z influencers on Instagram brands should connect with this year
- Creative strategies and case studies from real Gen Z influencer campaigns
- Advice for negotiating sponsorship packages
- Tools to optimize and measure campaign performance
- Predictions on up-and-coming influencers poised for fame
Let‘s dive in!
Why Every Brand Should Care About Generation Z
Let’s start by getting familiar with the Gen Z demographic.
The Pew Research Center defines members of Gen Z as anyone born between 1997 and 2012. This puts the oldest members of this cohort currently around 25 to 11 years old.
And this new generation is gaining serious economic power.
Here are some key stats about Gen Z‘s consumer behavior:
- Gen Z makes up 68 million consumers in the US (Business Insider)
- Their current buying power sits at $44 billion annually (Invespcro)
- By 2026, Gen Z buying power is forecasted to hit $333 billion (Bloomberg)
- 90% use Instagram daily, 54% use TikTok (Insider Intelligence)
This data makes two things very clear:
1. Gen Z is already enormously valuable to brands
2. Their influence will only grow over the coming years
Getting in front of Gen Z audiences now allows you to build advocacy early and turn young followers into lifelong customers.
How Influencer Marketing Appeals to Gen Z Audiences
Generation Z cares far more about what their favorite online personalities think compared to traditional advertisements.
In fact, a survey by Morning Consult found that:
- 72% of Gen Z rely on influencer recommendations over celebrity endorsements (Morning Consult)
- 63% have made a purchase after seeing an influencer post about a product (Mediakix)
Gen Z tends to perceive their favorite YouTubers, TikTokers and Instagram personalities as more relatable and authentic than traditional advertisements and endorsements. They‘ve literally grown up watching these creators share their lives online.
That‘s why influencer marketing is such a natural fit for engaging Gen Z consumers.
When an influencer they know and trust endorses a product, it feels like a personal recommendation from a friend. This drives higher conversion rates compared to other media.
Brands that incorporate influencers into their marketing strategy can massively boost awareness and sales with Generation Z.
How To Identify the Right Gen Z Influencers for Your Brand
However, the rise of influencer marketing has also led to an explosion of options to choose from.
Instagram alone is home to over 500,000 active influencer accounts (Influencer Marketing Hub). Many of these focus on Gen Z-tailored content.
So how do you pick the right ones to work with?
Here are my top tips for vetting Gen Z influencers:
Look at Audience Demographics
This one may seem obvious – but you’ll be surprised how often brands neglect it!
Start by filtering for influencers with a majority Gen Z audience. This typically means followers between the ages of 10 to 25.
Platforms like Instagram and TikTok display audience age breakdowns on influencer profiles.
You can also use tools like Ainfluencer to search based on advanced audience filters like location, gender, age range and interests.
Evaluate Audience Engagement
Far more important than follower count is how an influencer’s audience actually engages with their content.
Signs of strong engagement include:
- High likes and comments: Consistently 100+ comments and 10+ % like rates across posts
- Low spam signals: Minimal bot and spam comments
- Story engagement: Swipe ups, replies, etc. not just views
- Positive sentiment: Followers leave thoughtful comments, not just emojis
Tools like HypeAuditor can analyze these engagement metrics for you. Strong engagement demonstrates an influencer’s ability to drive actions – not just impressions.
Check Content Relevance
The influencer’s niche and content style should directly align with your target demographic and brand values.
For example, a beauty brand aimed at teen girls needs to partner with influencers also creating beauty and lifestyle content tailored to that Gen Z female audience.
Review Post Disclosure and Branded Content
Vet their experience working professionally with brands by looking for:
- Proper FTC sponsorship tags like #ad or #sponsored
- Brand tags and mentions in captions
- The overall quality and integration of branded posts
This indicates they understand branding guidelines and compliance.
Connect on a Personal Level
The best influencer partnerships start with an authentic connection between brand and creator.
Reach out directly via email or DM to introduce your company and see if they would be interested in working together. Treat them like a creative collaborator, not just an ads conduit.
Building rapport upfront allows you to collaborate much more smoothly compared to treating the relationship transactionally.
12 Top Gen Z Influencers on Instagram to Connect with This Year
Now that you know how to vet influencers like a pro – let’s explore some of my top recommendations for Gen Z creators that brands should consider connecting with.
I’ve hand-picked rising stars across a variety of popular niches, along with key metrics and audience data.
Let’s get started!
(Click any influencer’s name to view their full Ainfluencer profile)
- 48.6M Instagram followers
- Rising dancer and personality with highly engaged Gen Z following
- Known For: Dance videos, brand collaborations (Dunkin‘, Invisalign)
- Top Partnerships: Pura Vida Bracelets, Morphe Cosmetics
- 42.2M Instagram followers
- Former TikToker now focusing on fashion, beauty and acting pursuits
- Known For: Trendy style, lighthearted videos, dance content
- Top Partnerships: American Eagle, Pandora Jewelry
- 27.6M Instagram followers
- Top makeup artist known for vibrant looks and collaborations
- Known For: Vibrant makeup artistry, collaborations (Morphe), vlogs
- Top Partnerships: Morphe Cosmetics, Sugar Bear Hair
- 18.2M Instagram followers
- Beauty/lifestyle creator who skyrocketed from YouTube to TV appearances
- Known For: Hilarious videos, over-the-top makeup looks, branding collabs
- Top Partnerships: Wet n Wild, MAC Cosmetics
- 4.7M Instagram followers
- Actress and vegan food influencer known for positive attitude
- Known For: Plant-based recipes, inspirational talks, lifestyle content
- Top Partnerships: McCormick Spices, Quaker Oats
- 16.2M Instagram followers
- Legendary Michelin-star chef now internet personality
- Known For: Cooking tutorials, fiery TikTok rants, lifestyle content
- Top Partnerships: Got Milk, Masterclass
…Plus 10 More Rising Stars!
From gamers and activists to fashionistas and comedians – I cover over 15 top Gen Z influencers that offer huge opportunities across endless brand niches.
Creative Strategies for Working with Gen Z Influencers
Connecting with the right influencers is step one – but where do you go from there?
Crafting a mutually beneficial partnership requires thoughtful strategy and creative planning.
Here are my top tips for bringing on Gen Z influencers to promote your brand:
Offer Both Compensation and Free Products
Most influencers will expect payment for major partnerships and sponsored content. Micro and nano collaborations may only provide free products and affiliate opportunities.
Typical compensation models include:
- Flat sponsorship fees per post/story
- Usage fees for licensing branded content
- Free products + affiliate sales commission
I recommend developing sponsor packages at various investment tiers – from small gifts to five-figure contracts.
Structure Performance-Based Agreements
The most successful influencer partnerships tie at least a portion of payment to performance metrics like views, clicks or sales.
For example, an influencer may earn:
- Base fee per post
- $X bonus per 100K views
- % commission on coupon codes
This gives them skin in the game to drive results, not just deliver posts.
Give Them Creative Freedom
The best influencer content feels natural and on-brand for them – not just like a sales pitch.
Avoid handing them strict promotional scripts. Let them mention your product more casually within their usual content style.
Provide suggestions for integrating your brand poetically. But let creativity reign to keep it genuine.
Plan an Ongoing Relationship
Look at influencer partnerships as an ongoing investment, not a one-off project.
Aim to secure at least a 3-6 month relationship. Plot out an editorial content calendar together plotting future ideas and activation timing.
This shows your long-term commitment to working with them and gives them time to fully showcase your brand.
Tracking Performance and Optimizing Efforts
Of course, all these influencer efforts aim to pay off in tangible sales, growth and ROI.
You need to set clear key performance indicators (KPIs) to track efforts against.
Common metrics to monitor include:
- Content views, impressions
- Mentions and tags
- Click-through rate
- Discount code/affiliate sales
- Website traffic
- Ad recall studies
You should also ask the influencers themselves for screenshots of key posts and internal statistics from their backend to flesh out the full picture.
Analyze performance at regular intervals and tweak your efforts to improve future campaigns.
Common optimization tactics include adjusting target audiences, trying new content formats, or testing different calls to action.
The more data you have, the more insight you gain to amplify your influencer approach.
Who Will Be the Rising Gen Z Influencers of 2023?
Finally, I want to highlight some rising Gen Z creators who smart brands should keep firmly on their radar going into 2023.
These are tomorrow’s top influencer stars today. By bringing them on early, you can build authentic relationships and cost-effectively align your brand with the future of youth culture.
Here are 5 Up-and-Coming Gen Z Influencers I am Betting Big On:
Wisdom Kaye (@wisdm8)
- 4.3M Instagram Followers
- Gen Z fashion icon redefining gender norms through style
Avani Gregg (@avani)
- 16.4M Instagram Followers
- Talented dancer and content creator from small-town Nebraska
Elle Goodman (@ellegoodman)
- 235K Instagram Followers
- 17-year-old filmmaker and photographer with ethereal aesthetic
Caleb Finn (@caleb_finn)
- 1.3M Instagram Followers
- Colorado-based outdoor adventurer creating wanderlust travel content
Payton Moormeier (@payton)
- 7.9M Instagram Followers
- Rising heartthrob setting records on TikTok
We’ve covered a lot of ground here!
To recap, here are my key pieces of expert advice for brands on working with Gen Z influencers in 2023:
Recognize Generation Z as the future of consumer spending – start engaging them now
Use Instagram and TikTok influencers as natural conduits to build awareness with youth audiences
Identify creators who drive authentic engagement and align with your niche
Structure fair compensation models tied to performance
Give influencers creative license to drive authentic integrations
Track tangible ROI metrics from partnerships
Connect early with rising stars to get ahead of trends
I hope you found this guide helpful for boosting your Gen Z influencer approach! Reach out if you have any other questions.