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Gen Z is the sleeping tiger of community-led organizations

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As Gen Z begins to enter the workforce, many experts are beginning to ask what the future of work will look like for this upstart generation that is reshaping many of the ways organizations operate. For a generation that has been raised on social media and knows how to identify the many different methods brands take to market online, it’s a fair question to ask if Gen Z will begin to shake up the traditional online marketing status quo.

A major place that Gen Z has the potential to shake up is the realm of organizations struggling to transition to community-led growth. Community-led growth (or CLG) is the practice of turning users into passionate followers of your brand by creating a community for the brand’s representatives and users to gather online.

Typically, this is done by “community managers” who act as a liaison between the brand and its supporters in a variety of settings both in person and online.

Community has exploded over the last few years, with over 76% of internet users participating in an online community in some way, and 82% of users stating they would be open to organizations that participated in community.

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According to the 2022 Community Led Report, there has been an 22% increase in organizations with community teams since 2020. Along with the increase in teams has come a 25% increase in organizations with community leadership representation.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanion has stated, “By 2030, over half of all publicly traded Fortune 500 companies will have a Chief Community Officer.” As the relevance of community-led growth over traditional marketing grows, Gen Z has the potential to play a major part in the transition.

This generation is one that has spent their teen years in Discord lobbies with real-time chats, often moderating their own communities in their spare time. According to Amity, 48% of Gen Z trust communities just as much as traditional news sites and a significantly more than they do social media.

After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. when many in Gen Z were close to graduating or about to graduate high school, there was an 81% uptick in online community engagement. This population has the potential to channel their time spent in online communities into long-term careers in community management.

The important thing is to provide opportunities for education that are lacking in traditional education.

While the potential for Gen Z to capitalize on this trend is there, the knowledge of this nascent career path is lacking. Traditional education is still heavily focused on the fundamentals of marketing, not on equipping students with the skills needed to execute softer tasks in community management — such as strategy and planning.

The average starting salary for a community manager is around $75,000 a year. But knowledge about the career path is sporadic. There needs to be a greater effort to provide opportunities to enter the field outside traditional education. Another aspect to note about Gen Z is that this is a generational group that cares less about getting a four-year degree than previous generations do.

The field of community management is presumed to be very welcoming to those with non-traditional backgrounds. Also, it places a higher degree of focus on soft skills and communication rather than credentials. Because of this, Gen Z is in a perfect position to grow into careers in this field by tapping skills they have gained through their teen years — without spending money on traditional education.

James Bohrman is content manager with Loft Labs.

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