When Meridith Valiando Rojas co-founded DigiTour in 2010 and launched the company’s first YouTube Tour in 2011, she was initially met with some resistance (“You’re going to tour cat videos?” was a common refrain). But after seven years, hundreds of events and festivals and tickets numbering in the hundred thousands yearly, DigiTour has become one of the largest producers of IRL events for Gen Z teens and the social media stars they love.
V recently sat down with Rojas and asked her to give us a quick lesson on the impact of fandom on Gen Z and how brands can better understand the unique dynamic between this generation and today’s up-and-coming social media stars.
A is for…Audience
“Coming out of the traditional music business, there was always this elitist view that if a talent was lucky enough to be signed and endorsed by a major record company, then you were a part of the elite. The funny thing is, everything has been flipped on its head where none of that matters now. The only endorsement you need is from your audience, and if you have that, you don’t need anything else.
B is for…Brands
“I think teen girls today are so savvy. You have to get inside their heads and figure out a way to align with the things they care about — fish where the fish are. That’s often what I say to brands when they’re talking about aligning talent for a campaign: you know they’re on Instagram and these platforms, so take somebody who has their ear already, and take that brand message and channel it through them. Why not just try to find a way to talk to them in a conversation that they’re already listening to?”
C is for…Connection
“When I was younger, I never expected a band like Hanson to ever know who I was – it didn’t cross my mind. But the way that Gen Z connects with talent today is very different from Millennials. Everyone in their eyes is approachable, and they as the talent’s ‘supporters’ absolutely believe they can and should be noticed. So it’s not like you’re watching talent from a distance anymore – you’re really talking to them. You are watching social media stars share their lives, almost on an hourly basis, every single day. So it feels more like a friendship and it feels more intimate.”
D is for…Delivery
“When it comes to finding social media starts that resonate, there’s an art of delivering that, and it’s all about speed. But this is a business of moments, and you can’t wait too long to give teen girls what’s popular because in another moment it’s gone. I always joke that I’m sort of the oldest 14-year-old out there; I’m so obsessed with it. I’ve always loved pop culture, and it always starts with the teen market. And so we get into the inner parts of their conversations on social, and really understand what makes them tick, what’s exciting, what’s new — and that ‘finger-on-the-pulse’ has enabled DigiTour to deliver everything that’s of the moment.”
E is for…Evolution
“I feel like I can’t ever rest on my laurels because ultimately our fan has evolved, she’s now a ‘supporter’, she’s now 11, 12, 13-years old. And as soon as I feel like I know who she is, then I don’t anymore. To me that’s exciting – to others it might be daunting, but it’s an interesting time where technology and social media is just flipping pop culture on its head.”
F is for…Following
“I’m obsessed with what’s happening now and I always want to know what’s going viral, what people are talking about, how they’re saying things, where they’re going, what they’re watching, etc. And just by following a couple of selects accounts, I feel like I get a pretty good snapshot. This isn’t the same 14-year-old from a year ago, three years ago or even 20 years ago, so make sure you’re continuously updating your approach.”
G is for…Gen Z
“Gen Z wants to be a part of a community, they want to be popular versus being unique. Millennials want to be distinct and it’s more ‘me-me-me’ than ‘us-us-us.’ For Gen Z, they’re scrolling through social feeds all day long. The sort of obsessive, addictive behavior of being sucked into these conversations and intense FOMO is something that is more characteristic of the Gen Z demographic than it is for any generation before it.”