Over the past couple of years, I’ve built a personal brand as a Gen Z expert.
I’ve consulted brands on their Gen Z marketing strategy, spoken at international conferences and founded the Find Gen Z Series, a newsletter with 15,000 subscribers at the intersection of Gen Z, social media and emerging tech.But when I first started this journey, I was no more qualified as a Gen Z expert than the next college student.
Back in August 2019, I had just finished a summer internship at VaynerMedia working on a teen skincare brand. I noticed an anomaly: So many marketers were talking about Gen Z, but not to Gen Z — even though they were everywhere.
I decided to do something about it. I had just discovered a fast-growing app called TikTok and knew why younger audiences loved the app, so I quickly wrote an article about why Vineyard Vines was the first brand to “get” TikTok and posted it on LinkedIn and Medium.
To my surprise, I woke up to a decent amount of engagement. Some marketers at big brands even found it and commented that they enjoyed my perspective. Despite having no background as a “Gen Z expert,” marketers found value in my knowledge.
It wasn’t the credibility, it was the content.
So I kept writing. I wrote pieces about Snapchat and Instagram. I found like-minded people at JUV Consulting, a Gen Z marketing agency, and started consulting brands on their Gen Z strategy.
I realized there was a pressing market for Gen Z insights. While I didn’t have a large-scale Gen Z network, I did have my own voice.
So I decided that starting a newsletter would provide that platform. At the time, platforms like Substack and Beehive didn’t exist, and Medium was already too saturated. But then I came across an article about how LinkedIn was piloting a new feature called LinkedIn Newsletters.
It seemed like an amazing concept. LinkedIn had built-in network and credibility, so you weren’t starting from scratch. I found the product manager working on the feature and begged them to give me access until they gave in.
I called it the Find Gen Z Series and branded it as the “translator for marketers looking to understand Gen Z.” And it took off and grew organically — for two reasons.
First, LinkedIn had a great growth hack. Next to “connections you might know,” the platform started putting “newsletters you might like.” And when you are one of 500 available newsletters on a platform of 500 million people, it will get eyeballs. With LinkedIn’s algorithm, it got the eyes of marketers.
Second, I was solving a need. The newsletter actually discussed topics relevant to marketers and could help their business and work.
Over time, my newsletter has propelled my brand as a Gen Z expert and even helped land my current job at TikTok. The lesson here is that, in this day and age, it costs almost nothing to put your thoughts in the world. You never know who’s watching and you never know what it might lead to.
Neal Sivadas is a product marketing manager at TikTok and a LinkedIn Top Voice.