Will Gen Z be the generation of orators?
Written by – Miles Openshaw
Imagine this: you’re in ancient Greece. You claim your usual seat in an amphitheatre, where a Greek tragedy is about to commence. The chorus begins to sing and you’re already captivated. Euripides’ Medea is on show and you jeer, weep, laugh and learn. The crowd is riveted as the performers’ voices sail overhead. It’s an unforgettable and moving experience; all of it spoken word.
Ever since our ancestors entered the Cognitive Revolution and started developing a complex spoken language some 70 millennia ago, it’s hard to imagine our lives without it. We used it to strengthen social bonds, gossip, and share stories and information. Using our voices became fundamental to our existence.
Of course, this is not to dismiss writing. When writing arrived in ancient Sumeria as a partial script, this kick-started another important phase of communication. As Yuval Noah Harari states in his book, Sapiens, authors were able for the very first time to give readers a glimpse into their world, no matter where or when the reading occurs. We have become so enamored with writing that instead of it being our servant, it has become our master. It’s impossible to imagine contemporary life without messaging a friend, translating our thoughts into a report for work, or writing a formula for a complex algorithm.
Yet with this dominance of writing in recent history, why suggest Gen Z will become a generation of orators?
The answer lies between our love of technology and our love of talking, combined with a culture of “being noticed” and seen. Technology is more affordable for the average person and thus videos can be recorded by many more people. The resulting effect is a rise of an audio and video content culture with the ability to store spoken word for later consumption. This is also shifting how we communicate because writing no longer is the only form of communication that permits information sharing at a later time.
As we move towards 2020 and beyond, it seems more and more likely that our primary method for communication and information gathering will become voice-first.
It’s probably important to clarify that when we say “voice-first”, we aren’t just referring to a few people (or a group) speaking together to share information over the phone or in person. Instead, we are suggesting a complete shift in behaviour as to how a person will acquire, search, and transfer information, thoughts, and ideas. Think of he movie Her and how the characters interact with their virtual assistants/operating systems. People are speaking to them directly, sans writing anything out.
If you think this isn’t quite upon us yet, guess again. This short demonstration with Google Assistant making phone calls to businesses demonstrates just how close to this reality we are.
So what will we focus on for the remainder of this article? We’ll look at how Gen Z will become orators when taking into account various factors:
- Environmental factors
- How technology influences communication
- And, how business can leverage technology to be voice-firs
The perfect environment for voice to thrive
1. Love affair with technology
If Millennials are dependent upon their devices, Gen Z are near inseparable. GenZ have grown up in a world of screens and constant connection to the internet.
Forbes magazine states that 2 out of 3 members of Gen Z say that technology makes them feel like anything is possible. Conversely, 4 out of 5 display symptoms of emotional distress when kept away from their personal electronic devices.
Technology is natural for Gen Z. It’s an extension of living their lives.
2. Thinking online-first
Gen Z are more comfortable blurring their online and offline worlds, living their lives as a digitally fluid generation. A good example of this is how they enjoy shopping as a collective experience with friends across both digital and real world environments.
Looking at their online behaviour, 60% say they like to share their knowledge online and more than a 1 in 3 watch lessons online “how to” videos to educate themselves.
3. Voice is faster
When the average person can speak about 150 words per minute and only type around 40 words per minute, it’s no surprise that we’re beginning to rely more heavily on voice search for convenience and speed.
Millennials and Gen Z are already very selective about how they spend their time. This correlates with user desires. Users want increasingly more instant results, and voice search allows this with results pages on search engines being displayed about 52% faster than other types of searches.
The heavy upward trend in use of Virtual Assistants on smart phones, such as Siri and Google Assistant, suggests that we’re already seeing a shift in behaviour as a result of user needs.
The currency of stories
Stories via Instagram and other mechanisms for sharing our personal lives are heavily encouraging video — and with it — voice. Why? Video and voice are more immediately engaging.
If you visit South America, people leave millions of audio messages for their friends to listen every day in WhatsApp. In Brazil, behaviour has shifted so much that most Brazilians under 50 are using WhatsApp and many under 35 will instinctively leave voice messages for friends as opposed to typing messages. Why? It’s easier and quicker, while feeling more intimate and personal.
For most people, our everyday lives are dominated by use of voice and the industry is already shifting to capitalise on this fact.
Smart speaker boom
By the end of 2017, 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. owned a smart speaker.
As more of us become accustomed to having virtual assistants at our disposal, at home and in the workplace, utilising technology is becoming incredibly natural because it’s so ubiquitous.
In 2015, voice search skyrocketed from zero all the way to 50 billion searches a month. And there is no sign of it slowing down.
“OK Google, why will Gen Z be voice-first?”
As we pause and take a look at these factors, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that Gen Z are primed to become voice-first.
1. It’s natural, easy and efficient to use voice
Technology is becoming more sophisticated and voice recognition programs can now learn not just words, but accents and speaking patterns too. In other words, your virtual assistant starts to learn how you speak and what you like, based on past searches.
Now that your VA knows how much you like to spend and typically what things you like, it can help inform decision making easily and quickly.
Imagine a quite common scenario in which three friends are deciding where to go for dinner. The first friend suggests Thai food, but the second friend says they ate Thai food for lunch and would prefer something else. The third friend suggests pizza and they all agree. Rather than all three of them logging onto their local restaurant apps or searching via a browser, the third friend pulls out her phone and asks “Siri, what are some good Italian restaurants near me?”
Your VA takes into account local SEO details, such as up-to-date locations, hours, phone numbers, reviews, and other data that will be relevant for local searchers. And almost instantly you have a list of all the Italian restaurants near you based on your likes and dislikes.
In this situation, your VA is almost like a fourth friend, offering you advice. As voice AI becomes more sophisticated, it could potentially even participate in conversations with friends, offering opinions and suggestions as friends work out which restaurant they like best.
If we take this one step further, businesses may even bid for VA suggestions during conversations! While some people may find this funny (or creepy), to a generation who have grown up with technology all around them and who are used to receiving recommendations online, this isn’t such a big step. Again, let’s think of the movie Her, in which people consult their Operating Systems all the time.
We should remember, this is only within the virtual assistant search space. Imagine all the other voice activated technology as the internet of things grows, e.g. cars, homes, household devices, etc.
2. Video is the new god
The newest generation are also avid consumers and creators of video content. In a Defy Media Survey, 95% of Gen Z say they “can’t live without” YouTube. More than 50% surveyed say they use YouTube for “a good laugh” and 24% for shopping recommendations. Most interestingly, Gen Z trust Social Stars more than mainstream media stars (e.g. actors, singers, etc) because they associate them with being more authentic or genuine.
This trust in Social Stars and love of video content further feeds back into the idea that Gen Z are more inclined to be orators. They consume audio and video content at their leisure to learn how to do things, for recommendations, and for entertainment. They, in return, are happy to use audio and video content to communicate their ideas, to find information and share experiences (fun, traumatic, insightful, etc).
Sharing information and storytelling helps us be part of a community. Often, we derive joy from the experience when people like or comment on our posts because we have helped them learn how to do something or maybe we’ve entertained them and made them feel happier.
Of course, Gen Z are certainly not the only generation to share video and audio content online. However, the sheer volume of audio and video content created by all generations across channels like Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram, suggests that Gen Z will be much more accustomed and comfortable in using voice and video in their daily lives on top of regular in person conversations. And compared to other generations, this voice and video is likely to be used in a far greater variety of ways.
3. Everybody’s voice matters
At the beginning of this article, we imagined a Greek tragedy unfolding. Over the next few decades, we may well witness a renaissance of the orator. The only difference is the democratisation of content creation and permanency of information shared.
While only the chosen few in past generations could take centre stage and speak truths, now everyone has this power. You no longer need extreme wealth, to be male, or to be older. A person in Gen Z can have more influence over a certain topic, for instance racism in the U.S.A, than some politicians who are three times their age. An example of this is FBE’s React Channel with teenagers, where between 1 to 15 million people watch each video.
And with this increasing power in share of voice, again, we can see how this would intersect with all areas of our lives, particularly those within Gen Z.
How are you preparing for voice?
Considering the fertile grounds for change and for Gen Z to become a voice-first generation, many businesses will need to accommodate these needs in the near future.
1. Voice search changes
For the first time, voice search has brought full sentences to both the way we query and the responses we receive from the engines.
As Amine Betahar wrote in Forbes:
“While the impact of voice search on SEO is still evolving, we do know that optimizing for voice search is very different compared to traditional search. Voice-based queries are different than written searches, in that they generally are made up of longer phrases, including complete sentences and questions.”
It’s clear that voice search through virtual assistants (Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant) is going to change how we optimise our search ads and websites. In addition, we are also going to need to consider if our websites are optimised for voice search and not solely around written search queries.
2. Voice is everywhere
According to Google, their Assistant is now available on more than 400 million devices, including speakers like Google Home, Android phones and tablets, iPhones, headphones, TVs, watches and more.
While we don’t quite need to think about voice-first search campaigns just yet, it’s certainly going to influence future marketing efforts. Starting to experiment with the technology and creating a strategy for its growth is crucial for long term business development.
3. The art of conversation
Users conduct queries differently in terms of voice v.s. typing. When using their phone or smart speaker, they have a quick conversation with a virtual assistant. When typing on their computer or tablet, they type short phrases for the sake of effort.
Spoken searches tend to be longer and are more likely to contain questions. Businesses will have to pick up on natural speech patterns, especially as voice recognition is becoming more sophisticated and better at picking up speech quirks and colloquialisms.
Gathering the data needed to accommodate ad or website copy for these characteristics is difficult. However, Google has hinted that voice search reporting is coming to analytics reports soon.
Gen Z are finding their Voice
Our newest generation are already very active in both the digital and offline world, offering opinions, advice, and welcoming us into their worlds.
If a student needs help with his computer program that he’s creating, instead of texting a friend, he might virtually share his computer screen with her so they can chat about it further. An hour later, he’s going out with friends and sharing Instagram stories. Soon, he’ll be asking for movie times on his own virtual assistant.
The likelihood of Gen Z using virtual assistants to perform tasks for them on a regular basis is quite high. It’s only a matter of time.
Written by Miles Openshaw, Digital Marketing and Growth Specialist at Liquidlabs