SAN FRANCISCO: Brands hoping to reach Generation Z may benefit from tapping the growing number of "micro-celebrities" active on platforms like Vine and YouTube, a leading executive from Microsoft has argued.

Ivy Esquero, Microsoft's senior consumer insights manager, discussed Generation Z – loosely defined as people born between 1990 and the early 21st century – at the ad:tech San Francisco 2015 conference.

"With Generation Z, there is no single way to reach that audience anymore," she said. (For more, including further insights into this cohort, read Warc's report: Microsoft: Good-bye millennials! Welcome Gen Z.)

As brands seek to spread their efforts across a wide range of touchpoints, one way to authentically engage these young digital natives is leveraging a new breed of influencers.

"There are millions of micro-celebrities, and each of them is participating on numerous channels, dividing their time. It's not all about Twitter, or Meerkat, or Periscope, or whatever the latest thing is," said Esquero.

Such a strategy, she added, rests not just on the specific delivery mechanism, but on the individuals who are picked to deliver the message.

"You really have to spend time and energy finding the people who represent your brand and spend time and energy engaging them – and continuously engaging them," she said.

This idea marks a major shift from how marketers operated a decade ago – for example, in identifying a TV show popular with young consumers, and then using advertising or sponsorship to secure significant reach.

"You found the hottest act. And you bought ad time in front of that act … Maybe there was a show that was popular at the time – 'Gossip Girl', for instance. You could reach the bulk of that audience," said Esquero.

Generation Z, Microsoft's research revealed, are "much more externally facing" than their predecessors and enjoy the process of content discovery.

They are, Esquero said: "About finding out new things and new ways to use digital to really find out more about the world around them, but also just having fun and entertaining themselves."

Data sourced from Warc