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Millennials: Coming Soon to a Cubicle Near You

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Newsletter

This weekend I’ll pack my daughter off to college, so as a little celebration, I took her and a friend to a Six Flags amusement park this week. As we drove west on the Massachusetts Turnpike, I took the opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversation in the back seat, affording me one of my too-rare glimpses into the world of Millennials.

During the 75-minute drive, I listened to the girls talk excitedly about the people they would soon meet in person for the first time. They already knew many of them, of course. Thanks to Facebook, they had been building connections with future classmates since the late spring. When today’s students arrive on campus, they already know dozens of others.
My daughter, Alice, had already “spoken” to her future roommate several times. I use the term figuratively because Alice hates to talk on the telephone, as do most of her friends. By “speak”, she means text messages, instant messaging sessions, wall posts and maybe a few webcam interactions. For today’s teens, interaction with friends is multi-channel and multimedia.
I actually shouldn’t say Alice hates talking on the phone. She just can’t fathom doing nothing but talking. Her favorite context for conversation these days is a massively multi-player game where friends can slay dragons and battle wizards while chatting about the same things their parents talked about: music, school and romance.
Much has changed there as well. Thanks to MySpace pages and BitTorrent, Millennials have constant and immediate access to the latest music and video. They like the top artists, of course, but along with Lady Gaga (left) they favor an assortment of bands I’ve never heard of that cater to eclectic tastes. When I was their age, I learned of new artists from cassette tapes exchanged between friends. Today, a link in an instant message does the same thing, and Apple’s Genius and Pandora make the process programmatic.
Relationships? Well, after listening to two teenagers talk for an hour, it dawned on me that there were people they felt very strongly about whom they had actually never met. One of Alice’s best friends lives in Texas. Their relationship was already well established last year long before they met each other for the first time.
It’s not unusual to hear terms like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” applied to virtual relationships. Nor is it surprising to hear of relationships ending in novel ways. Two years ago, I listened in as a group of Alice’s classmates spoke of a friend who had just ended a romance. Everyone in the group knew the news except the guy who had been dumped. He hadn’t read the message yet.
Sound strange? A survey of teens this year by textPlus found that 30% percent said they’ve broken up with someone or been dumped via text message. Call it passive aggressive or conflict avoidance or whatever you want; it’s the way things are.
Coming To Your Town
And so they head off to college, and in four years they will enter a workplace that understands little about their values and systems. They will encounter managers who believe that Facebook is a productivity drain and who would rather employees spend an hour in traffic jams each day than get work done from home.
They will have their first brush with cover-your-ass thinking and will sit in meetings that waste hours of time so that everyone in the room can be “in the loop.”
They will encounter rigid, top-down hierarchies in which risk is avoided and decisions are unchallenged. They will find mid-level managers who hoard information out of fear that sharing will threaten their job security.
They will wonder how anything gets done in environments like these and they will gravitate toward those companies that discard tradition. They’re young, confident and coming to your town. Are you ready?

MediaBlather is Back

Shortly after recording our 100th episode of the MediaBlather podcast, David Strom and I took a break during the first half of this year. But we’re tanned, rested and back in action now with new podcasts posting every couple of weeks.

In Identity Crisis, we discussed the helplessness that BP felt as its Twitter identity was hijacked by an anonymous critic. Freelance Destruction looked at the plummeting pay rates in the freelance market and assessed the impact that would have on traditionally trusted sources of advice such as product reviews. The bad news: technology reviews have taken a turn for the worse. The good news: people like David Strom are figuring out new models.We’re always looking for guests and ideas, so if you’ve got an interesting story to tell or a new book to promote, drop me a line and we’ll get you on the show.

MediaBlather


Tip of the Week: OneForty.com

Twitter has unleashed a torrent of creative energy in the form of applications and websites that do everything from automatically unfollow people to calculate the total potential reach of a tweet. The problem is keeping up with them all. The crowdsourced Twitter Fan Wiki is a great resource, but its organization is weak and it’s not always up to date. It can also be overwhelming: The apps listing page runs to 20,000 words.
OneForty.comEnter OneForty.com, a startup dedicated to finding and rating the best Twitter applications. Its site is clean, easy to use and chock-full of intelligent reviews, many by business customers. The founder and CEO is Laura Fitton (@pistachio), co-author of Twitter for Dummies, and a visionary who saw the potential of this platform long before it became a staple of corporate marketers. Check it out; it will help you tell your app from your elbow.

Just For Fun: Amazing Tattoos

Amazing TattoosI’ll admit I’m not much for tattoos. It’s not the pain that scares me; it’s just that they’re so, well, permanent. Nevertheless, I do appreciate great craftsmanship, and this selection of 40 amazing tattoos demonstrates what today’s technology can achieve using flesh as the principal medium.

Note: Some of these images are a little disturbing, so if you have a weak stomach, look elsewhere. At least you don’t have to live with them etched into your arm!

FAQ on Social Media – Part 2

December 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Featured, Newsletter

Continuing my series of responses to questions I didn’t have time to answer in recent webcasts, this segment covers demographics, sales conversion and the valuable Google “link:” command.

Q: What can millennials best teach us about social networking?

A: How to infuse it into everyday life. There’s a myth about millennials that the group is completely tuned in to the use of social media tools. In fact, I find that most young people are active users of Facebook, instant messaging and text messaging, but not much else. They don’t blog, rarely listen to podcasts and don’t use Twitter. What’s more, they don’t have much perspective on the value of these tools beyond their usefulness in everyday life. They’ll learn those things through experience and training, just like everyone else. But they’re not really as social media-savvy as they’re often given credit for.

What they are exceptionally good at doing it is managing relationships online. They don’t have any more close friends than their parents did at the same age, but they have a much larger number of casual acquaintances that they keep alive through occasional and indirect communication. I think that’s something we can all learn from.

Q: Have you found that social media outlets are used by particular age demographics or does it apply to all age ranges?

A: Nearly all age groups use a media, though there are variations. If you want to go into detail, get Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li. Their top-line observations are that the most active users are the under-25 group, but that usage is quite consistent between 25-and 55-year olds. It drops off rather sharply after that. However, there are significant variations by media and industry. For example, under-25s are more inclined to use instant messaging, text messaging and online video while podcasting and blogging are more popular with older age groups. It’s also interesting that the percentage of people under 25 who prefer instant messaging over e-mail is nearly the exact inverse of people over 25.

Q: How does the Google “Link:” command work?

A: In the Google search bar, type “link:www.gillin.com” substituting whatever URL you want. You can also access this command from Google’s advanced search page. This will give you a list of all webpages in Google’s search index that link to the specified domain or page.

Q: What’s the best way to convert your audience to make an actual purchase using social media?

A: There are many ways to do this, so I’ll give you an example of a direct and an indirect approach. A direct approach might be to offer a discount coupon to people who join your social network, fill out a form or respond to a contest. Or you might ask people to view a short video to get an access code that they could redeem on a website. The coupon could be delivered electronically as a thank-you message when visitors submit the form.

And indirect approach might be to set up an informational blog that educates visitors about your company or your area of expertise. You can then surround this educational content with promotions or offers.