Social Media Marketing: Are GenYs Lagging Behind?

October 24, 2008 at 4:39 pm 5 comments

Do GenYs really ‘get it’ when it comes to Social Media Marketing?

Recently, I got into twittervation with @xylem about this exact topic. A post on his blog stated:

“Millennials don’t translate their familiarity with these tools to their advantage at work. They don’t use it to differentiate themselves from the crowd and competitive differentiator in the office.  Not the way they should be, anyway.”

And so the question is posed to me:

Why are GenYs not actively taking hold of the marketing potential of social media?

Or, taking that one step further:

Why aren’t GenYs leading the Social Media Revolution?

These are big questions to which I gave some serious thought. My generation, ‘Millennials’ are almost universally obsessed with social media. We love facebook, myspace, youtube, and flicker with a passion. We were brought up on AIM and have never known a time where information and connections have been anything less than instantaneous. We’re known as overachievers, super-learners, and technology maniacs. And so it seems only natural that, entering the work force, we would be leading the charge to incorporate these technologies into business. Though according to some, we’re lagging behind.

If this is true, I would say that our primary weakness is that we fail to see the potential professional gain of social media. True, we’re introduced to new platforms well before most of the free world, and our ‘natural inclination’ towards all things technological makes us near instant pros. But to us it’s all about fun. For over a decade we’ve been using social media to connect with friends, share pictures, and kill time. In fact, we’re so trained to view these online communities as a world away from work that many of us don’t tailor our behavior to the potential audience that might happen upon it (i.e. most millennials keep inappropriate pictures, applications, and wall posts on their profiles during the job hunt).

So why can’t we see the professional potential?

In my mind, the main reason that we’re blind to the competitive advantage of social media is because we were taught to keep online worlds separate from work and school by our parents (the Boomers) and our older siblings and teachers (GenXs). Long before we knew that facebook, myspace, and twitter were called ‘social media’ these fun web 2.0 tools were banned, limited, and monitored by our successors. There were rules and regulations at home, school, and work prohibiting their use. Years upon years of being told that these sites were just for play and we got the message – these sites are toys, not tools.

Fast forward a decade and suddenly the Boomers and GenXs are starting to get it. Our parents are friending us on Facebook and our bosses are asking us to find clients using Twitter. But at the same time, many sites remain restricted. We are encouraged to use some but told to stay away by others and as interns and coordinators in our first years on the job we’re struggling to manage the mixed signals. What’s allowed and what’s forbidden? How to separate personal from professional? Where do we draw the line between keeping track of friends and networking to build professional relationships? And so, it’s probably true that not all of us are getting it.

But please, be patient. (Remember that the oldest millennials are only 26!)

Keep in mind that we’re still young and we have a lot to learn. While we may have an inherent talent for this budding field, there’s a lot we’re still trying to figure out. So @xylem I’m asking you and all GenXs, to reach out to us. It’s great that you recognize that we just may have a few things we can teach you, but remember that, we’re still new at marketing, PR and at being professionals. Most of us simply don’t have the experience to put all the pieces together and see the big picture.

And of course, there are some that do. There are few rockstars and a handful of rockstars-in-training. But on the whole, most GenYs are still just trying to get their acts together. Realizing the tools we have on hand might actually serve a purpose (and that we can use them to get ahead!) will come, but it will take time and probably a mentor or two.

Rather than separate the generations based on what we have to offer, shouldn’t we be focusing on how we can work together to push the industry forward? The rules of PR and marketing have changed. Maybe it’s time for the traditional office structure to change too. And so, I call on Boomers and GenXs to bring us on board. Start by explaining the goals and telling us what you think we can add. Then let us run. Not everyone will take the cue, but the ones who do won’t look back.


Entry filed under: social media. Tags: , , , .

Are you Listening? ROI & Marketing’s New Role Social Media Exclusivity: Are you In or Out?

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. juliemarg  |  October 26, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Interesting … one of my friends just pulled down her yelp profile because she’s looking for a new job. It was a little too snarky. On the other hand, twitterites are agressively pontificating about the election, presuming that everyone is in 100% agreement and if they’re not, they are losers that you’d never want to relate to anyway.

  • 2. madefromnewzealand  |  October 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Cool – I was brought on board as the community manager/developer for which launched on Monday 20th October 08 to help build a community in the various social media avenues.

    I am 24 and have some experience with social media but am passionate about it and very keen to learn more.

    If companies are going to invest in social media the need someone who understands it, has used it personally or for a company and who is willing to put some time into it. There is nothing worse than a half hearted attempt to get into the SM game and then not maintain you twitter, facebook group, youtube account etc.

    Compare paying $40,000 for some advertising campaign for a couple of weeks to a month vs a years salary for someone to build and develop your social media presence – connecting directly with your customers instead of bombarding them with various impersonal media.

    Great post, as you say we are all just getting the hang of it and learning how to implement it effectively – hopefully we can become a good case study in the future!

  • 3. » Blog Archive » The Y2K Problem.  |  October 27, 2008 at 11:10 am

    […] Megan came back at me with a well thought out and written piece here. She gets support in the comments, too.  I agree with her; dividing the workplace by generations […]

  • 4. » Blog Archive » Do it for The Kids  |  November 24, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    […] keep up with their journalist peers.  Not long ago I addressed part of this issue and got a great response from Megan Maguire, a millennial working for the Medical Records Institute (link down at the time of this post) here […]

  • 5. cassandra  |  January 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I just found your blog through your article on “The Exception”…

    I’ve had a sort of opposite experience when it comes to social media at work. As a “millenial”, I spent months and months trying to explain to my colleagues (i.e. my supervisors) why our non-profit organization would benefit from a having a facebook page. This is especially true, because a lot of what we do is based on a network of international artists– and what better way to visualize the network than to see it on facebook. So, while marketing and publicity is in my job description, my colleagues worried that there was something untested about my suggestions. Also, they were nervous about the relative lack of control that we, as an organization, have over, for example, what types of photos our facebook friends post on their profiles, or, the tambre of the language used in wallposts… from the perspective of people who have been working with printed media, striving for professionalism, for years, all of this seemed a bit daunting.

    Finally the tipping point came when, about a month after I got the go-ahead to make the facebook page, our executive director’s best friend got HER to make her own page… suddenly, she could see the benefits for herself, and ever since then, it’s been gung-ho, and we’re more in touch with our network then ever before!

    I guess my experience is different because, as an arts non-profit, my colleagues really aren’t trained to think specifically in terms of marketing. But for me, it’s not that I haven’t tried to harness my knowledge for professional use– it’s that there’s a culture of reluctance to recognize that in the heirarchy of my workplace.


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