Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Social Media is Not a Generational Issue

I want to follow up on Eric's post last week about Social Media. I agree completely that there is not a one-size fits all answer when it comes to social media (not everyone has to do it right now), but I would also push back a little on the "our business model works so we don't need it" argument too, because EVERYONE's business model works--right up to the moment it doesn't. Changing your business model BEFORE it's obsolete is a lot easier than after, which is one of the arguments for at least experimenting with social media before you think it's absolutely necessary.

But the main point I want to make is related to his last point--that social media will happen when either Xers or Millennials take over leadership positions. I have a different view.

I don't think Social Media is based in one or two generations. It's not driven by a particular generation, and it's not best suited to a particular generation.

I think some of the confusion stems from the fact that the Millennial generation is currently being shaped by the social internet. Xers may be awed by the vast amounts of information that's on the internet, but Millennials grew up being able to connect and create things via the internet. I (and others) think that is shaping their generational values.

Fine. But that doesn't mean social media was designed exclusively by or for them. Old folks (Xers and Boomers) understand the concepts behind social media too, and have been applying them rampantly. I have seen lots of statistics about the fastest growing age groups in various social media platforms, and it's often the old folks.

Whether your organization uses social media effectively or not will not be based on the generational composition of your leadership positions. It will be based on the leadership composition of your leadership positions.

6 comments:

Eric Lanke said...

Thanks for the perspective, Jamie. You've caught me falling into the trap of overgeneralizing the traits and habits of the generations. It would've been more clear for me to say (as you do) that social media will move into organizations that are currently resistant to it when individuals who embrace it and know how to use it productively (regardless of their generation) move into positions of leadership.

Cecilia Sepp said...

Old Folks? Are you kidding me?

In an era when "40 is the new 30" and we have had to develop a new category "The old Old" I think calling people under 60 "old" is out of place.

This generational pigeon-holing has gotten out of hand, too, and I've said this many times. We are all individuals; some of us are comfortable with technology and some aren't.

You have to live in the world you are in, no matter what "generation" you belong to.

Why don't we focus on the generation of positive ideas and energy and the generation of connections?

{FYI: generation being a form of the verb "To generate"}

Cathi said...

Please don't call me old because I am a baby boomer - We are not out to pasture yet and we are still active :)

Jamie Notter said...

For the record, I was referring to ME (age 42) as an "old folk." And that's because I view myself as old. I don't see anything wrong with that, and I don't live in a retirement home. I just see myself as old (in contrast to when I was 25 and young). But I didn't mean to cast aspersions on anyone and realize I used a charged term without caution. Sorry.

Jamie Notter said...

And Cecilia I agree we're all individuals, and I often caution people not to apply the generalizations about generations to specific individuals, but I stand equally firm behind the importance of the generalizations in guiding our thinking and decision making. It doesn't give us answers, but ignoring the differences can be detrimental as well.

Cathi said...

I understand Jamie - but you shouldn't think of yourself as old either :)

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