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Gen Y: Marketers Still Getting It Wrong
At a recent SXSWi panel conducted "core conversation-" style (in which a presumed thought leader guides a group discussion on the subject at hand), the hour spent sitting on the floor in a cramped meeting room proved one important fact about social media: Even the professed experts are doing it wrong.
A Dougie Howser-esque "social media specialist" at Razorfish and a group of others ranging in age from 17 to 32 years old sat cross-legged on the floor and cross-talked their way through a series of stereotypes, assumptions, and painfully incorrect conclusions.
It is generally agreed upon by all in the social media space that brands began using social media without sufficient understanding or strategy. Traditional models were applied to new media with dismal return on investment; ineffective impressions by the billions were suddenly considered par for the course as expectations dropped and consumer tune-out skyrocketed. Really, the metrics are embarrassingly unacceptable.
And whereas more recent experiments in the social web showcase a willingness to experiment, they often also demonstrate a grave misunderstanding of what social media is for and how (and how much) consumers are willing to engage with brands online.
The all important "be human" dictum was followed to disastrous effect by Skittles, which brand ended up aggregating offensive, lewd, and racist tweets on its new "social" homepage. And for all the "conversation," none of us, it seems, can remember the last time we bought a pack of the candy itself.
As far as Gen Y is concerned, the "core conversation" was as unfocused as the discussion leader’s definition of Gen Y itself (he gave the age range as being between 5 years old and mid-thirties; good luck marketing to that homogenous, monolithic demographic). It was noted that privacy is not as much a concern for many in this technological generation. People will publish just about anything these days; they likely have multiple profiles and will not feel personally invaded by targeted ads. These consumers are adept at using new media tools, at monitoring and restricting their online sharing, and at switching between applications.
For a miniature case study, take me. I’m squarely in this generation. I’m sure by now I have well over 50 online profiles, at least half of which contain my email address, physical address, phone numbers, and specific whereabouts at any given time of day. So much for privacy. I’m more concerned about self-expression and transparency than I am about whether a stodgy would-be employer will disapprove of a picture of me in a cocktail dress; however, I watch my incoming links, page views, blog/pic/video comments, and new friends/fans/followers like a damn hawk using tools as simple as Google and as complex as… Well, let’s just say there are some pretty nifty free analytics tools out there that are deceptively simple and allow for hours of online navel-gazing.
Jolie O’Dell is a designer, writer, and consultant based in Richmond, Virginia.