When I first moved to Nashville from Manhattan, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had lived my entire life in the Northeast, and I often felt as though I had moved to a different area of the world instead of to a different part of the country. I have been here for a year now though, and the shock has worn off. I still can’t say y’all, but I have had fried green tomatoes and they are delicious!
Everything new and unfamiliar becomes familiar and comfortable with time and practice, and when looking at how business is applied in this day and age the same adage holds true. Social Networking is very much a part of the new workplace, with more and more companies spouting new Facebook and Twitter profiles each day. While established companies may sit back and wonder at the point of it all, there is a very real need for social networking to be involved in a business model. Simply put, there is an entire new generation of potential consumers that rely on these new networks above anything else to interact and communicate with the world around them.
I was born in the 1980’s and while I can remember life before the Internet it is now a permanent fixture in my life. AOL was part of my school’s computer classes when I was in second grade. My school reports were written with sources from the Internet, and I started using a cell phone when I was in high school. I grew up connected to the world around me by digital means, and when Facebook and Twitter appeared on the scene I jumped on board. Through these networks and others, I have friends around the globe, some of whom I’ve never met in person. I use Twitter to get my news instead of established broadcasting channels. I read articles about things I’m interested in online instead of ordering magazines. I record my favorite shows on TV, so I don’t have to watch the commercials.
I am not alone in how I use social networks to interact with the world; I am part of the Millennial Generation. My generation will not respond to print ads in magazines and newspapers because we don’t read them, preferring nytimes.com or Twitter. We will not respond to television spots because most of us own DVRs to fast-forward through those pesky commercials. And even if we did, we will not respond well to being told something. We like to interact.
There is a way for companies to market towards the Millennial Generation, however. It requires transitioning away from traditional advertising and including a web presence through social networking. We may not read magazines, but we will read articles on the magazine’s website, and these websites all have banner ads. When a company is faced with choosing where to host these ads, no place is better than Facebook. Facebook boasts 500 million active users worldwide, 50% of whom log on to facebook every day. Of these users, Facebook allows a company to target an ad to a very specific user group and thus ensures said ads are getting viewed by the right demographic.
However, banner ads alone are not enough. While I can click an ad, I’m not interacting until I’m on the company’s facebook page. I can discuss my needs as a consumer directly with the company, and get opinions and answers to my questions. If I decide to buy a certain product, I want to know its pros and cons. I want to get the best value for my buck, and I want that information now. I want to know what other Facebook users and company consumers are saying about the product, and I want to see whether the company is willing to talk to these consumers. If I have a problem with my product, will it be quick and painless to get help from the company, or do I see posts from users complaining about the turnaround or not getting answered at all? What if the company doesn’t have an online presence at all? The latter makes it highly unlikely that I will buy a product from said company, and I am lost as a potential consumer.
What about Twitter? Simply put, Twitter allows companies to advertise for free. A company can create an account and then make posts about its services and products. Gaining followers allows for these messages to get spread throughout the World Wide Web as fast as a potential consumer can type about it. When one of the company’s followers retweets a company’s post, the post is then displayed for all of the followers of that one person to see and respond to, who may possibly retweet the post again allowing for an infinite number of potential consumers to see the initial post.
Today’s world is fast paced, but it is also viral. It is essential that a company transition to employing social networking such as Facebook and Twitter in addition to traditional means of advertising. Not only is the Millennium Generation ready to become customers of your company, it will not be long before Generation Z are consumers as well. These are the children that were read goodnight stories from iPads and who grew up having the internet in their pocket via cell phone. Will your company be ready?