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July 16, 2010 / Daniel Mason

The Great Divide between Generation Y (and everybody else)

I’ve actually been thinking about this blog post for about a week now and finally decided something needed to be written before I complete forgot what, originally, was to me an earth-shattering revelation.  It has for the time being been downgraded to prophetic and insightful, but we’ll see how this post goes.

Claro Beer Orrahood Family Reunion Picture of Relatives drinking Claro Beer

Generation Gap

Anyway, I was at my family reunion last week (back in Wild n’ Wonderful West Virginia!) and being the recent college graduate who no longer lives at home, I was designated to be a center of attention.  Additionally, it didn’t hurt my popularity that I brought a case of the “new” beer brand for which I’m doing Social Media marketing.  Needless to say, the beer was gone within the first hour as timid and distant family members approached me and inquired about trying, “one of those beers from Holland.”  As I walked around drinking cheap domestic beer and handing out and opening (with my palm and a picnic table- how do 50 people forget a bottle opener?)  “my” beer I brought as a novelty, I started thinking about the people I was around.

Naturally, noon-time progressed into very early afternoon, my family was quelling any potential awkwardness with additional alcohol.  Anyway, my beer was gone but questions about my job lingered.  “No, I don’t work for a beer company”, “No, I don’t put up billboards”, “No, you haven’t missed the ads on the TV and radio”.  At this point, I realized I had to go through what I knew would be the begrudging process of explaining what “Social Media” consisted of and how it was used.

I have to say, prior to my explanation, two examples were offered up: 1) My aunt proclaims that she has a Facebook and everybody rolls their eyes and remains silent for a good 15 seconds. 2) My Tea-party extremist, entrepreneur, and overweight great Uncle bellows that he wants to set a trap at his house, catch 250 squirrels in it, set them free in front of PETA headquarters in Atlanta, and post the video on Youtube- thus making him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Everyone seemed to agree that, although a little crazy, his money estimates were about right.  I couldn’t help but thinking of the South Park episode where they try to raise internet money for Canada and realize that the internet only pays in “theoretical dollars”. Regardless, I could go into depth about my explanation of Social Media but that would just be insufferable for anyone reading this, so I’ll just tell you what I realized from the whole experience.

Cartoon joking about self-proclaimed Social Media Gurus who have very little actual impact

Social Media Guru Cartoon

Social Media is a made-up world.  Those who inhabit the “Twitto-sphere” or whatever it’s referred to as, can be broken down into countless groups; however, occupants include the high school kids talking about their emotions, Social Media “guru’s” living in their parents’ basement, successful marketers who are transitioning over, political extremists who’s views couldn’t get published in newspapers, college kids with too much time on their hands, the elderly who are trying to prove a point about their resiliency,  and, my personal favorite, @LEBRONJAMESEGO.

You might stop and think,”Well that’s about everybody I know and interact with, who the heck do you want?”

I’ll tell you who I want.  I want my squirrel-youtubing uncle who owns firetruck manufacturing facilities to see my tweets and Facebook ads, I want my parent’s cousins who are paying $300/ night to stay at the golf resort the reunion was at to be my “friend” online, and I certainly want to follow all my friends’ parents from Wake Forest University, so that they can tell me about their yachts, entrepreneurial spirit, and where they’re putting their money- because it’s sure as hell not going onto the internet.

You see, the point I’m trying to make, is that self-professed social media experts have jumped headfirst into their own vessel and floated out to sea, distancing themselves from business, marketing, and the mainstream.  Well, their claims of an avant-garde progressiveness and fore-thinking nature are all well and good, except for the fact that they’re moving faster than their target audience.  Too often, new social media platforms are essentially marketers marketing to marketers in a language that only marketers understand- I think the fantastic people at Hubspot called it “gobbledygook.”

From my month or two of experience working in Social Media, I can tell you that it is a phenomenal concept and it is certainly the future of mass-marketing.  More and more businesses enter the market everyday and more people are picking up the lingo and knowing where to position themselves; however, those with the most at stake to be cutting-edge are the marketing firms competing for client dollars.  More of us in Generation Y have to understand that it’s not about being the next thing, but about what our predecessors have ingrained in their mind, rightfully so, that “The customer is always right.”  If your customer isn’t on Foursquare or Technorati, it’s going to be difficult to market to them.

Facebook Joke Spoof Site about the Generational Gap between Old and Young People on Facebook

Facebook for Old People

I gained countless opinions from my successful and insightful ancestors that I could never have learned from Social Media.  As far as my beer, one prominent businessman exclaimed,” This tastes like how beer used to!”, while others simply stated that they would love to know more about the beer and where to find it.  When I told them it was on Facebook, the once again rolled their eyes.

The lesson to take from all of this is that it’s not Generation Y’s role to roll their eyes at the mainstream trying to catch up, while it’s also certainly not advantageous for corporations to be stubborn and reject the wave of the future.  Believe me, there’s a middle ground.  Old-school marketing most definitely still has it’s place in the “whatever-o-sphere”, just as every major company had better be making a twitter account to get in touch with their growing tech-savvy customer base.

While this might just be my opinion, I know that I will be walking this fine line for as long as I have to, because, while I hope I’m ahead of the tech curve of society, I don’t want to outrun the money and insight gained over countless generations.  I’ll let the “Gurus” float off into their own world and stay on solid ground, contemporary and insightful, but not out of touch.

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