The Psychology of the Net Generation

''"Meet Ziemer. Ziemer is an influencer. That means record labels and clothing brands pay him to talk up their products, for which he pulls down several hundred dollars a month.

Ziemer has spiky brown hair and a round, expressive face. Ziemer has 4,973 "friends" on MySpace. At all times, he carries a T-Mobile Sidekick, which he uses to text message, e-mail, and send photos to his friends. Sometimes he also talks on it, but not often. "I hate the phone," he says. Back in December 2005, Businessweek launched a cover heralding the arrival of the MySpace Generation explaining how young people were living online as much as off. Kids such as Ziemer, are exploiting the hyper-socializing that the net offers."''

The MySpace Generation(external link)December 2005, Businessweek

Back in 2005 Business week put that story on the cover and heralded the arrival of the "Myspace Generation" explaining how young people were living online as much as off.

MySpace? well .... individual sites may come and go - the underlying phenomenon has mass media marketers in conniptions to exploit it. Is this just a fad? Yes, depending on what you are selling.

Why the depends? . . . traditional mass marketing is grossly inefficient, that's why. Advertisers spend 90% of their energy beaming messages repeatedly to people who aren't very interested, and the psychological immune systems people have against the subconscious training are just getting stronger. Is marketing your company on Facebook going to change that? No. Really what we are talking about here is how technology is enhancing the word-of-mouth method of marketing. The better question to ask is "are we making it easy for people who like us to spread the word?"

Social networking solves a trust problem people have in modern society. We have no reason to trust advertisers, because we know that they are only interested in getting into our wallets - but would our friends (even distant ones) steer us wrong? We generally rely on them to be genuine, if sometimes misinformed.

The other side of the net generation is the increased social liquidity? that having a large number of weak contacts offers. People are more able to "be themselves" and less concerned about breaking off relationships. Of course there are those who cry virtual friendships can never replace the real world friends, but well, um . . . they are wrong. Online friendships beget real world friendships just like computers (and printers) begat more paper consumption despite the hype about a paperless world.

"We're on the verge of a marketing revolution. Will companies be ready?" asked Don Tapscott, chief executive of New Paradigm(external link), Toronto. Tapscott is one of those catchphrase consultants? who like to re-define stuff with shiny new words they own to create the impression of original thinking. In his work "Growing Up Digital", published in 1998, Tapscott more substantively analyzed how technology was leading new consumer behavior among youth. And it was. But is this because the "youth" generation is somehow mentally different? Circa 2010, when we find out that parents and grandparents of these youth are the fastest growing segment of users on Facebook, it seems more like a case of early adoption rather than some generational divide.

So what do i think about social media marketing? Well if it is Targeted Advertising? such as Google's adwords service provides - the better it gets at showing people what they need to know right now the more effective it will be for your advertising buck. Should you hire a kid to go blab about your stuff on facebook or twitter? Not if you are retailing or servicing a small geograpic area like a town or city. Send them out on the street with a sandwich board. If you sell mainly on the net, then yes - twitter is the same as that sandwich board.