Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, Generation Next or Net Gen, is generally known for their increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.
It is no mystery that people who grew up in a digital world find social media a natural form of communication. They text. They friend. They tweet. But what do they think of those who did not grow up digitally savvy? We asked three Gen Y-ers to tell us:
Today, people are constantly connected with one another. Through laptops and mobile phones, one is able to write on the wall of their friend in China, send a link to a sibling in Europe, or reply to a tweet made by a celebrity in LA. For me, it’s a way of life. Not so for others. To explain how the older generations can’t quite grasp social media, I must bring up the example of my own father. Maury, a 53-year-old litigator, decided to create a Facebook profile. As soon as some of his more techno-savvy friends noticed this, they decided to comment on his wall. At first, a few comments down, my father decided to respond with simply “I have a wall?” When the comments continued, Maury eloquently put his dislike of the e-mail notification bombardment into words: “I thought this was MY wall. You are co-opting MY wall. Go write all over your own damn walls. I've been in this for less than a day and already my wall is full of your graffiti. I'm getting out the sandblaster tonight, baby.” Needless to say, my father didn’t fully understand the point of the Facebook wall.
For those like my father who do not know how to use Facebook, why it exists, or what the wall is for, allow me to spread my youthful insight. You see, we of generation Y have an addiction. The vast majority of us are addicted to information. We want to know all about our friends, what they’re doing, who they’re dating, and where they’re going. We want to know about our favorite celebrities, favorite TV characters, and favorite restaurants. And we want to send information just as much as we want to receive it. We want our friends to know what we’re up to, what we ate for dinner, why we disliked the latest episode of Glee or Lost. We compulsively follow, comment, post, friend, tweet, and blog in order to continue the chain of information. We are addicts; thriving off of the information we can glean from the fields of social media. And what rich treasure troves of information they are! We can follow our friends’ every move, and easily catch up with those we haven’t spoken to in a while. We’ve brought social to a whole new level.
So why is it just us? Don’t all people want to know about what their friends are up to? Probably. So why don’t older adults use social media as much? I can’t tell you for sure. Is it because, once you reach a certain age, you can no longer use new technology? I might have believed that until someone in the office where I interned told a story of a 96-year-old man who is attempting to teach his 50-year-old son how to use Facebook. I believe people my age are more likely to use social media simply because we’ve grown used to it. Most of us started in high school, college, or earlier where they had a lot of time to spend on the Internet (mostly while procrastinating). These are also times where social status is extremely important to the individual. Procrastination + social neediness = the Facebook boom. By sheer force of habit and the addictive tendencies of information, social media engrained itself into the lives of teenagers across America.
Social media: it’s fun and addictive. It offers more than just celebrity rumors and useless information. It allows for communication to exist for free, no matter how far the distance. It makes it possible for long lost friends to find each other and reconnect. It makes planning a group event quick and easy, and virtually worry free. Do yourself a favor and create a Facebook page. Get your friends to make one too. Then network your heart out and share information like never before. You’ll see how great it truly is.
My problem with advertising is the fact that I know it’s advertising. When I see an ad-whether on a billboard, through a television commercial, or on a website-I know that the company is trying to market its products or services to people who they hope can be easily influenced. I have always considered myself “better” than allowing ads to outsmart me.
The biggest factor in creating an effective ad to me is gaining my trust. In this sense, Generation Y is particularly hard to please. With the knowledge that we have so many choices and so many outlets for learning more about a service or product, it’s hard to persuade us to go out and get or do something at that very moment.
If I see an advertisement for a restaurant I may like, the first thing I’ll do is go to the Internet and search the reviews on Yelp.com. This way, I can rely on information from people who have no bias and who have no reason not to share their honest opinion. In advertising, there is always a bias. While taking this informed approach may complicate the advertising process, it doesn’t mean that the advertisement wasn’t still effective. It just means that advertisers need to be aware that we have other outlets to gather information and that, most likely, we’re going to use them.
Another way that advertising may be more challenging in today’s age is through the number of different tools we have that provide media. If you record a show on your DVR, you can simply fast forward through the commercials. If you watch a television show online, you can lower the volume and browse another website until the commercials are over. Yet, even when technology was not so advanced, there were still ways to avoid the commercials, like changing the channel or simply engaging in another activity. Modern technology has just made it that much easier.
Ultimately, I would say that the biggest challenge advertisers face when targeting those of Gen Y is the fact that most of us already feel as though we have enough resources to find the products and services that we need without someone else persuading us. It may sound cliché, but my parents still remind me that when they were our age, they had so much less than we did. It’s the truth. The modern generation rarely needs your products or services. So if we are going to buy or use them, we’re going to want to make an informed decision. You can help by creating an honest ad that will prove true beyond just the images and words.
Generation Y is “MY” generation. It’s a “MY & I” culture as in “I am special” and “my needs are unique.” If I respond to marketing, and that’s a BIG if, it has to be about me. The product or service has to be made with my needs in mind. If you want to reach me, forget TV. Text me. Tweet me. Friend me. Or watch my latest video on YouTube.