When you think of social media, the usual suspects come to mind. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest...you know the list. But the landscape is changing. And if your company depends upon social media to bolster your bottom line with a bit of free advertisement, you fully understand how important this landscape is.
You might assume I'm talking about how Facebook made a massive change to their post reach. I'm not. It might also dawn on you that I'm speaking of the overpopulation of the average Twitter feed. Not the case. Certainly this is all about the saddening silence of Google+. Nope.
I teach a class at a local university. The roster of that class is one hundred percent millennial. The other day I mentioned posting a meme on my wife's Facebook wall, to which they all groaned. When I inquired as to what inspired their reaction they stated simply:
Facebook's for old people.
That's right. Me and the rest of Gen X (and, yes, you Babyboomers as well) are now lumped in with the "old people". Not necessarily because of our age or accumulated wisdom, but because we're using old school social networks to communicate to preach to a choir that has heard our message ad nauseum.
Why? I have a theory.
After dealing directly with Millennials for almost a year now, I've changed part of my tune on them. They are a passionate bunch of young adults with some amazing ideas and huge hearts. However, that stereotype of them being lazy...pretty much dead on. That translates directly to their usage of social media. If they have to work at it, they don't want to bother. One hundred and twenty characters? That's too much. Millennials simply want to snap a photo or quick video and move on. Instant gratification on a whole new level.
Have smartphone, will network...so long as it's quick and easy.
And that generation will interact like mad when they can do so with a point and pose photo. They are the masters of the self-inflicted-selfie and go to great lengths to compose the perfect shot to share the perfect moment in time. To them, a picture tells a thousand stories and they know how to put them to great use.
They do it well and they do it frequently.
But why is this even important?
Most of us reading this are probably Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. We're still using the old school Social Networking 1.0. We don't understand the idea of sharing solely with photos and a quick caption. We know there's more subtlety to the art of communication and we have so much more to say than can be captured in under 120 characters.
And we've gone to great lengths to hone those skills. We've mastered marketing on Facebook and Twitter. We know how to navigate those waters successfully. Now? The audiences of Social Network 1.0 aren't getting any younger. And an entire generation (you know, the generation the whole of marketing has in their sights) is shunning that which has worked for the last few years. What they want is shinier and simpler. What they are doing is turning their backs on all the hard work we've put into mastering the data points surrounding Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the whole of Social Networking 1.0. The last five years seem as if they were nothing more than the building blocks of a minimal-millennial mesh network built for minds keyed to bare bones communication.
What do businesses and marketing departments do with that?
We have no idea how to market to Generation Snapchat. Why? Because their favorite tools aren't built for marketing and PR. That's not what millennials are about. They don't want you telling them that your IT firm is the perfect fit for their needs, what they need to buy, or what's popular at the moment. Why? Because they, better than anyone, understand just how fleeting the moment is.
We, as the generations designing and developing the platforms being used by nearly every generation, need to figure this out. As the vast majority of users untether themselves from the desktop and laptop (in favor of smartphones and tablets), more and more people rely on simplified forms of communication. That means the methodologies by which companies market their goods and services must evolve to conform to that ever-shrinking minimization. If we cannot figure out a way to "snap" and "insta" our products and brands to the up and coming masses, we fail.
This is what Social Networking 2.0 looks like. It's fast, it's simple, it's basic (maybe even too basic to meet Gen X's needs)...it's what the new generation of consumers want. The looming question is less simple. How do we make that simpler, faster platform work for us? Until we find the answer to that question, we'll have to be okay preaching to the aging choirs on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.