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Is Social Networking Slowing Down the Generational Lines of Communication?




By Nick Stamoulis

Lately it seems like the social communication behavior and methods people use to interact are more like tangled-up power lines. Years ago there were traditionally only a small handful of ways to communicate; at work, phone, fax and face-to-face. For the last ten years or so many generations have been able to adopt email as a crucial form of communication, but now there are many newer social networking methods of communication between consumers, businesses, friends and families.

How many people do you know across different generations that actually have Facebook accounts? The numbers are staggering, but to a marketer and business owner it is crucial to understand that one size does not fit all. Even though these generations tend to actively use social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn they are still VERY different overall in the way they communicate.

Let’s start by discussing the three vastly different generations, GEN Y, GEN X and Baby Boomers. All three have very different styles of communication they prefer. Baby boomers generally rely on face-to-face and phone communication. GEN X use email, cell phones and some instant messaging (IM), and GEN Y like to text and IM primarily. These three communication differences create serious ripples in the lines of communication for many businesses and social marketers alike.

The March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine has an excellent overview of this social generation communication broken down:

socialgenerations

Many people complain that they just can’t keep up with the evolution of technology and how quickly things are moving. All three generations use all forms of social interaction and social online networking but the way the three interact on these sites is very different.

Many baby boomers will launch a Facebook page or Myspace profile but the way each use them is fundamentally different. Many GEN Y’ers will use the online social networks to conduct all their social interaction with other peers while a 55 year old baby boomer might launch a profile and visit it once every 6 months, often times not even having an uploaded photo in the profile.

Many new technologies are adopted by GEN Y’ers very quickly leaving many baby boomers scratching their heads trying to figure out just what is the best way to reach out to this generation that sometimes feels out of reach. One generation will reach out to someone through Facebook and the other with a phone. The rapid pace of social online marketing evolvement unfortunately leaves baby boomers in the dust sometimes.

Years ago, when the baby boomer generation was 25, technological advancements occurred at a snail’s pace. Today it is quite the opposite leaving it challenging for some generations to keep up with the rate of social networking communication growth.

About Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is a search marketing veteran who is the President of Search Engine Marketing Firm, Brick Marketing and Publisher of the Search Engine Optimization Journal.

  • http://www.debtfreescholar.com/ Nate @ Debt-free Scholar

    I think that social networking can be useful, but many, many people waste a lot of time with it.

    Thanks,
    Nate

    Nate @ Debt-free Scholar’s last blog post..Why Take CLEP Tests?

  • http://www.BootstrapSEO.com/ Diane Aull (@torka)

    Be careful to not stereotype people based strictly on how old they are. While I’m sure these generalities may be largely true for many members of a these groups, you’ll find a lot of overlap, particularly among those whose age places them at the leading or trailing edges of each group.

    For instance, I’m supposedly a Boomer (at least, according to most of the demographers), but the Gen X column above *much* better describes me than the Boomer column. And there are a lot of people I know around my age who neither think nor act like “typical” Boomers, and who are pretty tired at being lumped in with them when we share almost none of the supposedly typical Boomer attitudes.

    It’s not as though all kids born after a specific year suddenly and automatically have a whole different set of attitudes toward life from those born before. The transitions between “generations” are a lot blurrier and more spread out — and the differences between the generations are often a lot less clear-cut — than most of these overly simplified demographic breakdowns tend to suggest.

    Sorry for the rant… you just happen to have hit upon one of my personal pet peeves! :-)

    Diane Aull (@torka)’s last blog post..Can Anyone Become an SEO Expert?

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @Nate @ Debt-free Scholar – Many people do waste time, but overall Social Networking is an excellent communication vehicle…

    @ Diane Aull (@torka) – Thanks for reading and the comment! :o)

    You are correct, the goal of the post was not to stereotype but to discuss the generational communication research data compiled by by Entrepreneur Magazine and how it impacts the social networking and media outlets:
    http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/2009/march/200104.html

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  • http://ask-entrepreneurs.com Susan Su

    Great post – I think the gaps you point out here indicate lots of opportunity.

    Since we are moving into the age of social media dominance, Gen-Y people can leverage their advantage and pitch themselves to Boomers or even Gen-Xers.

    Boomers still hold much of the power in the world, however, so they’ve got their own lever to pull.

    I *just* published this post about a Gen-Y startup that is using their difference to help, and profit from, Boomers and others.

    Susan Su’s last blog post..Entrepreneur Lessons From Outside the Valley: Lesson #2 Know Your (Geographic) Advantage

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @Susan Su – Thanks for stopping by, Great post about Sandbox and Gen Y…

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  • http://www.perfectmoney.com PM.e-currency

    when all people interact ,it is obvious they will use ,”what most people use”for me Baby Boomer I think follow more the type of Gen Y rather then the opposite,Gen Y forms a social networks with vibrant and style and Baby Boomer at the other style and for me if baby Boomer like to survive,the best education they shall give to there “next Generation is should be “how to be a Good Gen Y citizen or DIE

  • http://caracolcreams.com/ Caracol Cream

    Really interesting article. I don’t think this article stereotypes people. It only divides people into 3 major categories. It is difficult or impossible to adjust to everybody. It is true that a lot of people does waste too much time in social networks but that doesn’t define it. A service can be good or bad depending on the use you give to it.

    Caracol Cream’s last blog post..Caracol Cream Skin Treatment

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @Caracol Cream – That is very true there are many smaller niche social networking sites for industries (such as Active Rain for real estate and others)…It depends what someone wants to get out of their social networking time (for fun, business, etc.)

  • http://www.bostonknucklehead.com Ivy

    I agree. I can see this at our own company. Communication can often times be difficult for people who just might not want to adapt. It is important to reach a happy medium when employing vastly different ages at a place of business.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @ Ivy – Thanks for reading, excellent internal and external communication is something that is crucial for businesses of all sizes!

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  • http://www.homecookingrevival.com Janet

    It’s not really clear what your point is. Yes, boomers may prefer face-to-face or email, but so may Gen Y’ers when they get to be our age. At 54, I’ve experienced so many technological advances and changes that I understand completely why somebody may say, “enough.”

    Janet’s last blog post..News bites: Avoiding pesticides, cooking with friends

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @ Janet – Thanks for stopping by. The point of this blog post was to discuss the generational communication research by Entrepreneur Magazine. You may be right about the technological advances but time will tell all :o)

  • http://www.timeatlas.com Anne H

    There’s additional generational information in Mary Meeker’s latest presentation from 3/20/09 on the economy and internet trends. It’s a hefty 145+ deck but you can read it as a PDF from http://short.to/2pxq/

  • http://www.timeatlas.com Anne H

    Sorry, that link has an extra slash. It should be http://short.to/2pxq

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @Anne H S – Thanks for providing this information!

  • http://bretthummel.com Brett Hummel

    I think that currently most social networking or other web 2.0 applications are a waste of time. However, I think that there is a shift coming as we move from older forms of communication to these new systems. In a sense the web 2.0 aps from social networking to VOIP are evolved forms of the yellow pages and telephone. It is simply a natural progression to a more efficient and faster system that has occurred routinely over the past centuries. We can already see the evidence that older systems such as the US Postal System (which has requested the ability to drop Saturday delivery because the mail volume has decreased so significantly) are being replaced with email and social networking. As such we must not bury our heads in the sand, but be active in learning how to incorporate these new technologies in our lives.

    There was actually a very interesting article in PC Magazine discussing an Accenture study on older generations adopting these new technologies. They found a significant increase in the use of these new technologies among the older demographics, and I believe as more and more older people adopt these technologies we will see an ‘untangling’ of the communication between generations.

    PC Mag Article:
    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2343556,00.asp

    Brett Hummel’s last blog post..How Millennials Can Bring Fun Back Into the Workplace

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @ Brett Hummel – Thanks for your comment and the analogy, I agree the modern social networking communication outlets do function in a similar manner to older technologies…also, thanks very much for linking the PC Mag article as well!

  • Mandi Jacobs

    As I am considered of the Gen Y category I can agree and disagree with this post. I do a lot of texting to communicate, but I also feel that how I communicate replicates that of the Generation X category. I agree that there is a gap between generations on how they communicate mainly because as technology seems to become more advanced people are hesitiant to change. I feel like many are “stuck in thier ways” and may not understand how to properly use the new technology that is available to them. When I compare how I communicate with how my grandmother communicates there is definatley a HUGE difference. I wish I could text her to let her know something instead of calling, but she has NO idea how to use her phone’s texting capabilities. Because social media and the way we all communicate is evolving I do agree that it makes it more difficult to communicate with each other. For example I feel like my generation is all about using social media at any chance we can (using the internet for research) because that’s what we have grown up with whereas baby boomers may turn to different resources for the same information (they might actually crack open a book at a library!) Although we all communicate differently I think there is a middle ground that can be reached so that everyone is on the same page!

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    @ Mandi Jacobs – Thanks for reading and your comment!

    Very good points about communication and research techniques…( it is sad to say, but I have not stepped foot in a college for about 15 years…since college!) I am Gen X, but I think the big thing you nailed on the head is hesitant to change…hopefully over time more people from different generations will begin to truly understand the power of social networking and its evolving capabilities…

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