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Is social media suited for older generations?

I’m trying to wrap my head around what baby boomers think when companies like us shout "social media" at them. To no fault of their own, they are usually less familiar with these new technologies than younger generations.

Yet, we're trying to convince them to adopt social media and social knowledge networks into their business practices, and in some cases, revolve part or all of their business model around them. How can we be talking to them and addressing their needs?

How is social media supposed to help them be more effective communicators and mentor the younger workforce that will eventually take over their responsibilities when they retire? Or have we simply given up on their generation and replaced it with the glamorous and popular 18-34 market?

In short, Is social media suitable for and accessible to older generations who use technology and the Internet less often and differently than younger generations?

I can look at myself and mother as an example. I'm what the Pew Research Center refers to as a "technology omnivore," according to its Internet Typology Test. I'm a heavy user of information and communications technology.

I have a laptop, a cell phone, and an iPod. I access the Internet throughout the day, at home and work. I instant message and text message everyone I know. I had my first Web site over 10 years ago. I maintain a personal blog. I buy everything I can online. Even my Chipotle burrito.

So I can empathize with younger generations when I read about Gen Y’ers having difficulty communicating with baby boomers and the like, because older generations are typically not accustomed to IMing their friends and colleagues all day.

Instead, they tend to pick up the phone to talk instead of using it to text. They walk to their colleagues’ cubes to chat, instead of shooting them a short e-mail. As a result, many people who don’t communicate electronically consider us omnivores to be curt, detached, and standoffish.

On the other hand is my mother, a baby boomer. I'm comparing her experiences of using the Internet with the social media technologies we're integrating into our products. And I'm asking myself, Are these technologies accessible to her, and a wide variety of the population, not just omnivores like me?

I'm finding the answer to be yes. Even if you're thinking right now, "I don't use Facebook," or "The Internet scares me," you probably use social media every day. You just might not realize it.

Think about the last major purchasing decision you made. Maybe it was a car. A new washer and dryer. Or maybe you or a loved one has recently started a new medication. How do you find out about it?

How do you learn what's going on in the world? Find new books? If you travel, how do you plan your vacation or get tourist info? Who do you ask?

You might turn to friends and family for advice, something that will never go out of style. Even if you're an omnivore, you still probably ask your friends what they do in these situations -- except you might do it over IM.

And you also probably hit the Web. It seems like eons ago that introduced comments and ratings. This method of sharing information spread like wildfire. Today, if a retailer doesn't have a Web site with comments and ratings for its products, you probably don't use it.

Even my mom, who talks back to her GPS and feels guilty for not obeying its driving instructions, looks for new movies to rent on Netflix. She goes to her local news station's Web site regularly to get more in-depth info on a story she saw on TV, just like me.

When she hears about some major health issue or medication, she looks it up in a search engine and gets advice from other patients who share their experiences on public forums.

This type of information sharing is not new. It's as old as the human race, and even the technology we're using to access it now has been around for years. We’re just applying it in new ways to accommodate organizations' infrastructures.

So is this type of social media accessible to all generations and types of technology users? Yes. Will it improve communication? Definitely. It already has.


Brady Wood said...

One of the last questions was "will social media improve communication?"

There are two parts of quality of communication that I think of when posed this question.

1st Quality of Communication- For communication to be of some standard of quality, both the speaker and the listener need to feel as though they are being understood.
I can see why someone of an older generation would feel as though they are not being heard over social media. As of now there are so many hurdles for someone to jump in order to be HEARD over social media.
Many times... Not only are they bad communicators over the phone, or face to face... But now they have to communicate over the internet to an audience they can't see.
Does social media improve the quality of communication? It can, but some people haven't recognized that yet.

2knd- Consider the vehicle of communication. The phone, email, blog, walking to your friends door, driving to your clients office.....
You need something to carry your message, and its gotta be trustworthy.
Not only do you have to put some work into the message you are sending but you have to trust the vehicle.

Does blogging improve communication? It might supplement it, which in turn does improve it but that lies in the confidence of the writer.
As a person that uses social media quit frequently, I could say the task is a bit daunting but possible.

At my church we have a saying "grace is for those who need it".

I think of blogging in a similar way. Blogging/ social media can help your business (pause)..... If you want it to.

But there is some what of a learning curve.

It is kind of like that fan you just bought at target because your AC went out at 8 p.m. and no one will come fix your AC at this time of night.

It came in 20 pieces, with directions, and wait the tools the box won't provide.

Blogging is only for those who want to make it work. There are directions, you will have spend some time on it and you will have to seek help in beginning to figure it out.


Shannon McAvoy said...

These are great points. And it’s true that blogging isn’t for everyone. Although the technology and resources are accessible to almost anyone, maintaining a blog is a daunting task (usually realized after the third well-thought post, when you start to run out of steam).

As a business owner with a blog, you’re opening a dialogue. But you’re also trying to position yourself in the market as a thought leader. Technology aside, what you have to say should be especially valuable and relevant, but also help communicate the persona you want your customers to see.

I agree with your point completely: “Blogging is only for those who want to make it work. There are directions, you will have spend some time on it and you will have to seek help in beginning to figure it out.”

As for the quality of communication, one reason I’m such a huge fan of social technologies (like comments, ratings, and tagging), is their most effective implementation is as extensions to existing sites and content.

I can write a blog about fish, delve into all of my pets and the products I use, and hope that someone comes to read it. On the other hand, it takes me two minutes to comment on my favorite products at I can create a profile for my fish. Users who come to Petco looking for a particular product can see that I gave it four stars, and then maybe look into my profile more if they think I have good advice.

The content itself brings us together. And instead of having a dozen different opinions on a particular piece of content, where each is siloed in different sources (in this case blogs), all of it can be accessed easily in a single location, along with the content itself.


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