The Social Generation and Your Small Business

One of the advantages of being older than most social media practitioners is being able to apply my decades of business experience to a new way of doing business – one that includes all of the social and new media technologies.

Another is being able to observe and learn from the behaviors of the next generation of business men and women – with two unknowing volunteers being my son and daughter, both of whom are studying marketing at top business schools here in the midwest.

  2010 Zak with President Gee and friendv2

Zak Korhan, Ohio State University President Gee, & friend

To put this into perspective, when I entered the workforce with a Fortune 50 corporation in early '80's we didn't use computers.  Everything was hand-written and typed by secretaries. 

We used the telephone to set up face-to-face meetings. That was the extent of our use of technology.

Ironically, I see some parallels with that way of doing business and this next generation of kids that literally grew up on Facebook.  You may be interested in my observations, because their practices reveal something we all share – a focus on achieving practical results.

Inclusive Micro-Communities 

When you grow up with platforms like Facebook, it is a natural part of your everyday life. My son is a college freshman who found his roommate on Facebook.  He then used it to merge friends from his hometown that would be attending that university with dozens of friends in his new environment – which of course grew to hundreds of new friends.

To better manage those friends, he created a Facebook friends list of about 40 men and women students that reside on the same floor in his co-ed dorm. This community is openly visible to all of his friends – effectively making it a community within a larger community.  

Zak and his friends are organizing social communities with inclusivity in mind – not exclusion. That's a mindset they will bring to the workplace. It's not a club. Clubs are typically private and usually about exclusivity.

Social networking for this generation is about organization for encouraging engagement. I suspect this will encourage more teamwork, and that is something we can all look forward to.

Social Networking That is Seamless with Reality

While I cannot say I am always pleased with some of the language and behavior I observe on my kids Facebook walls, I understand that it is real – an extension of how they would behave if there were no social networks. 

Think about this.  You don't meet with all of your friends every day.  Your engagement is sporadic and random.  This is what I'm noticing when my kids post – an abundance of interaction followed by periods of silence that may last for days.  

That is more real than weekly or daily postings at the same time.  It's not a routine, it's just part of their daily activities. The messaging is short – with misspellings and no apologies. In other words, it's not a broadcast – just a communication, complete with all of the imperfections that we accept in our daily lives. 

It's real.

Fearlessness and Practical Results 

When you are willing to behave on the social networks in a manner that is consistent with your regular activities, authenticity is automatic. I look at this and see fearlessness. Although, I suspect that is completely invisible to them.

Why?  Because they use the social networks to accomplish a purpose – one that may range from narrowing down the choice of a roommate (think business partner) or forming a group to sit together at a football game (think event).

In other words, just like you and me, they too are using social media to achieve practical results.  

You may be wondering what social media tools these kids are using.  Guess what?  They don't care about the tools because they are focused on results.  I've offered to upgrade Zak's 1st generation iPhone, but he says he's got what he needs.

It's not about the technology. It's about social.  While you and I enjoy the technology, this generation is too busy engaging to worry about it.

So, if you are a small business that is expecting your new hires to be social media savvy, you will not be disappointed. However, you may be surprised (and pleased) that they can accomplish a great deal with technology that you disposed of two years ago.

If you know the film Tin Cup, you understand you can adapt and accomplish a great deal with a rusty old shovel if you understand the objectives and have the skills for achieving them. 

I surveyed my kids to see if they knew anything about the Open Graph or social graphs.  Huh?

To that I came to the conclusion that you don't need to understand art theory to be a great artist.

You simply use your talents for a desired result.

In regards to the photo above, Ohio State's President Gee is known to drop into parties without notice – that's a guy that understands how to authentically engage with over 50,000 students.

Feel free to share this with your friends by clicking on the Facebook Like button below, leave a comment, or considering subscribing to the feed. 

Have a great weekend! –  Jeff 

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  1. Dr. Rich Rotfort says:

    Once again you’ve hit the nail on the head. Being from your generation, I still had some difficulty putting”social Networking” into perspective.
    Today’s post sure helped to give me a better understanding of the dynamics.
    Thanks again.

  2. Thanks Dr Rich – It’s difficult to capture it all in one article, but I believe we will be amazed at the impact that these kids will have on how we all do business. I don’t think we’ll be standing around asking “is this working” – the results will be obvious.