Posts Tagged ‘social media’
Yesterday, waiting for my lunch appointment to arrive, I watched a young man behind the counter texting to a friend between customers. My first reaction was dismay. Shortly after, I realized it is his generation who will be teaching our generation about customer relationships. A little scary? Maybe.
It only seems scary because we’re used to an older generation assuming the mentor role in work environments. Traditionally, it’s the high-seniority professionals showing the younger, less experienced mentees the ropes.
However, if you’re of the Baby Boom Generation, you’ve probably noticed a reverse mentoring trend happening in the workplace. It’s essentially Gen Y (also known as Millennials) mentoring the well-established, more experienced workforce, as opposed to the other way around. The trend is most noticeable in professional fields where technology is an integral part of the work environment.
What Gen Y is telling us
Although no one seems to agree exactly where Gen Y starts and stops (late 1970s – late 1990s), it is a fact that it is the largest generation (approximately 80 million) to hit the American market since the Baby Boomers.
Gen Y are digital natives, meaning digital technology already existed when they were born. They can easily multi-task between searching the Internet, listening to music on their MP3, texting on their mobile phone, while TV is playing in the background.
Growing up amid a high-speed bombardment of information has produced a generation with short attention spans, no doubt. But, it has also produced a sharp generation who understand how to effectively market themselves and products using social networks.
Why Boomers should listen
Because of the emerging influence of Gen Y, it’s important we understand how they’re different in order to monetize marketing strategies in a Web 2.0 environment. When marketing to them, remember that:
- Mobile phones are like an extension of their arm
- They don’t care about ads, but what their friends think
- Television is background noise; Internet TV is better
- Social media networks equal relationship building
- They expect work tools to mirror Web tools
- They value work-life balance; flex-time, an ability to work from anywhere in a “fun” work environment; a need to “buy in” to an idea (aka “Generation Why?”)
An environment where everyone wins
If we can embrace the concept of reverse mentoring, and recognize the positive changes Gen Y brings to business, everyone can benefit. Boomers can learn from Gen Y’s ability to adapt quickly to changing work environments, and at how easily they give and receive feedback. Having grown up during the Enron era, they are skeptical about concepts such as company loyalty, and appear to have an almost built in expectation of company layoffs.
Wildflowers are at their peak in late summer in Ohio. As I walk along the trails near my home, I wonder if the wildflowers I consider to be beautiful are thought of as weeds to others passing by.
This difference in perception reminds me of a story a friend talked about recently involving his experience with a company.
Prior to losing his job, he worked at only a handful of other companies during his 40 years in business. He last job-hunted when resumes were sent by mail or hand-delivered. He never considered the idea of building a positive, one-on-one relationship with a company to be outdated.
A recent telephone interview he had with a corporate recruiter ended with her comment, “I will call you with the result, either way.” After some time passed without hearing anything, my friend tried various ways to contact her. Since he didn’t have her direct phone number, he decided to call the company’s main number. He asked to speak with the recruiter and was told, “We do not forward calls to the HR department from people applying for work. She will call you back if more information is needed.”
Imagine a customer service representative from your company telling a prospective client: “Don’t call us; we’ll call you if we need you.”
It’s understandable with the number of unemployed workers these days, that companies use online means to filter candidates. And, granted, most job candidates understand the new rules (if your follow up e-mails are ignored long enough you’ll eventually take the hint). However, when your company does get that occasional call or person stopping by, wouldn’t you want to leave them (a potential customer) with a better impression? How did this company brand itself with my friend? Not only was he put off by this experience, he told everyone he knows.
Social media is all about building customer relationships and is the digital equivalent of word of mouth. We’ve seen how it can enhance a company’s brand or just as easily create a public relations nightmare. We all know bad news travels fast. We also know that word of mouth is now real-time information spread via social media channels. It is a steeper slope to reverse public perception of a company branded as a weed.
In short, anyone who calls on your business is a potential customer, and should be thought of as a relationship opportunity, not a problem.
This concept brings to mind a similar blog post by Seth Godin entitled “All I do is work here.” Employees don’t often see themselves as branding the company’s image to passersby. It’s easier for an employee to claim, “I just get a paycheck …” than to take any real responsibility for protecting their company’s brand.
As Seth so aptly put it, “You don’t just represent them, you ARE them.”
Considering the power of social media tools and the transparency of business these days, how do you want virtual passersby to brand your company — as a wildflower, or a weed?