Generations and Social Media

Dan Schwabel's "Me 2.0" book had me thinking on Gen X versus Gen Y use of Social Media.  Being a person that moves among different age groups pretty easy, I've been thinking over how people use social media differently.  Though I think there's a Gen X-versus-Gen Y difference (that is more a continuum), I've begun speculating that social media is useful in careers and life – but often misused.

Blatant biased opinion and analysis follows.

Among Gen Xers I encounter less use of social media, or more targeted use, and in some cases frustration with all this stuff coming out of nowhere.  Gen Xers, in general, don't seem to take social media as far as they can take it.  If anything, Xers I meet complain that social media is either A) overused by everyone BUT them, or B) too hard to keep up with.

Gen Yers seem much more confirtable with social media, but this has produced another issue – some of them see it as being purely social in the nonprofessional sense.  If Gen Y folks complain about social media, it seems to be that everyone is overusing it, and its hard to get anything professional out of it.

In other words, Gen Xers don't use Social Media as much as they could, and Gen Yers aren't realizing its full potential or leveraging it strategically.  One isn't used to it, one is perhaps too used to it.

I, crotchety but semi-hip Gen Xer that I am thinks that the best use lies somewhere in the middle.

I figure social media is good for establishing communications AND "presence" so you can communicate with people, be found, and define yourself.  The thing is there's various tools and elements of social media that are good at some things.  Facebook and MySpace are not the same as Shelfari, Email is not the same as making a Twitter, etc.  Social Media is important enough that for career OR your social life you need a strategy, but your strategy will be different from everyone elses in its specifics, and right now I think few people really have the answer.

My answer? Everyone need a social media sweet spot where time, use, and resources are maximized for their goals – and where you know social media ends and other forms of communication begin.

The problem is that being not used to social media makes it hard to use – and being up to your eyeballs in it thanks to hyperfast development makes it hard to step out of.  Outside of or buried in social media keeps you from using it effectively.

A few thoughts for people:
1) Using any one media for anything is probably disadvantageous – too many changes to get things conflated, and in some cases, embarass yourself.  Twitter is not a blog, a blog is not Facebook, Facebook is not Deviantart.
2) There is a time to NOT use social media – and talk on the phone, face-to-face, email, chat, etc.  This is going to be important – and vary from people to people.  You need a NON-Social media strategy.
3) The longer one goes without a strategy the more there is to change when you finally have to make one – and you may be out of the loop.
4) Social Media is NOT going away – it should be considered a common utility like phones, cars, wikipedia, etc.  Might as well get used to it and learn to treat it as other important tools.
5) Using social media will involve a continumn of what tools you use for what purpose – understand how that works into your life both in what you use a tool for and how much you want it connected to the rest of your life.  If your Twitter is for chat, it's not something to emphasize in your business profile.  If you use to post fanart, its not something you necessarily want to connect to on Facebook where everyone can see it.

For careers:
1) Social media is rapidly becoming a way to find jobs as well as build online identity.  You're going to need to plan how you use it and how you portray yourself.
2) The title "Social Media Expert" is being overused, often by people not qualified for it (I know actual Social Media Experts, and I find their either educators or strategists).  You  may want to use a different title if you're really trying to be an esxpert.
3) Learn about specialist sites that fit your careers and interests – and there are an insane amount of specialist sites out there.  Your answer for social media usage may not be in the most common tools.
4) Social Media use IS a skill.  It may be worth listing on a resume.
5) Companies will have to have social media strategies.  Even if you aren't involved, you'll want to know enough from your own experience to understand what they're doing.

As always let me mention my holy-trinity-plus-one of necessary social media – FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a personal page.  In fact at this rate I think I'll just have to call them the Social Media Four because they're all important the more I think of it.

Finally, there will be endless change for many years – Social Media is becoming a norm, but there's a lot of churn right now, and I think there will be for at least 3 more years – and maybe a decade.  Stay on top of it and stay Strategic.

– Steven Savage