Today, I wanted to discuss how different generations communicate. The more you understand how to reach people properly, the more successful you will be with responses. Imagine yourself as the receiver before you send messages. This discussion will wrap around new and traditional methods of communication and serve as a resource for you, prior to engaging in conversation or sending a message to another person.
There are 3 major age brackets: gen-y (also called millenials), gen-x & the baby boomers. Gen-y members are between the ages of 15 and 27, while gen-x is between 28-42 and the baby boomers are older than 42. There are 74 million people in gen-y, 49 million in gen-x and 77 million baby boomers.
- 37% of US adult internet users use social networks (projected at 50% in 2011) eMarketer
- 70% of US teen internet users use social networks (projected at 84% in 2011)
- 50%+ Facebook users are not students
- The majority of new Facebook members are people over 35
- 69% of US female gen-y’ers use Facebook eMarketer
- 56% of US male gen-y’ers use Facebook
- 98% more people in gen-x visited Facebook in the past few months. MarketingCharts.com
Gen-y Communication Protocol
I think it’s obvious at this point that gen-y is the most tech savvy group that communicates through fast paced messaging, with little detail and more visuals. They express themselves in a way that commands attention and want to be judged on more than just age.
- Facebook: Those of us that registered before Facebook opened up to the masses are still uncomfortable with the transparency and visibility to our professional contacts or colleagues. I’ve been Facebooked by 2 managers at my current company and a few at past ones. How can you not accept? Don’t you feel obligated, but at the same time nervous? This social network is being used in various ways and deep inside there are a few communication devices that stand out. The first is “the wall,” which is a place where gen-y’ers post “happy birthday” messages, or videos/images.They may talk about what they did on a Friday or Saturday night on their wall as well. The next method of communication is “private messages,” which still pass through our email accounts, but they are used to keep secrecy. Aside from the many applications, the third (brand new) vehicle is “Facebook Chat,” which launched to the world this week. It will take between 2-4 years for it to succeed and for other instant messaging sources to lose popularity.
- Instant Messaging: Employers, please don’t email gen-y’ers on our instant messaging devices, such as AIM. We use this specifically for communicating with friends and possibly people at work, depending on the company culture and the people we trust. Instant messaging works well for us because it’s fast paced communication and we can get our answers, ask our questions or show our personalities (emoticons) to everyone on our buddy lists. It’s also great for speaking with members of the opposite sex if you aren’t someone who enjoys the phone.
- Email: Gen-y’ers have to use email because we need to speak with the older generations and that is their preference. Also, we receive notifications from all our social networks through email, such as LinkedIn invites, Facebook group invites and direct tweet messages. I’m still a big fan of email and with the proper filters (Gmail is great), you can sort through your messages automatically and prioritize them with stars (Gmail option). Gen-y prefers and expects employers to contact them through email or phone for job offers, questions, consulting, etc.
- Blogging: If you are in gen-y and still don’t have a blog, here is a toolkit I made a while ago for you, which I will update soon. Gen-y is fine with any generation commenting or responding to a blog post. It works well because written content forms “talking points” with your community and in order to get a full perspective on each post, you want people in different generations to chime in.
Gen-x & The Baby Boomers Strike Back
They own the workplace right now, unless you are an entrepreneur. That being said, you need to be able to communicate with these groups and both of them have almost identical preferences. A lot of baby boomers don’t know what blogs are, and certainly not Twitter or Kite or UStream or even Ning. Due to the incredible placement of Facebook and blogs in the media, these generations are well aware of them, but maybe not so much what they can accomplish in the corporate world. They rely on gen-y to figure it out and gen-x to manage them.
- Phone: If you want to have a conversation with someone in these generations, just pick up a phone and call them. A phone is perfect if the person is in another building, state or country. If you can’t meet face-to-face, then setup a call, conference call (multiple people) or a live meeting using Webx or Microsoft Live Meeting software.
- Face time: If you want to succeed in the workplace as a gen-y’er, then you better get in front of the people with the political power to make change or at least middle management. Remember what I say: if you aren’t visible, you don’t exist. This works just as much with Google as it does in a work setting. Competitively, if others are being seen more than you, then they have a much better chance of getting promoted, even if they lack the experience or knowledge you have. It’s a vicious world out there, so make sure you get mentors in the company and force yourself into situations where people can identify you as noteworthy.
- Email: I’ve made the mistake of treating email like IM or Twitter in the workplace and I’m sure you have to if you’re in my generation. There is an expectation that management sets that you will send them an appropriate email fit to their preferences. If you are trying to be persuasive to get a point across, then include many details. You can’t send people 2 words or a single sentence and have them take you seriously. To them, it’s an insult.