The influence that Facebook and social networking is having on society is astounding.  The speed with which it has happened is even more astounding.  The impact this is having on businesses is seismic even though many businesses have yet to realize it. 

There is an almost unbridgeable gap appearing between the analogue generation and the digital super generation.  Those that have grown up with the Internet always in their lives are operating on a completely different basis than those that did not.  Even the most digital savvy thirty-somethings have had to adapt to it through learnt behaviour, whereas for today’s kids it is completely intuitive.  Give a 3 year old a smart phone and they will happily be navigating around it within minutes.  Scientific studies are being published showing how our brains are evolving and re-wiring as a result of multi-tasking and the impact of the digital era.

Whether a parent or employer, you are probably disturbed by a trend in the decline in written language skills, in the dumbing down of information into bite size chunks.  You may have found yourself bemused by an eighteen year olds ability to do six things at the same time.  You are possibly concerned about an apparent lack of “deep thinking” going on, but good or bad, these trends are real and we have to accept that they are changing the face of our society and businesses need to urgently evaluate the impact of this and adapt their processes and business plans in response. 

The digital super generation live through their “devices”; Richard Watson, author of Future Minds calls them “screenagers”.  Organizations need to have relationships with this generation in some capacity whether they are employing them or selling to them.  This means organisations need to be where they are and they need to start thinking like them. 

Even those born in the analogue age have adapted their behaviours and old-style marketing tactics are becoming less effective..  Gone are the days of pushing products and services on customers, replaced now by an environment where marketers need to earn people’s interest instead of buying it. 

Study after study has shown that consumers trust their friends and peers more than anyone else when it comes to making a purchasing decision and in this connected world soliciting recommendations has become very easy.  A recent Neilsen study showed that when it comes to buying decisions, 85 percent of youths rely on peer approvals.  It follows that organisations need to start gaining that approval and tapping into the tribal behaviour of Generation C (teens and 20 something’s) by giving them something valuable and relevant for them to talk about, that gives them status and makes them extremely valuable ambassadors.

This article was originally published in Kensington & Chelsea Today on 10 December 2011.


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