Here are three logos you have never seen this close to each other: MySpace, the World Economic Forum in Davos, and The Wall Street Journal. They’re teaming up in a classic case of “old school” meeting “new school” for an initiative to bring a young person to the Davos forum (the contest is on MySpace and ends January 16, 2009).
As someone following generational demographic trends in the United States, I am here to tell you that your web strategy will be global, forward-thinking, and fair, transparent, and values-oriented if you are going to maintain your website and internet presence into the coming decade and beyond.
John Zogby, the pollster, in his book “The Way We’ll Be” says that First Globals, which are broadly defined as those currently aged 18-29, are, “for all practical purposes, the first color-blind Americans and the first to bring a consistently global perspective to everything from farm policy to environmental issues to the coffee they buy, the music they listen to, and the clothes they wear.” They no longer identify themselves as solely American and they bring “a consistently global perspective to everything.”
Are you reaching these young people with your message? Are you identifying what they seek, and are you creating your business around that? These young people today are our future consumers, producers, thinkers, doers, visionaries, and leaders.
They will not respond well to the “hard sell.”
They will not respond well to being told what to do.
They will not respond to tackiness, hoarding, and selfishness.
They will respond to their peers’ recommendations.
They will respond to consistent branding that is genuine and retains integrity.
They will respond to honesty, generosity, and egalitarian principles.
As a twenty-something in the last decade of the 20th century, my generation, Generation X, was one of the first to embrace the transition to the internet age: in 1999 I embarked on a multi-continent voyage with my laptop, Sony Mavica digital camera, and a bunch of floppy disks for an educational website called The Odyssey World Trek for Service and Education worldtrek.org. It was my first attempt at what we call “blogging” today: my teammates and I met with grassroots organizations, teachers, students, and community-based organizations around the world and posted articles, chats, interviews, and postings.
Now, ten years later, I am reconnecting with many of the activists and youth that I met years ago… and I’m finding them through Facebook!
People who were interested in world peace, conflict resolution, education and justice back in the 1990s are still interested in these topics, and we are all now more experienced, better connected, and we have even greater clarity about what we want our world to look like in the future.
How does your business fit in to this? Your internet presence determines how you participate and engage with this cosmopolitan, global community. Your website shares the message about what you stand for and why others choose to work with you.
If you don’t yet have a way to share your products and services online, this year is the year to get your website, blog, video series, or Facebook application up.
Here are my top 5 reasons why I think social networking will save the world:
1) Lightning fast mobilization. Some in government are concerned about the extreme response times within Twitter.com and its potential for terrorist usage. I say that the quick response time is a good thing: technology is moving at the normal operational speed of people in our digital age. I first tuned into Twitter during the San Diego wildfires in October 2007 because nothing else was fast enough, the cell phone lines were jamming, all radio was on reserve for emergency personnel, and the San Diego news websites were crashing. Twitter was the only reason I could tell that my parents’ neighborhood was safe.
2) The sharing effect. In social networking circles, a good idea gets re-tweeted, re-posted, commented on, and shared. When relationships are built around these types of ideas, we will see even better “filtering” and even more effective ways to reach more people. The days of mass advertising buys on television will be gone. Soon most dollars will move to the effective, niche circles of people interested in a particular issue, product, or service.
3) Connecting asynchronously. Conversations may be continued with breaks across time zones and for sleep, meals, and more in-depth thinking. With forum software, the Facebook “Wall”, e-mail threads within groups, and other non-time-specific tools, we can learn more, share more and have less time dependencies. Responses are available to any subsequent visitors, and we all have more ability to craft appropriate and valuable responses. I use forum software and LinkedIn to answer many of my specific questions: consider how fortunate we are to be able to learn from knowledge around the world.
4) Connecting online leads to connecting in person. Jeremiah Owyang, a web strategist in Silicon Valey, points out that in his informal survey, about half of those recently laid off found new jobs “through referrals of friends, colleagues, alumni, and family”. He organized a “tweetup” of people last month that brought out about 200 individuals. We are social beings: we thrive on interacting with each other. Online introductions can lead to fulfilling in-person connections. Our social network helps smooth a path to very tangible benefits like jobs, busines opportunities, and notifications.
5) Social Networking goes beyond geospecific thinking. With less of an emphasis on country boundaries, more people will become connected online through other similarities, beyond just their nationality or country of origin. They will actively seek out their “tribe.”
According to founder Mark Zuckerberg (January 7, 2009): “150 million people around the world are now actively using Facebook and almost half of them are using Facebook every day. This includes people in every continentâ€”even Antarctica. If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populated in the world, just ahead of Japan, Russia and Nigeria. Facebook is used in more than 35 different languages and 170 countries and territories.”
According to Mashable/Compete (January 9, 2009): “the growth rate for Twitter was 752%, for a total of 4.43 million unique visitors in December 2008. In the start of 2008, Twitter had only around 500,000 unique monthly visitors.”
Are you holding out on your social networking account? I’m positive the phenomenon will continue: many young people start on their Facebook network in high school, build it up through college and increase it during their first early jobs. They work so hard on creating their network, they will keep tight to that circle of friends.
If you’re a professional, you own a business, or you’re considering starting an online business, it is imperative that you plan for social networking as a part of your overall strategy.
Monica S. Flores is the author of â€œFifty-one Ways to Build Your Community of Clients Online,â€ 240 pages of tips on building your community-based website. It’s available as a trade paperback at Amazon.com or download the PDF format for $12.99. Save $5 with the discount code WomenonBusiness here