I’m a twenty-something, the definition of gen-y. My generation is a strange one, especially when it comes to technology. When I was a kid, most of my friends’ families had a home computer. The Internet, however, was still a fringe system, something most people had never heard of.
I did run a BBS when I got a bit older (a “BBS” or “Bulletin Board System”, was basically the first public version of the internet back in those days), but even that was pretty unheard of for most non-geeks. I loved my Nintendo, yet the idea of playing a game online with someone else had never even occurred to me. My social network essentially consisted of my two best friends and I had memorized their phone numbers by the time I hit second grade. Oh, and for the record, I didn’t need an “area code” to call them back then.
My first cell phone found its way into my life in the late 90s – though, admittedly, it wasn’t good for much except phone calls. When I was 10 I got my first Walkman (to go with my brand new cassette tape collection). I upgraded to CDs by 15, and my first MP3 player followed soon after.
Coming Of Age
Fast forward to today. As I write this article, my phone has taken over as my primary source of music, gaming, news, and even movies. By lunch, I’ll have used it to check my stock portfolio twice, keep an eye on the weather forecast for this weekend, and shop for a new pair of hiking boots, too. The ubiquity of digital devices and our constant contact through social and mobile are as routine as flipping on the TV to me.
Fortunately, the fact that I was there as all of this came into being, that I watched and experienced first hand as websites, social networks, online gaming and mobile came to be what they are today, gives me a really unique point of view. I’m a social media marketer, and I’m also a social consumer. I make my living by helping brands sell their products to people like me.
It’s crucial for me to understand how people in my generation, and even those younger than me (the Millennial crowd), engage with brands and products in a social context.
I’m fortunate that I can look to myself for insight. Over the last few years I’ve gained some hopefully helpful knowledge on what works and what doesn’t.
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Over the next few weeks I’ll do my best to give a frank, detailed breakdown of what I’ve learned after looking at myself from the outside-in, as a consumer, and from my peers.
In part 1, I’ll explore one of the most basic requirements for effectively marketing to the social-mobile customer: a great website. As a group, we buy a lot online and regardless of whether you’re an e-commerce retailer, brick-and-mortar business or some combination of both, a visually striking, clear and easy to use website is crucial. Tying the website and its themes to the social grid is equally important, but it must be done (as in all things) with the customer in mind.
As an example, if I’m interested in those hiking boots I mentioned before, one of the first places I’ll look is on a website that sells them. I’m looking for information, and I value the opinions of my friends and family on my potential purchase. If I get plenty of info on the boots but I can’t share with my social network and ask for feedback, the experience isn’t satisfying my needs. At the same time, if the site encourages me to share, share and share again, but I can’t see the different color options and multiple views of the boots, I’m not pulling out my wallet. There’s a balance, and it’s key to pulling in customers in my generation. And, since my cellphone has become equally important to air and water in my life, having a mobile-optimized website is essential.
My generation will buy from and become a loyal consumer of brands that do it right. At the same time, brands that try too hard (or not hard enough) can just as easily push us away. For many brands, social-mobile customers aren’t a small segment, they are the key segment and for others, we are the segment of the future. Neglecting or rejecting us can be the kiss of death for any brand.
Fortunately, the most effective methods of social product promotion are also the simplest to implement. By approaching the social-mobile customer with a mind for how they discover, explore and purchase products, brands can more effectively bridge the gap between social engagement and a real return on investments.
I look forward to your thoughts!