How Gen Y Learns About Companies

A guest post from Kistin Dziadul, a digital native.

When it comes to knowing the in’s and out’s of companies, products, or services, you can guarantee Generation Y consumers know it all! Those aged 9-29 are considered what is called a ‘Digital Native’, so they have grown up consuming technology and media via the Internet.

We don’t read the newspaper to find out about the latest headlines, we go online to AOL or the New York Times, or rely on our Google Reader to feed us that information directly to our desktop. We don’t turn on the radio as much anymore to hear music and news reports; we depend on our podcasts or online news broadcasts from local news stations. Also, teens are now tuning out of TV more and more and using online videos to access shows and movies. So how does this age group find out about and disseminate information about the marketplace? The answer lies in social networking sites.

Currently, Facebook has over 400 million users and counting, and it is only six years old! To us digital natives, it seems that Facebook has been around forever since we have thrived off of it since it’s inception. There are also 2.5 million Twitter users, and it is the fastest growing social networking site today. Also, YouTube surpassed 100 million viewers this year! These numbers show the vast amount of information sharing happening on the Internet, and lots of this information is being shared regarding buzz about companies.

Social searches and blogs are becoming huge outlets where Generation Y consumers are getting this information. Both Twitter and Facebook allow users to search for basically anything, from information on the recent Massachusetts elections to types of purses to buy. Blogs allow anyone to write a review of a company, experience, product, etc., good or bad. Blogs essentially act as a central hub of information where people can learn, discuss, and converse on any topic. One surprising statistic is that although Generation Y consumers use technology on a daily basis and consume over ten hours of it every day (through multi-tasking), they are not huge content creators.

These consumers are more likely to virally spread good and bad buzz about a company rather than create their own content. “A new study published today by Pew Internet finds that teens and young adults are blogging less and using social networking sites more, with the prominent exception of Twitter (Link: http://mashable.com/2010/02/03/teens-dont-tweet-or-blog/). The below chart shows the comparison of how many teens share versus create content online. Are you surprised?

The same study found that 93% of those aged 12-17 are online sharing content on a daily basis, versus only 38% of those 65 and older. These 12-17 year olds are also avid social networkers, connecting with friends daily, sharing videos and pictures, and using instant messaging. However, blogging is not popular for them, only 14% of them actually write blogs. “Teens love to be online, but they’re not terribly interested in writing blog posts or maintaining a stream of tweets. Creating content takes time and energy that they’d rather exert on Facebook, texting, YouTube, or other online activities” (Mashable- http://mashable.com).

So although Generation Y is not creating as much content, buzz, and other viral content, they sure are spreading it. They are quite likely to look up a review on a product before buying it, using Yelp to review a restaurant or movie theatre before going out on a date, or sending a Facebook message to a friend asking how they liked a past college professor.

In response to this, companies must be aware that these consumers are getting information through blog hubs, YouTube videos, social searches, etc. Companies who are likely to be talked about must also be on social sites, interacting and controlling the buzz surrounding their company. This is a great opportunity for PR firms since they can easily track what is being said, and respond much quicker than they could via a press release. I think social media provides organizations with great power to develop positive relationships with this age group, and excellent one-on-one conversations to get valuable feedback. Now the only issues is getting many of these companies that should be on social sites, to sign up.

What are your thoughts?

Kristin Dziadul, a recent college graduate, is a “digital native.”  She blogs daily about Gen Y activities and customs.  Her blog can be found on her website, http://kdmedianow.com

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