Monday, January 07, 2008

Social Networking making people money


Upon reading this article your reaction may well be something along the lines of "Well duuurrrr!" And yes, the very fact that you're reading a blog like this probably indicates that you are no Luddite and are in fact well aware of the potential of social networking for more than just flirting and trading insults.

But I'm pointing this article out anyway for 2 reasons.

First, it's really easy to get into all this social networking stuff and start to believe that everybody loves blogging and twitter and Facebook and so on, but in reality most people don't. Of those who are on Facebook or MySpace, the majority don't care about Scoble getting banned or how Twitter will eventually monetise it's offering. So when an article about social networking helping younger people make money hits the front page of msn.co.uk it's a big deal.

Second, the article should make you think about something damn important. Here's the most pertinent quote for you:

"This networked generation are using these sites to explore new levels of creativity and develop new ways of doing business online," the report says.

This is why it matters. Not everyone gets social networking yet. Many people will never 'get it' in fact. But their numbers (and power and influence) are dwindling. 18-24 year olds are where it's at (and I say this as a practically decrepit 26 year old). We're back to the old GenY conversation obviously. Creativity is their bread and butter and creativity is the new currency of business. Get creative or get out of the way.

Why not talk to the 18-24 year olds you know and ask them how they interact with social networks? You could learn a heck of a lot. At worst they may just inspire you. At best maybe they can teach you how to make money out of them?

8 comments:

Barbara Segal & Associates said...

Oh yes the Utopia years of ones life. However as a business owner my take on 18-24 creativity is HELLO what else can this age group take on to make a living (career wise) when they are still living off Mom and Dad. Spending all their money on Luxury Brands i.e. vodka, purses, phones, clothing and have incredible debt. I mean get real when you make 30,000.00 you are not rich. It is far easier for this group to sleep in, sponge off Mom or Dad, work on the computer and accept that corporate America does not hire tattooed, pierced, people with slang, vulgarity and pictures of them selves partying and kissing same sex friends. It is a reality check that what else can they do (18-26 yes you too) with their lives, when they have destructively exposed themselves on the Internet (Myspace ad Facebook) which sticks the same as their glorious tattoos.

James said...

Hi there!
Thanks for the comment, good to see someone new join the conversation; I love having new people to talk to!

You can probably guess that your take on it isn't something I agree with fully, although I think you raise a really valuable point. I’ll address what I see to be the two main thrusts of your comment one by one if that’s ok and see what you think.

First up, the assertion that this age group is mostly living off their parents and spending all their money on luxury items. I agree there are definitely some people for whom this is true. A lot of people are building up too much debt that is going to cause real pain for them in years to come. Credit is too easy to come by and shopping online can make it seem like you’re not spending real money even. However, I would argue that this isn’t a problem limited to 18-24 year olds. The ramifications of our increasing obsession as a society with ‘buy now – pay later’ spending could be drastic (and I’m applying this to the US as well as the UK, as in my experience the situations are pretty similar). However there is an argument to be made that if you’re going to do it at all, 18-24 is the age to go for it, as your ability to pay off what you splurge now is far greater. I’m not condoning people spending without thinking about the consequences, but I do think there’s a time to have fun, and when you’re younger you should get some leeway. (On the parents issue, I don’t have any evidence that this is the case really. Whilst some of the people I know have had to go to their folks for a loan or even a handout to make ends meet, buy a car, put a deposit on a house etc, I don’t know anyone who relies on them fully, or indeed would want to – I think young people are pretty keen on gaining some independence and making their own way in the world, or at least the ones I’ve come into contact with are at any rate).

On the other point this is where I think you’re on to something, although I think my opinion on it could be categorised as milder. With the ubiquity of the likes of Facebook and MySpace there is a danger that people are exposing too much of themselves for their own good. With the boundaries between work and play blurring some individuals are doubtless going to find that some party where they got really drunk and messed up (and the photographic evidence of such) is going to come back and bite them. You’re right as well that much of corporate America (and the UK) isn’t going to hire those people if they see evidence of this behaviour. In my primary field (recruitment) I already see HR people and recruitment consultants searching Facebook etc for job applicants just to check there’s nothing too incriminating on there. Some of those folks are going to be naturally inclined to avoid the beer-bong toting 21 year old no doubt. However, there’s two things I think it’s worth bearing in mind here.

First up, as long as we’re not talking about anything illegal, I think that younger people blowing off some steam (be it at college or just at the weekend when they’ve clocked off) isn’t a problem. The potential health issues aside, that familiar, often drink related, social scene doesn’t do people any real harm as long as they exercise some caution in it all (i.e. don’t do anything too stupid and always remember you’ll regret that haircut in the morning!) In terms of making sure it doesn’t affect your career, staying out of trouble with the law and making sure your Facebook privacy settings are set so that only people you’d want to see your photos can see them, should cover off most problems. (As an aside, partying and getting rowdy aren’t activities restricted to the young, so corporate execs should bear that in mind and think back to their own college days/stag parties/40th birthday shenanigans etc!)

Secondly, it’s worth bearing in mind that the world is changing rapidly. What’s bad for you today could well be forgotten tomorrow. In these changing times, when more and more of our lives are being lived online, this transparency could actually end up being younger people’s strongest suit. There’s a blog I read regularly called The Obvious, by Euan Semple. A comment on his blog expresses this better than I could, so I’ll quote that to illustrate my point:

And while online indiscretions may be a problem, among the upcoming generation those who have polished, indiscretion-free online personas will NOT be trusted because they not only have something to hide like everyone else, they are too good at doing it.

It’s a great point, well-made in my opinion. Whilst you’re right that some of the current incarnation of ‘corporate’ folk do have a problem with what you describe, the upcoming corporate leaders won’t. So not only will the younger generations be unhindered by their (sometimes) salacious pasts they may well be rewarded for their transparency. Add to that the fact that a number of younger people are dead set on redefining what corporate culture is anyway (and GenY are proving adept at getting what they want, when they want it, as you point out, so the evidence suggests they’ll achieve this aim too) the rules of the game could well be changing for good.

This has turned into a really long comment, so I’ll wrap it up here. I’d love to hear your thoughts in response though, either in the comments or feel free to drop me an email (james dot parr at omnirms dot com). If you’re interested in the topic more generally too then Penelope Trunk’s blog, Brazen Careerist (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/) is one to have a look at. She covers many of these issues and is well worth a read.

Thanks

James

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