Are We Engaging Gen Y or Stalking Them Blindly?

The first actual conference session I went to Thursday was titled “Using Social Media to Engage Digital Natives”. Now, the idea of engaging young adults with technology that speaks to them is something I think about every day. Still, I was interested to hear about how other companies were using new media tools to reach out to other audiences.

A quick review of some vocab that we used in this, and other, conversations:
Digital native: person who grew up with technology and have very low adaptation curve to new media tools.
Digital Immigrants: Those who grew up with pen & paper and have to adapt to a digital world
Social Network: Peer-to-peer networking sites
Blog: Reverse diary for both personal and commercial use

By the end of the hour-long seminar, I was a little disheartened about what I think other (older) people took away from it:

Today’s seminar is all about (unofficially) “You, too, can stalk and find Gen Y on Facebook and start marketing to them, and it’ll probably work.” Totally hurting my newfound efforts to dispel that notion to marketers that Gen Y is only on Facebook.

Where’s the research that says that less than half of FB’s 65 million active users are actually college students? I know it’s there, because I just found it and put it into our own presentation. How about: only 15% of social media initiatives set forward are deemed successful? Hello WalMart, Pepsi, McCareers and Second Life.

Sure, the case studies that were presented were pretty effective and what most people would consider “successful”, but what about the “Best of Everything” YouTube video that has only gained 2,000 hits in three months – in a city with 1.7 million people?? Successful? Effective?

The social media discussions this week are terrific, and yes, I realize that is the point of the entire conference, but I think it’s important to also stress this is a part of the whole, not the “AHA” perfect solution.

I’m glad that our speaker did add, later, that their social media outreach to college students via Facebook was only part of their larger PR plan that still integrated traditional outreach methods, including pounding the pavement, sending out releases, etc. Web 2.0 is not THE answer, it is a part of an integrated approach to marketing, PR and communications.

Like David Pogue said at the keynote this morning (hilarious, btw), the new technologies are not replacing the old – rather the mainstream channels are splintering into more and more pieces. There’s just more ways for communicators to spread the messages, more channels to pay attention to, more to contribute (but we’re still getting paid the same, unless you’re a Hollywood writer).

I want to hear some success stories about using social media as a part of a larger PR initiative. Do you have one? Leave it, or other thoughts, below.

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One thought on “Are We Engaging Gen Y or Stalking Them Blindly?

  1. I completely agree with the stalking Gen Y assessment. It has become a holy grail of sorts, add in a dash of irrational exuberance, and you have some pretty amusing rhetoric.

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