I attended a Social Media event this week, sponsored by SMC Seattle – the Seattle branch of Social Media Club, a national organization with the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media. These monthly meetings are a great way to network and learn what other people are doing in social media, and, since I’ve attended for roughly 2 years, they also let me observe some things about social media’s evolution in the Seattle business culture. Here are some observations that I think are worth sharing from last week’s meeting.
- Age diversity. Meetings are sold out every month, at ever-larger venues. Yet this crowd was not only larger, but noticeably more diverse. Social Media enthusiasts are no longer just 20-somethings, which I assume means employers no longer think you have to be under 30 to ‘get’ the new media. This gathering featured an 85+ year-old cane-toting man, lots of recent college grads, and an even spread of every age in-between.
- A new demographic. The speaker, Kathy Savitt, CEO of Lockerz, cited numerous statistics and survey results to describe “GenZ” – the generation of people born since 1990, who’ve never known life without the Web. Statistics on this age group paint a picture of a generation addicted to mobile devices and social media, while marketers are busy figuring out how to sell to the new, always-connected consumer. Some of the speaker’s observations:
GenZ is highly friend centric. It’s no surprise to learn that peer recommendations and social media sharing are the single biggest source of brand exposure and purchase influence for this age group.
GenZ are “curators,” meaning they operate by curating their knowledge and content from multiple sources, not one trusted source. This makes it more difficult for marketers to establish brand loyalty, and requires that B2C companies reach out through as many social channels as possible.
- Lifestyle impacts. With the novelty of social media wearing off, there is more discussion of its impact on day-to-day life. Conversations included fun tidbits like stories of ‘when I lost my cell phone’ and ‘most original tweets I’ve seen,’ while more serious topics included the negative impacts of social media on teen motivation and attention, and the feelings of isolation generated by social media over-use. All are signs of social media being firmly planted in the mainstream, with the next focus on how best to integrate it into our shared culture.
- Part of my regular job. Two years ago, most attendees identified themselves as social media experts, hired by their employer to ‘do’ social media. Companies didn’t know what to make of the new fad back then and needed an expert to help them figure it out. This time, everyone I talked to described social media as just ‘part of my job’. Not one business card I collected even mentioned Social Media. It’s become ubiquitous enough to be taken for granted.
- Not cool, just practical. While social media experts carried a certain panache and cool factor just a short while ago, discussions at this event carried more of a bottom-line theme. How can I track my ROI? What is a Facebook follower actually worth to my business? How can I integrate social media with the rest of my marketing tactics? How can I best target my audience demographic through social media? To claim coolness today, you need to prove it with quantifiable ROI.
What observations have you made about social media’s evolution in your region?