The Baby Boomer, Gen Y communications gap and social media … the solution or the problem?

I got up this morning at 4:30am – and as I do every morning, I attacked my “1st thing To Do in the morning task.”  Today it was clean out the people I follow on Twitter.  I was getting to the point where I couldn’t even delve into the links because there was too much stuff – stuff I had no room in my brain for.

One thing I found myself doing today was taking a look at the age demographics of the people I followed.  I’m a generational analysis freak, so I got off on this.  Out of the 100 or so people I follow, I found that they were pretty much equally distributed after taking out my industry related stuff.  I have about the same amount of Baby Boomers, Generation X and Gen Y tweeters.  As a reference point:  I’m fifty-one, on the cusp of the Boomers and Gen X.

This got me thinking:  Is this a normal distribution?  After looking into who the people who I followed, I looked to who they followed.  I surmised that I wasn’t the norm.  Humans have a tendency to gravitate towards comfort.  And comfort normally lies with those of similar age.  My observations backed this up.

Now this bring us to this post.

As we all know, the mechanics of communication and socialization have changed greatly with the advent of social media.  God, Facebook has 500 million members, Twitter has almost 100 million and LinkedIn has 80 million.  Countless people all over the world spend countless hours tweeting, following, connecting and friending.

The generation gap

Social media has been touted as bringing the world together – connecting people from disparate cultures and enabling them to get to know each other.  But how much “bringing together” is actually actually going on.  From a geographic sense, sure.  But other than that … is social media bridging a communication gap – or is it creating one.

As I mentioned above, according to my informal research, people are spending more time with others in their own age group due to the time they spend on social media sites.  In “the old days,” we made contact with people of all ages because … well, because we just physically ran into them.  When we were teenagers, if we went to our friends’ houses – we saw and talked to their parents.  With no social media, any contact we would have would have to be either on the phone (normally limited because of only having one house phone) or in person.  If you didn’t get out in the real world, you didn’t socialize.  Remember the term “homebody?”

Seldom do the younger people have contact with the people my age, and vice versa.  On the surface this might not seem like a big deal.  There’s always been generation gaps.  But never has there been an opportunity like this with the ubiquity of social media and the connection and communication possibilities it brings.

And not only are we not taking advantage of it … we’re using it to our disadvantage.

The young need mentoring.  They need to hear stories about what happens if they do stupid things.  The need to know that life is not a straight line, but rather a series of ups and downs and cycles.  And the Baby Boomers like me need the nieve optimism that we once had but has now been replaced by risk aversion.  We need the energy.  We need to know that we may be 50 or 60, but we sure as hell don’t have to feel and act like that.  Satchel Paige once posed the question, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

I participate in four social media venues:  LinkedIn, Facebook, Brazen Careerists and Twitter.  Let me tell you how I see these four shaking out from a generational perspective.

  1. LinkedIn: As my twenty year old daughter says – LinkedIn is Facebook for old people.  That kind says it all.  Since it’s broken down primarily by professions, I associate with those within profession, digital printing and database marketing.  I would guess the average age is just about my age or maybe a year or two older, within little age diversity.  I also belong to a social media group.  Average here is about fifteen to twenty years younger – and again with little generational crossover.  In summary … I talk to people may age.
  2. Facebook: I don’t really spend much time here.  My only contacts are mainly those people I went to high school with – my age.  And because of the requirement to approve any “friends,” you circle is probably pretty closed and limited to your real world friends.   Any chance meeting with somebody of another age group is small.
  3. Brazen Careerists: This is a site populated mainly by Gen Yers.  Most of them are go getters and I joined to get the “younger” perspective on things.  A lot of the conversation centers around careers (thus the name) and how to move ahead.  My question is, how can a bunch of twenty somethings give career advice when they’re in the middle of the process themselves.  There’s a resume forum which drives me crazy.  “Employers don’t hire resumes … they hire people.”  I know this may sound trite but the focus should be on making contact with those people in the hiring positions (not human resources).  And these people are my age, 50+, or at the least Gen Xers in their late 30s and 40s.
  4. Twitter: This is my favorite – and until this morning I really didn’t know why.  Now I do.  I can follow and listen to whoever I want to.  And anybody can follow me and listen to what I say.  There are blocking features, but who actually uses them.  As I said at the beginning of this post, my Twittering is “equal opportunity across all age groups.”  I like this.

As you can see, with the exception of Twitter, social media (at least the ones I use) restricts intellectual diversity as much if not more than they accommodate it.

OK, enough of the problem.  Let’s fix the game. Together we can all find a phone booth and put on our capes.  Here’s my solution on using social media to bridge the gap.

First for us old people.

  1. Get on Twitter.  Forage around and open your mind to things that you wouldn’t normally.  Follow young people.  Especially for motivation.  Start with @marsdorian and @jennifer_good.  If you can’t make it happen after reading their stuff – go back to bed and start over.  If you find somebody you like, see who they’re following and get their inspiration from.  Try to follow people across the age spectrum equally.
  2. For all you LinkedIn and Facebook people and followers of other permission based sites:  Find people in the real world and on Twitter and invite them to be your friend and /or connection.  Now I’m talking about people of other generations.  Because of the viral nature of social media, people you bring into your circle will automatically be exposed to your existing group and your existing group to them – and your efforts will be leveraged.
  3. This isn’t really a social media thing but I’m including it anyway.  Listen to music outside your comfort zone, i.e. the stuff the kids are listening too.  “It’s the best way to bridge the communication chasm.”

Now to all you Gen Yers, yes Alexandria – you too … you’re not off the hook.  You have to meet us half way.

  1. Join LinkedIn.  Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  Maybe if you expose some “parent types” to your rambling  machinations, you’ll clean things up a bit.  Just maybe. The more the “old people” (the people who will make your career) are exposed to you the more opportunities you will have.
  2. Get on Twitter.  Again Facebook is not the “be all end all.”  See above for my reasons.
  3. And finally … phones still work.  You can still text your friends till your fingers fall off, but don’t let your vocal skill set totally petrify.  Us “old people” still use the phone.  And at last notice, I don’t think texting has evolved into an mainstream interview tool.

I don’t know much protection these suggestions are going to have against the kryptonite of the social media segregation … but it’s better than just continuing down the road of the status quo.

Enough of my ramblings … I have to get back to Eminem.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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10,000 hours … or is it 10,000 tweets?

I guess this is Malcolm Gladwell day.  My post this morning was on his 120 Rule.  Now this one references the key point in his book, “The Outliers.”

Malcom Gradwell

For those of you who haven’t read “Outliers,” which is probably not many of you, a central premise of the book was that to be an expert at something you had to put 10,000 hours into something.  He cited Bill Gates, Michael Jordan and others.

But how does that equate to social media and specifically Twitter.  As we all know, Twitter is just a bunch of text messages, 140 characters at most, organized and available to who wishes to expose themselves to that litany of literary overwhelm.

Aside from the character restriction, Twitter is pretty much an open content platform.  You can say whatever you want.  That could be announcing a blog post, announcing your breakfast of choice, retweeting one of your follower’s breakfast of choice … and so on.  Some people even use it as a “not so private” communication vehicle.

I’ve followed, unfollowed and re-followed various tweeters over the past few months.  I feel pretty good about what’s coming my way right now.  Maybe there’s some stuff I can live without, and some stuff I like to know about, but haven’t been exposed to yet.  That”ll come.

Tweeting is a skill … an art.  It’s one thing to write down what you want to say in 500 words and get your point across.  It’s something completely else to do it in 140 character bursts interrupted by any one of your several hundred followers at the time when you’re just making your point.  And no I’m not this person. I don’t have several hundred followers.  Even the new math of the ’80s won’t stretch my sixty-five that much.

This brings us to Malcolm and Ben.  Ben is my daughter, Alex’s roommate and my friend.  He’s a video game aficionado, and in fact works for a gaming company and is currently developing his own game.

Ben tweets probably twenty times a day.  Normally, there’s no way I’d follow somebody that tweet prolific.  But Ben is different.  He has a Twitter Tribe of 300 to 400 followers.  Many, if not most, follow everything thing he says, whether it’s gaming or his fragmented and enlightening discourse on current events.

For the most part, his tweets are a sequential interactive dialogue on various topics.  This dialogue may continue on for an entire day or even more;  for example, the Mosque on the 911 site (or two blocks down to be exact) is still going on days into it.  His commentary is witty and thought-provoking.  Seldom does he retweet, and when he does, often it reinforces his point on the original topic.  Ben has refined his Twitter technique through practice and lots of it.

Now, I’m going to add an amendment to the Gladwell “10,000 hour constitution.”  I’ll call it the Twitter Amendment.  If one tweets 10,000 times … they are an expert!

Ben, congratulations on your 10,000th tweet.  You are an expert!

P.S.  Ben is @MarcianTobay on Twitter.

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I can be reached on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Gladwell’s 150 rule … how does it apply to social media?

In his 2000 book, “The Tipping Point,” renown author, Malcolm Gladwell, cited the example of a manufacturing firm on the East Coast and its adherence to relationship building and numbers.  This firm determined that having more than a certain amount of people in one building or facility would actually prove detrimental to building teamwork and camaraderie.  In other words … the employees wouldn’t get to know everybody and they would form cliques instead.

The magic Tipping Point number

Their magic number was 150.  Up to this point everybody, more or less, would exist like a large extended “work family.”  Any more contacts than that was beyond the normal person’s ability to maintain let alone nurture.  Once they got to 150 in one building (due to expansion), they would split that facility’s workforce and build another building.  They had done this several times and Gladwell was amazed at the teamwork throughout the company.

Further research by Gladwell found that this wasn’t an isolated example.  It was a sociological phenomenon across many disciplines.

I noticed the same situation when I was recruiting.  I may have had a database of over 6000 candidates … but really only communicated regularly with only about 100 to 150 of them.  I actually flagged these as “preferred.”  This was in the nineties well before the “Tipping Point.”  Some faded away over time, but others took their place in the regular call rotation.  However, the number of my core group stayed about the same, 100 to 150.  When I tried expand the number – my rapport with the core suffered.

Now, this brings us to social media.  If you look at the numbers;  Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers – you’ll see numbers well into the hundreds if not thousands for some people.  The question is, “Is having this number so high beneficial or detrimental?”  Social media is not like working in a company or having real life contacts though.  The difference is how many of these people are active in your life.  How many make comments, tweet your stuff, receive your replies, etc.  And how many are wallflowers – just out there to unilaterally receive whatever you choose to send them.

I suppose a person’s social media “group” is pretty much like my recruiting candidate database.  A certain amount will be your “core group,” those that will be a regular part of your life.  And the rest will be … well, just will be there – being just a number.

What can we learn from this.  Everybody’s situation is different … but is it really?  We use social media to make and further relationships (for the most part).  These relationship are professional, personal or in some cases just conduits for information.  But they are still relationships that involve time and attention.

Maybe we should look at our social media strategy first in terms of numbers.  And maybe that number is 150.

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Why are we doing it … social media that is?

It wasn’t till about five months ago I really stated getting into social media.  Up to that point I had a Facebook account but there was nothing in it, not even a photo of myself.  I had a Twitter account but I really didn’t what it was for and I was scared to tweet.  I didn’t even what LinkedIN was.

I had a blog … and had written a few posts over the previous year, but my efforts were so inconsistent and posting sporadic that I really couldn’t be considered a blogger.  Getting out a post was like “giving birth” for me (if I can imagine, being a male, what that’s like).

But then in March of this year I decided, “I’m going to get on this social media bandwagon.”  “I’m going to grow fur – and like the rest of the lemmings, trudge to to the cliff … and jump.

I spent countless hours on the internet researching – researching every social media media site imaginable.  I researched SEO;  of course if I’m going to do this then people better sure as hell see what I’m doing and listen to what I’m saying.  Views, subscribers, trackbacks – give me all of them!  I read about how to write a headline that Google will read, that people will read, on … and so on.

Facebook logo

After about two months of research, I had digested about enough “social media calories,” I could have weighed 300 pounds (vs. my current 160).  I was knowledgable and had my strategy.  Twitter was going to be my hub.  My blog, “On the road to your Perfect World,” and company web site for the bleedingEDGE were going to tangent off of my Twitter page.  LinkedIN and Facebook would be synced to Twitter so my tweets were also visible on those two vehicles.  I was on it and ready to go.

One thing I hadn’t done however, was ask the question why.  Why had I done this.  Why was I going to spend two hours a day writing content and obsessing over how people hit my plethora of exposure sites?

Well my company, the bleedingEDGE, was just launching.  Visibility would be a good thing, but visible to who and for what purpose.  My market is essentially a select group of digital printers who can produce and go out and sell my database marketing products to their clients.  I know who they are and I can pick up the phone and call them.  If they need information – I can send it to them or direct them to my website.

Well if not visibility, then maybe I was out after credibility.  If my business targets say knew that I knew the problems, had the solutions and could articulate them … then this would work to my benefit.  Problem being, the vast majority of my posts (either on Twitter or in my blog) were and continue to have nothing to do with the bleedingEDGE or database marketing.  My most read post compares Lady Gaga and heroes of Normandy Beach.  What’s that got to do with anything!

I supposed that if one of my prospective business partners reads my stuff and that creates a common bond … then that’s good.  If some of our interests and beliefs coincide then that should make the partnership stronger and more likely to last.

There’s always the possibility of meeting somebody and developing a collaboration on something completely unrelated to the bleedingEDGE.  This actually is a bona-fide reason.

But you knows something, when it all comes down to it … I like doing it.  I like writing.  I like developing contacts and having them become more than that.  I like the ability to delve into realms of others’ lives via Twitter, others that I would not know existed, let alone look forward to what they have to say in the morning.

We can all say we have noble, professional reasons for acting like “social media lemmings,” but isn’t it really because we like doing it.

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The phone vs. email vs. Facebook vs. Twitter, etc – what would it be?

Imagine if you were only allowed to put one point of contact, one means of getting in touch with you, on your business card (your one card).  What would that be.

I’m currently designing a new card for myself that will be my only one – encompassing my “whole being.”  I’m into simplicity … especially when it comes to “how to get hold” of somebody.  I must have eight to points of contact in my “bag of communications clutter.”  Now I’ll put more than just one … but this will be an interesting exercise anyway.  So let’s get on with it.

Is this your best option?

Now, let’s lay down the considerations.

1.  Who is the target market?

2.  And what am I going to say to these people?

Now let’s look at the options.

1.  Phone number: Not too long ago, this one would have been a slam dunk.  But today, probably not.  First, nobody wants to call anybody anymore.  Everybody has a phone, so access is universal, but nobody will call you back so what good is it.  One wildcard here though, is the texting option.  Especially with younger generations, texting is the preferred method of communication … go figure.

2.  Mail / address: I had to put this one in here just for a laugh.  If had to wait for somebody to send me a letter … well, enough said.

3.  Email: Gosh I remember just last year at this time, virtually everybody I dealt with, businesswise, wanted to be contacted via email.  “Send me an email,”  “But were on the phone right now so why don’t we talk about.”  “No I want a hard copy.” WHATEVER.  Email is good but it’s not a substitute for the back forth you can get on the phone.  It’s kind of like a cross between the phone and mail.  Has it’s place.  Possibility.

4.  Facebook: Now this an interesting one.  It’s now universal, but it seems like it’s almost getting there.  Half a billion people are on it.  By logging into Facebook you can more or less access other online vehicles you may own.  You can have your Twitter feed into it.  You can put your phone number on it.  There’s a place for your website URL.  I don’t like Facebook, though.  It’s too, well, it’s just too social.  It is the epitome of social media.  I don’t know if I’m into that though.  I don’t think I want that persona prefacing my business dealings.  I know Facebook is the “be all and end all” for business these days.  I think I’ll let the bandwagon go by for the time being.

5.  Twitter: Now if I would have written this a month ago, I don’t even know if I would have mentioned this.  Wow, have things changed in thirty days.  Now what is Twitter?  It’s really just a repository of text messages.  But it also is a database.  It’s a database of your contacts, your ideas, their ideas, their contacts, their contacts ideas and so on.  It’s also can be central hub for all your other conduits of exposure.  A tweet can reference your blog, your web site of even your phone number if you want it to.  Problem though … it’s not universal.  While there’s lot of people on it – not everybody is.  Here’s where the considerations come into play.  You can craft a message, a persona, better on Twitter than anywhere else (referral points included).  The question is who do you want to talk to.

6.  Miscellaneous social media: I belong to various other social media and networking sites.  Fox example, LinkedIN.  I love LinkedIn, but I just don’t think it needs to be on my business card.  Brazen Careerist, good site (more for the younger sect – but good energy), but again, not on my card.  Etc.

Now I’m not only going put one contact point on my card.  Until we all get telepathic chips put in our heads (that can also transfer files) there is no one best vehicle for communication.  They all have their place.

Everybody will have a slightly different take on their “considerations” I mentioned at the top of this rambling discourse.  After much pondering, at times in the Rodin position, this is what I’m going to do and why.

1.  Phone number: I like the phone.  It’s my card.  Enough said.

2.  Email: Not everybody is into social media but still is electronic.  Plus I need to transfer and receive files.

3.  Twitter: Twitter is my hub for all things I want to put out to the world, and you can get to the rest of my stuff through it.  It’s the conduit for my ideas, my rants and my ravings.  Plus it’s turning me on to some really interesting people and thoughts I would never have known existed.  This is my social media outlet.  If you’re not on Twitter … than get on it.  It’s not just about what somebody had for breakfast this morning.  Sorry Facebook and the rest of you.  One SM access point is enough.

But then again I suppose if we list everything – every conceivable way to get hold us.  Then we’d cover all the bases.  We’d just never knock anyone in.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Twitter is just for kids … NOT!

I just started Tweeting on Friday of last week.  I’ve had an account for about 18 months but … but I was too scared.  I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what purpose it had.

My choice

I now know. I read a blog entry early last week talking about the top social networking sites and their effectiveness and value.  In the end the author said if there was only one, only one that he would use to further his business, further his life – it would be Twitter.

Not Facebook, not LinkedIn, not MySpace (unless you’re a musician) – but Twitter.  At the time I’d never Tweeted, again I was scared … I wasn’t in the game.

As I mentioned in my last post, “Who’s batting 3rd in your line-up,” I’ve been hanging at Alex’s house.  I have converted.  I am spending time with the kids … should I say, the future of our world.  Apple Geniuses, video game developers, etc.  And if as a 50ish year old, I can’t get my brain in gear in this environment, then I don’t deserve to have a brain.  And they all Tweet, and they’re schooling me.

Twitter is not about telling the world what you had for breakfast and whether your eggs were scrambled or over easy.  It’s the conduit for all that you want to relay to the world:  What you’ve created or written, what you think is important (what you link to) or just a basic 160 characters of what’s on your mind.  It’s also all the world wants to relay to you (under your own terms by who you choose to follow).

But more than that … it is a matrix (if I can use that word without sounding like Keanu Reeves, no offence Keanu) .

I spent fifteen years of my life as a headhunter.  Building a database of people in the electronic prepress, printing and digital printing arenas.  8,000 contacts … all talked to.  With Twitter, it’s a year.  Granted, it’s not the same, but’s it’s damn close.  I had a meeting yesterday with Kent (if you had a Twitter account, I could link to right now), an old friend of my friend of mine.  We talked about this exact fact … what if we had the technology yesterday (20 years ago) that we have now.  Imagine the effect it would have on my business.

Get a Twitter account, have your kids help you if you you’re scared.  And most of all Tweet.  Tweet about what you find is important to you, notify the world of your blog, link the world to sources of information they may not be aware of (we’re al in this together).

And best yet … pave your highway “on the road to Your Perfect World.”

Happy Trails. But make sure you use Twitter as your navigator.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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