What is it about the 18-34 generation and Facebook? Well, they have a better networking and relationship maintenance tool than their Boomer predecessors. This presents a golden opportunity for all organizations.
For those of us who graduated and left school for good before 1995 (yours truly included) – the year that the Internet became mainstream – we all suffered the cruel fate of losing contact with our friends. These were the days when we all signed each others yearbooks and parted ways. Well not quite, if we were good friends, we exchanged phone numbers and addresses, and some of us got to stick around our old stomping grounds. But being in our early 20’s, what were the chances of us staying settled? In the same place? With the same phone number? If you are 18 to 34 years old, you are part of the most mobile cohort. And with globalization, mobility extends beyond national boundaries. Before the days of the Internet, unless we really worked on it, we just simply lost touch. And with friends moving around – changing addresses and phone numbers – it was a minor miracle that we managed long distance relationships.
Then came e-mail and personal websites. Staying in touch was merely an act of updating your address book in your e-mail program or reader. Then there was the instant messenger (the forerunners being MSN, Yahoo and AOL) and we could load on all our friends and chat with them online from any place – any time – as long as they had the same technology and were online at the time.
And then came social media. An integrated platform where you can post your “personal” CV, your interests, and connect with other groups of like-minded individuals. But most importantly, the platform offered the opportunity to invite friends to join parties and your network. With the simple act of uploading and selecting contacts from your e-mail address book, the wildfire of connection spread. Friends for life, so to say (well, if you let them into your network). While there are numerous platforms, in westernized democracies, Facebook is emerging to be the dominant platform.
With social media, our internet savvy under 35 generation has grown up with contact maintenance and networking tools that Baby Boomers could never have imagined. The challenge is to accept that this is not play for this generation. It is how they communicate. It is how they define their relationships.
Employers who recognize this and are able to incorporate it into its overall business strategy – from operations and communications – would likely reap the benefits across its internal operation. If firms have acceptable usage policies, they would likely be viewed as progressive and an attractive place to work – as are all places with high degrees of open and transparent lines of communication. Further, it can bridge the gap between the generations in positive ways – younger workers can show their senior colleagues how to take advantage of social media tools, while the latter can teach the former sound business fundamentals, communications and strategic skills.
What is your organization’s Facebook policy?