I was just reading an article on eMarketer about social networks and whether they blur the line between personal and professional life. Specifically, the article compares the responses from Gen X, Gen Y and Baby Boomers and whether the blurring of this line is good or not.
Gen X, Gen Y and Baby Boomers come from very different backgrounds in terms of their social / professional perspective. Let me explain:
Baby Boomers are generally easing off as far as their career push. They have been there and they have done that. Their networking techniques include, business lunches, picking up the telephone, exchanging business cards and attending costly industry conventions to promote their business.
As corporate transportation budgets shrink and industry-specific conventions disappear, these old school ways aren’t high on the ROI. The get-out-there-and-meet-people style of networking is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Convincing Baby Boomers the need to be transparent and open on social networking sites will take more than an elevator pitch. Generally, Baby Boomers are interested in using social networks as entertainment and do not seek out to be ‘that’ open.
The concept of combining their personal and professional views in a ‘business way’ is inconceivable. No matter who you are on the corporate ladder, you are an employee and must represent and reflect the corporate values when in public (including online). Any personal opinions are just that… personal and do not belong together.
Conclusion: Baby Boomers will always be uncomfortable with mixing business and personal online.
Generation Yer’s live a different reality and have some challenges ahead of them. There’s no such thing as a life-long career at one company, a retirement fund or even a sense of job security. You are expected to develop your career for yourself – by yourself. Naturally, using what is available online and for free i.e., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, FriendFeed, Seesmic and many others is a must for today’s young career minded-business person.
A personal and social life online needs to be balanced and work together. By its very nature, a social network demands information about you as a person. You need to stand out and have an opinion and most of all, you need to express that opinion freely and openly. The result is that like-minded people are automatically attracted to you and then want to do business with you. It’s no longer enough to say ‘take a look a my portfolio’ and if you like what you see give me a call.
The openness of social networks has created an overwhelming demand for transparency in all aspects of your online presence.
Conclusion: If I like who you are and what you say… I’ll do business with you and will help you out by spreading the word to my friends and please tell your friends about me too.
Gen Xer’s share the best (and worst) of both the Baby Boomers and Gen Yer’s challenges. You grew up being told that you need to go school, get a good job, buy a house and retire from that good job by the time you are 55. Ha! Things didn’t turn out that way. Economic downturns, brain drains, dwindling corporate budgets and the internet have all changed the landscape of this so-called ‘dream’.
After we all woke up (yep I’m a Gen Xer) and had to re-evaluate our skills and figure out how to open our own RRSP’s for our retirement – it was an open road. It’s freedom but it was scary.
Enter social networking and the game changes again. Suddenly, we can access an whole new audience that actually wants to to know us. At first, we were probably all weary of saying too much about ourselves but we need to get out there and show off our skills. We examine what the ‘kids’ are doing and start seeing that it’s working for them. And you know what, it IS working. It’s not an overnight success but it’s growing.
Conclusion: We were shown the result of hardwork from the Boomers and beauty of openness and transparency from the Gen Yer’s.