Sunday, April 11, 2010

Too old for Facebook?

Social Media PR Settling in for a long flight cross-country, I introduced myself to the person alongside, discovering that they were expert in consumer market research.  We talked briefly about the best ways to reach people, whether methods differed between the US and Europe, how approaches should change along the Know-Like-Trust progression.

Then, in the Financial Times, from Unilever’s marketing director:  “We have a “lost generation” of brand managers who do not understand the web and social networks.”

“If you are 25 or 20, you know this stuff – you are brought up with Facebook and YouTube. If you are 50, you see your kids do it..(so) Unilever has encouraged its staff to use sites such as Twitter and Facebook themselves, to understand them better and help them “live the space”.

I remarked that this seemed like a pointless remedy.  My seatmate (35ish) agreed: social networks would not be a natural way for people my age to communicate and probably couldn’t be learned intuitively enough to use it effectively.

In principal, I agree that a few hours or a few days learning how to post messages or make friends will not prepare anyone for using the medium to communicate brand messages.

However, its also easy for youth, with an understanding of the media but less experience with people, to fall into naive mistakes as happened to Habitat on Twitter.  I  wouldn’t outsource my branding without understanding and oversight.

“(It’s) really rapid catch-up. We built our business on brilliant use of television. You can’t immediately change your competence…”

Maybe so.  But it’s also a mistake to assume that the 50-something next to you knows less about social media than you do.

  We jousted, and learned from one another, through the first round of drinks and into the meal service.

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