Online Privacy, Brands, and the View From Generation Y

By | Jan 18, 2013

In popular mythology, young adults are all too careless about their social media use and resentful of the intrusion of brands and advertising into their online social worlds. The reality may be considerably different. One panel discussion suggests that Generation Y has a sophisticated awareness of online privacy concerns. Moreover, it is untroubled by ads--as long as they are relevant to their needs.

For the IT community at midsize firms, these findings offer a different perspective on an important demographic. Generation Y is of particular significance to the IT world because its members have come of age not just with PCs or the Internet but with mobility and the social Web.

Aware and Unflustered

As Jennifer Van Grove reports at CNET, a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 gave a revealing--and often unexpected look--at the attitudes of young adult consumers toward online privacy, brands, and other related social media issues.

A proviso is in order: The six panelists, ages 18 to 28, were individuals willing and able to participate in a freewheeling panel discussion. They are probably not "typical" of Generation Y. On the other hand, they are likely representative of opinion leaders among their peers. And they are the sorts of consumers that many midsize firms are particularly interested in reaching out to, as customers and also perhaps as prospective employees.

As one panelist summed up life in the social media age, "we live in public." Because they are well aware of this, they monitor their online presence accordingly. Another panelist noted that even if she opted out of social networks, she assumes that her personal information "is already out there."

The panelists were not averse to brands and advertising. In fact they were inclined to welcome a commercial presence in their social space--as long as it is relevant. One panelist said that she is "totally fine" with advertisers, but added that they "really should get it right." The same panelist said that she expects quick responses, suggesting that brands should monitor Twitter 24 hours a day.

Sophisticated and Demanding

The overall picture of these Generation Y opinion leaders is that are comfortable with the social media age and put high demands on it.

Accordingly the message for IT professionals at midsize firms is that when it comes to social media outreach these consumers should not be taken for granted. They are not passive consumers, but actively engaged with social media. Sounding false notes will lose them quickly, but honest and effective outreach has a good chance of bringing them on board.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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