What businesses don't get about technology: A generation Y's perspective

Kevin Gannon

While it's true that a majority of businesses have a social media presence of some sort, how many of them are using it appropriately? That's something I've been thinking about a lot, especially as a member of Generation Y (aka "the Millennials"). As a recent college graduate, I've watched as a number of companies have attempted to reach my demographic. There are those who have succeeded, like deodorant Old Spice and its hilarious line of commercials, online content, and so on.

But then there are those who either fail or miss the mark in an effort to reach my generation. As you probably know, we're constantly burying our noses in our phones. This can be a good thing, particularly for young professionals. Verizon Wireless points to how one's work life can be made less stressful, for example, through the use of handy apps.

Does your business really understand Generation Y?

But you also probably know that Generation Y'ers aren't always using our smartphones for work-related tasks. Yes, that means plenty of tweeting, Facebooking, Pinning (on Pinterest), and whatever else is at our disposal. And it's within those networks where too many companies fall short.

Just to make myself clear: This is not directed at public relations or marketing firms. It's a cautionary tale for businesses looking to either increase or launch their presence in the often wild, wild west-like land of social media. In fact, it should lead businesses to become more in tune with whoever is running their social network accounts, because it's been shown to lead to sales and an improved customer experience if executed efficiently.

Follow-Up With Customers

It's one thing to have an active Twitter or Facebook account as a business, keeping up with customer complaints and (in some cases) compliments, and making sure hateful comments are kept at bay. Those are all essential to what makes social media useful for your company and what can attract and/or maintain customers.

But where it can go terribly wrong, or at least become frustrating, is when the people behind those accounts aren't keeping their promises.

For example, some customers have had lackluster encounters on Twitter with Petco, which, by the way, tweets engaging and often too-cute-for-words content. Every few weeks or so, they also run contests that range from free Wellness brand cat food to Halloween costumes.

But even a quick bit of research on Twitter reveals that this doesn’t always work out for the consumer.

Twitter user Jess X, for example, tweeted at the pet product giant on Oct. 9 about not receiving her prize and she still hasn’t seen a response. I, too, have had this occur, where Petco asked for me to send a direct message with a claim number, my address, and my telephone number, only to receive nothing. Basically, if the wrong person gets crossed here, the company can look deceptive to potential customers.

While giveaways are great for attracting new customers, I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure you (the business) follow through with them. This can lead to distrust for a brand, something you definitely do not want given the high level of competition out there for every kind of business.

Don't Be a "Tryhard" on Social Networks

This is an important rule for companies to remember on social networks. For those wondering, a "tryhard" is, as defined by Urban Dictionary, "[a] person who puts a large amount of effort into achieving a certain image, or counter-image, to the point where it is obviously contrived."

While we shouldn't look to a site like UD for academic definitions—its purpose is to teach people about slang, nothing more—it's useful in this case when you look at the way some companies attempt to interact with their consumers.

This can all be subjective depending on who you ask. Take diner chain Denny's online presence, for example. The social media team (or person) is constantly scouring Twitter—and the rest of the web, for that matter—to stay as up to date as possible. While this can be seen as a means of reaching new consumers, it can also come across as creepy and even invasive. The latter doesn't really apply because everything is free game on the Internet, but to reply to everything? That's just too much and can scare people off from wanting to go to your place of business.

To be fair, Denny's has slowed its online roll in the past few weeks with fewer updates, but one look at their Tumblr can show you how they are trying a little too hard to appeal to generation Y. (We get it, you know, that memes - especially cat memes - are popular on the web!)

Remember That Everything Lives Forever Online

A quick glance at this Madam Noire list of 10 company Twitter fails should make you realize that everything that you publish online remains online in one form or another. People can and will take screenshots of what they're browsing, links will be saved, and you will be called out if you do something as foolish as, say, try to use a tragedy like food/cookery database Epicurious did during the Boston Marathon bombings as a means of moving their product. They sent out two tweets in poor taste following that tragedy, including one that stated, "Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start the day." Yikes, right?

Again, this might seem like something you'd assume your marketing/PR people would be primarily in charge of, but that's not completely true. Businesses need to be aware of what tweets like this mean in the eyes of the customer. That means you need to do your research, ensure that you're hiring the right people to take care of your social media, and have processes in place to monitor what you’re putting out.

Hopefully these three tips can assist your business in getting better in tune with how to approach Generation Y, especially on social media.