6 Forces Driving the Next Generation of Your Business

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At 2 billion strong, Gen Z is rewriting the rules for how we live, work, and play.

2015 will be an extraordinary year; it’s the first year that Gen Z, individuals born in 1995 and beyond will begin entering the workforce.

At two billion strong globally Z is the single largest cohort to ever sweep through civilization. Hyperconnected, wielding extreme social influence, and ignoring virtually every obstacle in their way Z is going to rock your world, and forever alter the way you do business.

Gen Z is going to slam a whole new set of behaviors onto the table; behaviors, built on technologies, such as social media, wearables, implants, augmented reality; behaviors that seem strange and alien to older generations, which ironically built the technologies that have shaped Gen Z’s behavior.

These behaviors are driving six forces that are shaping the future of business; pay attention and you will seize the opportunity of the century.

1-Hyperconnecting

This is the defining force driving Gen Z. Soon every person, machine, and object will be connected–creating a near frictionless engine of innovation. Consider that by 2100 we will have 100 times as many computing devices as there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Unimaginable? Not that long ago so were the ten billion computing devices (7 billion of which are mobile) that we today take for granted.

What this Means to you: If you can’t use the abundance of data and sensors to intimately understand a customer’s behavior and personalize every interaction something is very wrong with your business.

 

2-Breaking Generations

By 2100 there will be a global 1:1 ratio of toddlers to 65 year olds. In 1950 that ratio was 10:1. Today it’s 3:1. The result of this shift in population distribution will disrupt virtually every business and social institution, locally and globally. Learning to deal with and leveraging this disruption will be the most critical factor for the success of all businesses (yes, yours as well.) in the 21st Century.

What this Means to you: If you can’t get beyond generational labels you end up with generational chasms that will devour your business.

 

3-The Shift from Affluence to Influence

Your advertising budget is no longer the most critical element in influencing the decisions of Gen Z. Z-ers are powerful influencers and they respond to meaningful conversations and personalized messaging. They have a built-in media channel to billions in the form of the Internet. And they know how to mess things up if they don’t get what they want–just ask former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

What this Means to you: Listen to Z and respond meaningfully or get ready to be sacrificed on the altar of social media.

 

4-Slingshotting

The fifth force, and perhaps the most invisible, is slingshotting, which is what happens when the vast majority of a potential audience suddenly takes up technology that was only available to a select few. For example, people who had sworn off of PCs are now diving into the deep end of the technology pool by going directly to a tablet and mobile technologies. Within the decade any human being, without regard to geographic or political location and economic status, will be able to connect to the Internet. The result will be the single greatest period of value creation and innovation humanity has yet to experience.

What this Means to you: Ignore this force and your business is ignoring the single greatest opportunity to connect with and co-create with Gen Z.

 

5-The World as My Classroom

Massively Open Online Classrooms promise to disrupt higher education and create a globally educated workforce. With the next decade we are likely to see more graduates of online education than in the entire history of traditional classroom education. Gen Z expects that if it’s worth learning it’s online, it’s free, and it’s a lifelong process.

What this Means to you: If you don’t have at least a YouTube video explaining your product or service then you really can’t expect anyone to take you seriously , right?

 

6-Lifehacking

The final force is one of the most powerful shifts in how Gen Z values and views the world. There is a deep sense of purpose that drives Gen Z to game the system in whatever way is best suited to make it serve their view of what is fair, sustainable, and socially conscious.Z despises the protection of intellectual property, believes that innovation should be boundless and instantaneous, and access to capital should be democratized and available to all good ideas. In short they believe in the ultimate efficiency of a free market unfettered by the constraints of the past.

What this Means to you: If you’re unable to connect with the deeper purpose of your marketplace, ultimately you’re just a hindrance to progress–and Z will find a way around you.

 We are All Z

These six forces are not subtle generational shifts. Instead they challenge some of the most basic beliefs about how we build and operate our businesses. Collectively they fuel a revolution on a scale unlike anything the world has yet experienced. It’s disruptive, powerful, and often frightening, but here is the good news; we are all Z if we choose to be. Generations are no longer about age but about behaviors. Better yet, the leaders of this revolution are already giving us the playbook with all of the rules we need to survive and thrive–you just need to pay attention, and, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to read the book.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. 

A Social-Media Marketing Primer Even Your Mom Can Handle

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Digital touch points are going to be a central part of almost any brand’s media plan. It’s important to understand how to navigate the digital world, particularly social media.
The problem is that keeping up with technology is a full-time job in and of itself. So don’t even try, just focus on the marketing part. Digital marketing is a small-business owner’s best friend, so while it’s hard to stay on the tech curve, you can still keep abreast of how to use digital marketing vehicles to your advantage.

 

In many cases, social media has become the brand experience where customers truly expect to connect. Because there are so many outlets available, don’t try to do it all at once. Start with the big sites first, see if they make sense for your brand, and then expand from there.

Get friendly on Facebook. With over a billion profiles it’s hard to neglect thinking about how to create a brand presence there. This is where friends, family, and your biggest “fans” come to listen to what you have to brag about. There is a cap to how many friends you can amass, so consider creating a public page that is limitless. Facebook is all about loyalty, so use it as a place to post pictures, give updates, promote new initiatives, or simply interact with your biggest fans. It’s one of the best outlets if you want to keep up with your most loyal customers with regular information they will be interested in. That is, of course, if your regular customers use Facebook, which is a simple question you should ask yourself before you begin any social media program.

Show your business savvy on LinkedIn. You will want to create a professional profile on LinkedIn to connect with all the people you’ve professionally come into contact with over the years. You can network with each other, share professional advice, and even recruit new talent. LinkedIn is all about work and working your network of colleagues.

Speak up on Twitter. Twitter is the place where you can exhibit thought-leadership in your field with others who share similar interests, whether you know them or not. It’s about having a voice in what you do, and paying attention to others who you admire. You can learn a lot about how to advance in your field of choice via Twitter.

Engage viewers on YouTube. For me, YouTube is all about pop culture. I use it to keep up with what’s going on in entertainment, which happens to be important in my line of work. If video content is something that works in your field, then consider starting a YouTube channel to create content for your customers. You can then feature this video content in your other marketing as well.

Give Customers a place to be on Foursquare. Foursquare is location-based, allowing users to “check in” to share their whereabouts or to collect special offers from local businesses. If your business relies on traffic to thrive, then Foursquare could be a good vehicle to build it.

Look pretty on Pinterest. Many brands are now just wrapping their heads around how to use Pinterest. If your customers are visually oriented and if your business can be captured in images, then consider using Pinterest to represent what your brand is all about. You can also learn a lot about your customers by viewing their Pinterest boards as well.

This is just a sampling of the bigger social media sites, and there are certainly others without a doubt. I recommend that you start with these, and then move on to others as you expand your social media presence. It’s important to use a few wisely and consistently, rather than racking up profiles that you don’t really leverage with your customers.

Also remember that any of these sites can be an effective tool to learn about what motivates your customers and about what your competitors are doing to connect with them. All of them provide “free” market research 24/7, because they are where your customers are living their lives and sharing what moves them. Learn from them!

By Jim Joseph, Author of The Experience Effect (AMACOM, 2010) and The Experience Effect for Small Business (Happy About, 2012)