As a researcher studying the generation after Millennials, Generation Edge, I talk to a lot of teenagers.
One of the questions I frequently ask is “What is your favorite social media site, since I’m assuming it isn’t Facebook?.” The responses tend to be similar: Facebook = lame, Twitter = fave. One interviewee, Mark, a high school sophomore who plans to go to college and get a degree in “somethin’ with computers,” had a particularly energetic response. He threw back the hood of his hockey sweatshirt and exclaimed, “Ugh! Facebook? No, Mom and Dad are on Facebook. After Twitter came out Facebook became obsolete. If I want to talk to my friends, I go to Twitter.”
Wait… he uses Twitter to talk to his friends?
This puzzled me. I pushed further and asked the logical questions: what about Group Texting? Nope. Instant messenger? Nope. Did he follow news resources on Twitter? No, just friends. If Mark wants to have friends over to his house on a Friday night, he tweets the invite. If he’s flirting with a girl, he tweets something like “Man, I wish I could stop thinking about your red hair” and just hopes that she sees the tweet in her feed. As a Millennial and Twitter expert in the office I felt like I understood this particular social media site: it’s the informal place to follow – and if you’re brave and chatty, interact with – brands, businesses, news sources and celebrities. But apparently I’m way behind the times.
Because for Mark, and most Gen Edgers, Twitter isn’t a resource for news or brand engagement. His cohort – loosely defined as those born from 1996-2010 – are reinventing how to use social media sites. Whereas Millennials were the first adopters of Facebook, Gen Edgers want nothing to do with it. Instead, they’re redefining what it means to tweet. For the purposes of BridgeWorks-focused research, we want to know what this means for the future of the workforce. With that in mind, here are some projections:
Privacy and secrecy will never be top of mind.
Gen Edgers are unconcerned about the material they post on the internet. Sure, they’re not yet entering the workforce with potential employers scanning their profiles, but this is something they don’t event think about. In their minds, everyone has some sort of profile out there, so blasting thoughts about Friday night plans (among other innocent teenage things) won’t affect their futures. In fact, they’re already in “impress mode” social media-wise. As a generation concerned about how many likes they get on Instagram photos, they don’t post any information that has low potential to make a splash. When Gen Edgers start applying for entry level jobs, we can expect them to have an extensive online history. To truly understand who they are, employers will need to understand that social media is simply another depiction of who they are – and they won’t be hiding from it.
At work, they’ll want the easiest ways to communicate with people.
Taking after their Gen X parents, Gen Edgers strive for efficiency. Inviting friends to go to dinner on Twitter is quicker than texting them individually or in a group. In fact, they prefer a phone call to finalize plans because texting can take too much time. So, when it comes to work communication, an e-mail will feel like snail-pace. Instant messenger capabilities will be an excellent way to engage this generation.
The way Gen Edgers utilize Twitter is just one example of how they are revolutionizing the social media world, and in due time, will be doing the same for the workplace and marketplace. No, not all of them use Twitter like Mark does. But many of them do. One thing is certain: when it comes to Twitter, Millennials are no longer on the forefront of the social media scene, and it’s exciting to think about the changes these Gen Edgers will bring about.