My generation is absorbed in social media. We were old enough to watch and understand the birth of Facebook, the dawn of Twitter, and the fast emergence of Foursquare check-ins. We've become accustomed to frequent status updates and 'mayorships'? of our favorite eateries. We tweet about what we're wearing or when the train is late. In a way we're almost like celebrities, voluntarily exposing ourselves to the people around us and living our lives in a self-proclaimed 'spotlight.'? There's nothing wrong with letting our friends know we're running late or sharing pictures from last night's party but sometimes we just share a little too much. We announce that we had Frosted Flakes for breakfast or the pains of shaving our legs. We post pictures of friends slumped over chairs after one too many cocktails. We check-in at the dentist, the doctor and the Starbucks on the corner (three times...three Starbucks, three different corners). We over-share some of the most intimate details of our lives leaving little to the imagination. Maybe as individuals we should tweet a little less and untag a few photos from last night. We don't need the whole world to know our most personal details. As much as we may wish we were celebrities, we aren't and frankly nobody cares about those details we're sure everyone wants to hear. Certainly in our personal lives this may seem like too much, but what many people (including many of those in my parents' generation) don't know is that this idea of 'over-sharing'? is what keeps many businesses afloat. The younger generation is so overly connected through the use of social media that sometimes this is simply the best and fastest avenue to reach them. I once tweeted to Whole Foods corporate asking why my favorite beverage was removed from store shelves. Rather than write an email or make a phone call, in less than 140 characters I asked my question. Less two hours and 140 characters later I had my answer. The beverage had an ingredient in it that didn't meet their standards. It's this communication through social media that keeps companies engaged with their customers. They see our problem, 'Ugggg I hate my razor! It irritates my skin!'? and can immediately offer a solution, 'Have you tried our brand? It has a moisture strip for less irritation!'? These channels provide instantaneous conversation between brands and customers 24/7 that are faster than drafting an email and cheaper than buying a print ad. Businesses can see what means the most to their demographic and reach out in unexpected ways. As a member of Generation Y, I can say that I've enjoyed watching the evolution of marketing and brand management. I've grown up reading print ads and watching TV commercials and now I scan QR codes for 'insider information.'? The way brands reach their customers is changing - I get most of my news from the web and now most of my purchases are influenced by the online presence of a company. While I still think that my generation has to make an adjustment to its tendency to over-share, it is this behavior that has completely revolutionized the way brands do business today.
In the movie 'The Social Network,'? Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg led us to believe that since Zuckerberg so desperately wanted to be considered cool himself, that he also wanted Facebook to be cool, so that he could be considered cool by association. For this reason, he was against selling advertising on Facebook, as he thought ads would cheapen the experience and make it uncool for potential users. Seven years and billions of dollars in value later, Facebook is the biggest website on the Internet and it has since allowed sponsored ads. The conspiracy theorist in me believes that Zuckerberg always intended to have ads on the site, but he just wanted to get everyone addicted to Facebook FIRST, and THEN make money off these addicts. You may ask, 'Greg, are you comparing Mark Zuckerberg to a heroin dealer?'? In a way, I AM comparing Mark Zuckerberg to a heroin dealer, only WAY smarter, because Facebook isn't illegal, and it's a universally accepted addiction. Now that sponsored ads have been in our Facebook consciousness without mass Facebook upheaval, we will now see the beginning of sponsored stories. With sponsored stories, businesses can now monetize their Facebook fans. For example, let's make up a fictional store called 'Sneaker Land.'? Aside from having the most original name for a sneaker store in recent memory, Sneaker Land also has a growing Facebook fan base. Occasionally, Sneaker Land posts interesting pieces of content based around the sneakers they sell. This content might deal with subjects such as sports or fashion. If a 'fan'? of Sneaker Land were to 'like'? this content, Sneaker Land could then pay Facebook to feature this information in the 'sponsored'? column for all friends of fans to see. By doing this, Sneaker Land is building awareness to the social networks of their fans, while increasing web traffic, and ultimately increasing their bottom line. Sponsored stories aren't just limited to article related content. 'Check Ins'? have become a popular feature on Facebook as of late. These 'Check Ins'? can now also be sponsored as well. Now if you 'check in'? to Sneaker Land with your friend Joe, all of your friends can now see a Sneaker Land sponsored ad letting them know that you were at Sneaker Land with your friend Joe. The advantage of sponsored ads is that the ad has longer staying power to penetrate the consciousness of your social network, rather than being buried in the list of recent status updates. While this information may seem scary to some people, the idea of sponsored stories doesn't stray far from behaviors that the majority of people already participate in. People are quick to share personal information with their friends, and now this information will just be there longer for people to see. If you don't want this information being used, then don't share it to begin with. The idea of sponsored stories seems like a slam dunk for businesses wanting to reach their target audience, while building their social media presence. In addition, social media posts now routinely rank in organic search results, so it would be an ignorant move for companies to not at least pay attention.