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Net Gens and Social Media

Net Gens and social media

by Amber Siple

Millennials used to be the new kids on the block. There have been millions of articles written on how to relate, manage, and retain us as workers. We were so mysterious (some might even say frightening) to older generations who own the work force. Well, I’m sorry to report (or am I?) that we aren’t new and exciting anymore. But my younger siblings are. They are Generation Z, or what some are referring to as the Net Gens (Internet generation). The thought of this newest generation entering the workplace may cause employer panic. Despite that fear, you need them. So whether it’s attracting them as customers or job candidates, you also need social media now more than ever.

Net Gens and Technology
Forget everything you know about Millennials. Net Gens are those born between (roughly) 1996/2000 and 2020, and it’s time to start learning about them. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average American household had a home computer with Internet connection by the year 2000, and by 2005 most Americans owned a personal cell phone. They say technology is only new if you can remember life without it, and the Net Gens are the first to have never lived a day without mobile phones, social networking or online video. Many of them knew how to unlock their parent’s iPhone before they could even write their names.

As much as Millennials have a rep for being digitally savvy, we’ve got nothing on the Net Gens. They live and breathe the Internet. It is truly a resource for everything for them. Unlike any other generation, 100 percent of Net Gens spend at least one hour a day online, but half of them report being connected over 10 hours a day and approximately 75 percent say they connect within an of hour waking up in the morning. As the first generation to grow up with this digital world, they do everything while connected to the all-mighty Wi-Fi. Whether you are looking to attract them as a customer or as a job candidate, this is powerful information.

Net Gens and Social Media
As the youngest generation alive, the Net Gens are defining the future. They may be young now, but within the next five years they will grow into 10 percent of the work force. Back in the day, you might simply buy a classified ad in the newspaper to find new employees. But you won’t find today’s younger generations reading a paper.

If you want to attract Net Gen workers to your open jobs, you need to be where they are. Being where they are means being on the right social media platforms and the right websites. It helps to study and understand why it is they are drawn to certain actions, lifestyles and platforms. When you invest time creating and maintaining company social media accounts, it will be easier to reach and attract your next generation of employees.

Though social media can still be somewhat scary for older folks, at least it’s been around for some time now, so it’s not nearly as scary as it once was. The first step: Don’t be afraid of new social platforms. New apps and websites are popping up daily, and it’s important to be aware of all of the options you have. It may take some time and definitely some testing, but figuring out where your customers/job candidates are will yield a valuable outcome.

I’ll tell you some of the places (platforms) where Net Gens hangout, but quite honestly, it could change by next week, so don’t hold me to these. Instagram: they love it. Instagram allows them to display their favorite photos for viewing by pretty much any other Instagram user. Hashtags allow them to place their images in topic-specific galleries, making it fun and interactive to search images that others post by tags. Study the hashtags your target audience is using, and then post using the same hashtags. They will find you.

Then there’s Snapchat, last year’s fastest growing app with a majority of users between the ages of 13 and 24. Why do they dig it? It offers real-time visual connection with their closest friends. It’s like being with them without actually being with them.

Last, messenger apps are on fire! This includes: WhatsApp, ooVoo, JottFacebook Messenger, Kik and more. Younger generations are attracted to these apps because they allow for safe, real-time communication with people they don’t want to give their personal information to. This may seem odd to us, but to this tech savvy generation who meet people online all the time (mostly through social media and live gaming), these types of apps allow more trust to build the relationship in a virtual manner. My parents might compare these apps to “cruising” in the old days. You’d drive around, meet a few people, say hi, but not necessarily get married just yet. That’s for when you start texting.

As much as some people hate to admit it, social media isn’t going anywhere. And as younger generations age, enter the work force and begin working their way up the ladder, social media will become more and more a part of your company. Embrace it now. Dedicate some time to staying hip on what platforms younger generations are taking part in. A simple Google search can lead you to statistics, apps to download, and instructions for use.

Don’t be afraid to spend a little money advertising job opportunities on these popular platforms to ensure that you are getting the right eyes on your posts. Not only will this help you attract candidates to your jobs, it will improve your relationship with your younger employees, helping you see things through their eyes. Give yourself the opportunity to attract and retain them both as employees and customers with the help of
social media.

Net Gens Influencers
The Net Gens may not be as chatty as older generations since they have their nose pointed down at their phones, but they have a larger network than most people in the work force today. Consider this: Net Gens have two or three times as many Facebook friends as Millennials. Social media has allowed them to grow their network in ways that are more acceptable by this online-driven generation. With that, they are also being influenced by this network of people to which they are connected. People post opinions, lifestyle details, memes that make fun of things; these are all influential factors when it comes to decision making. Whether it is a purchase decision or a career path choice, they often think “what will my network think of this?” When attracting Net Gens it is imperative to consider their lifestyle as well as their network.

Managing Net Gens
Educating yourself on generational issues and lifestyles helps clue you in to how your management techniques may affect some people, but keep in mind, each employee is a unique individual. It’s important to avoid making assumptions and buying in to stereotypes. That being said, my advice is: get to know your employees. I think it’s safe to say for anyone, at any age, relationships are significant. When management invests time and energy in an employee, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Studies show that both Millennials and Net Gens are more likely to stay at a job where they feel they have strong connections with co-workers and management alike. So consider the time spent an investment in their career as well as yours. Plus, it’s hard to ever really know what someone is capable of if you don’t spend a little time learning more about them!

Amber SipleAmber Siple is the marketing specialist for PTDA and Industrial Careers Pathway (ICP) in Chicago. ICP is a cross-industry initiative supported by American Supply Association (ASA), Heating Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI), Industrial Supply Association (ISA) Education Foundation, National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), NAHAD−the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution, NIBA−the Belting Association, North American Building Material Distribution Association (NBMDA) and PTDA Foundation. For more insights on recruiting, hiring and training younger generations in the industrial distribution industry, subscribe to the ICP Talent Tipsheet, which Amber writes and manages, at

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2016, Direct Business Media.


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