The other day, I was put in a spot of bother, when my daughter’s friends asked me whether I am on WhatsApp? It took a while to realise the reference was to the communicator application on the smartphones and not a dis-respectful way of addressing me. I certainly have to do a balancing act, each time I converse with this generation. They certainly are the smartest on the smartphones. I am overawed at this Generation-commonly called Generation C.
While “Generation C” (commonly referred as Gen C) has been interpreted in many ways by economists, bloggers and demographics analysts, all these interpretations converge to a combination of the phenomenon of people who today are in dire need to remain connected wherever they are, highly communication and social-network oriented and by far the most demanding consumers. They have highest uptake for digital content. Thus the ‘C’ stands for a mix of connected, content thirsty and consumerism-heavy generation.
Today, the Gen C populace forms the fastest expanding cohort both in the developed and developing nations and believes that the reality of life is defined and exists due to the internet. Their familiarity with technology; reliance on mobile communications; and desire to remain in contact with large networks of family members, friends, business contacts, and people with common interests will transform how we work and how we consume and live our lives. Observers predict that by 2020, over 40% of the BRIC countries’ population will comprise of the Generation C. Almost the entire population of the developed world will comprise of this demographic cohort.
Amongst the key patterns observed in this phenomenon, the tendency to form active communities rather than remain passive
- a gravitation toward social media sites where they can participate in discussions about different ideas and get involved in technical, cultural, societal, business conversations and collaborate
- a desire to be in control of their own lives, and a contentedness with complexity
- a desire to work in more creative industries and be less restricted by rigid social structures
The single-most important character or motive that distinguishes them from the rest is that unlike the rest, they are more interested in expressing themselves either for fun or for simply having themselves heard. A profit-motive is rarely seen and this we believe is going to impact the way business is transacted in the coming decades.
What is it that has enabled this drastic change in the way information is found, content is consumed, opinions are formed and decisions are made? There are several factors leading to the theme of ‘internet content-creation-consumption and reaction’.
It started with the dot com era where information appeared on internet, accessible to everyone at any time anywhere. After a slow drag for a while, blogs came in, enabling everyone to voice their opinions on the internet. Alongside came the power of commenting where others could “react” to content put up online. Then came the social networks, myspace, Friendster, Hi5, Orkut and the present leader facebook that brought everyone on this earth on the same platform where putting up a status message gives one the power to trumpet from rooftops – a voice that can be heard across the continents, across different timelines and languages. Picking up the pace, a big system started revolving around these providing additional features like micro-blogging (twitter), contacts aggregation, social gaming etc. The growth was not just around textual content but also around multiple media forms like audio chat (Yahoo messenger), video calls (Skype), and document exchange (Dropbox). Data communications now exchanged at never before speeds.
Government policies and strategies have also played a big role in opening up the tap of information and services. Except for a few countries that believed in constrained growth, most of the countries have allowed internet and mobile to play the role of emancipating the so far silenced opinion of the individual.
Alongside, the phones started growing beyond their call functionalities and achieved internet features (3G), operating systems revolutions (iOS, Android), app economy (Apple App store), developer APIs (Android, IPhone, Blackberry, Palm, WebOS development). These changes accelerated the connectivity of a consumer and pampered him with ever-growing content like mms, mobile games, mobile video, group messaging. The growing pixels on phone cameras allowed people to “capture” and share their lives (Flickr, Picassa, Facebook photos, Intagram) with more and more people.
Another slow contributor to the otherwise digital growth has also been the infrastructure. The infrastructure built up in emerging markets allowed greater internet connectivity and phone penetration.
How does the future look like? Are we ready for them and the generation that will follow them thereafter?
We are at present in the transition stage where majority of the population is getting anointed with gen C values and has started converting this ‘changed behavior’ into the ‘norm’. We should be ready to see a world where organizations and individuals are all required to be wired to the connected platforms and play either the role in creation, finding, sharing or reacting to the content and services on it. It will become more and more important to have a Linkedin profile, be there on facebook for individuals to make their presence known and felt. Not being there on the Connected platforms would be tantamount to sitting at home while the neighbourhood is out on the street enjoying a funfair. For organizations, it will become more and more relevant to “hear” what people are saying about them, reading about them through these channels and responding with appropriate steps to improve. This is where the whole new field of social media analytics starts. However for businesses to benefit, its not just about digging the social media networks for feedback. It is also about sms marketing, having phone apps, having an online chat assistant for the business website, actively participating in the open-source communities etc.
All in all, the movement towards Gen C should be looked at as a change for the greater good, as because of Gen C, any content-service, business or economy will get automatically filtered based on whether the end users benefit out of it or not, it passes the right quality benchmarks or not, if its priced well, if it fits into the moral directions for the society etc. Thus, the one who is good will enjoys the real appreciation from Gen C members but not until one makes active efforts to run with this Connected generation and enthusiastically participates in all the connected channels with the right attitude.
Yes, we have no choice but to be prepared for the new Generation.
I am on standby to hear what my daughter’s friends would ask me next. It’s a nice challenge to have. I certainly don’t want my daughter to tell me I am dated