Hooked Up: A Look at Jack Myers’ New Book on Internet Pioneers
This post originally appeared on the Social Media Week blog.
In the premier of “The Newsroom,” Aaron Sorkin’s new show on HBO, news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) berates a college sophomore, referring to her as “you, sorority girl” who is “without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period, ever, period.”
Jack Myers would beg to differ. He believes they might be “the next great generation.”
He added, “Will is wrong.”
Jack, a media ecologist and chairman of Media Advisory Group, has spent the last two years researching Internet Pioneers, the country’s first generation to not know life without the Internet. This group of 21.2 million Americans—born between 1991 and 1995, just before and after the Internet browser launched in 1993—are the subject of Hooked Up: A New Generation’s Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Changing the World.
Simulmedia, which provides targeted advertising for TV, is sponsoring Jack’s book tour across the United States and at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity this past June. The company on July 12 hosted an intimate group of marketers at its downtown loft space to mark the launch of the book. “No one has picked the numbers better for 25 years than Jack has,” said Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan in his welcoming remarks. “He has studied a unique sliver of the millenials, and they will have a transformational impact on our marketplace. Because of that, I think Jack has captured things that we can all learn from.”
Hooked-Up identifies several key trends including:
- There is no digital divide among Internet Pioneers. Kids from the poorest neighborhoods have been early adopters of the latest mobile phones.
- Internet Pioneers have more diversity than any generation of college-age youth. A larger percentage of them are Hispanic, Black and Asian, and there are more Muslims in this cohort than in past college-age groups.
- 59% of college students in 2012 are female, and that disproportionate share will increase for at least a decade. Of graduate students, about 65% are women.
- The female-centric society will have a major impact on the workforce and business culture.
Activities and Societal Views
- Internet Pioneers multitask to such a degree that they can record 36 hours of activity in a 24-hour period; they spend 4 hours on social media per day and sleep 6-7 hours per night.
- Internet Pioneers embrace interactivity and incorporate two-screen activities into their TV viewing; these YouTube natives are comfortable with short-form content, amateur videos, and of course commenting and sharing.
- Growing numbers of Internet Pioneers in college engage in casual sex or “hook up” on a regular basis in lieu of traditional dating relationships; however, studies also show increasing numbers of students who describe themselves as virgins or abstinent.
- The Internet serves as therapist and support group. Students often seek answers to their personal problems online, and the Internet is credited with helping some young gay people come out and with helping straight people understand “different kinds of relationships.”
- Internet Pioneers are most likely to support candidates for political office who advocate individual rights including abortion, gay rights, medical marijuana, limited gun control, policies that do not overly advantage the already wealthy, and a strong military with a non-interventionist agenda.
Jack and Will McAvoy do have one thing in common: They both acknowledge that the Internet Pioneers had it pretty tough as kids, growing up with turmoil ranging from 911 to the financial crisis.
“All they’ve ever known is chaos. They go to the Internet for stability,” Jack said at the book launch. “In many ways, it’s their church.”
Moreover, they are going to bring their digital skills and belief in diversity to the workplace and society at large. “They will lead us into peace, tolerance and stability,” he said. “It gives us hope for the future of the world.”
Lessons for Marketers
As these tech-savvy young people forge careers, buy houses and have children, marketers no doubt will be trying to engage them. “In addition to inserting commercials intrusively into mass-distributed television programs, marketers will shift budgets into curated content that relates to their product category and that engages consumers in an interactive relationship,” Jack writes in a chapter on marketing.
He credits several recent campaigns built on relevant content that has spread like wildfire:
- JC Penney’s Haul Nation providing teenage girls a chance to share their love of fashion via video blogging
- Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign with the now iconic video demonstrating how professional stylists and editing transform ordinary women into fashion models
- Dove for Men “Journey to Comfort” campaign featuring video content about men “becoming comfortable with themselves
- Pepsi Refresh, which invites people to submit ideas they think will change the world
- Coca-Cola Happiness, a campaign featuring simple expressions of well-being that anyone can feel regardless of religion, language, ethnicity or belief system
And while these campaigns have struck a chord, Jack notes that Internet Pioneers are fickle. Brands will need to continue to find ways to relate in an authentic way to these always-on multitaskers. Said Jack: “They change brands as much as their music tastes.”
Sally O’Dowd is a VP and head of the social media team at DiGennaro Communications, a firm specializing in corporate communications for ad agencies, media-buying concerns and entertainment companies.