That’s the word from Marcus Stephens, general manager at Howzit MSN, the local MSN partner and one of the largest Web portals in South Africa. He says that brands and publishers alike need to bear in mind that of the 10 million people online in South Africa today, five million of those have been online for more than five years. But in time, Generation Y users will eclipse older consumers on the South African internet.
Many of the most experienced internet users are Generation Y consumers, who have grown up on the Web. The way that they consume news and information online differs markedly from the way that most Generation X and older users interact with media online, says Stephens.
Stephens notes that whereas older internet users supplement Web media consumption with TV, print and radio, Generation Y has been weaned on notebooks and cellphones. As such, Generation Y’s primary entertainment and information diet is digital interactive media.
One study by Alloy Media + Marketing in the US found that students spend an average of 12 hours daily engaged with some type of interactive media. They are spending twice as much time on their computers as compared to television viewing.
Not only does Generation Y consume more online media than Generation X and older, it also uses it and digests it in a different manner. Generation Y has always lived in a multimedia world and is as hungry for audio and video content as for text and graphics. And crucially, Generation Y is very friend-conscious, which makes word of mouth and viral marketing a powerful way to reach this audience.
“A Generation X consumer is likely to look at the source and author of a piece of online content to validate its veracity, whereas Generation Y users will often turn to their social circles to confirm the value and accuracy of a piece of information”, says Stephens.
“Often, it is the content itself that a Generation X user will often see as credible and valuable, Generation Y users, however, tend to overlay the content with a social experience,” he adds. “Understanding this difference in generational media consumption patterns is important for marketers and publishers that want to engage both audiences effectively.”
Generation Y users have been raised on interactive and social media, and hence look towards online and real-world social networks for confirmation of information. They are active on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and will often look towards user-generated content and peers for advice on purchasing decisions and on what to believe among the pieces of content they read.
For publishers, the fact that Generation Y users seek out social confirmation is a major opportunity to drive more engagement and to spread their content to more people with their users’ help, says Stephens. For marketers, the implication is that user sharing and endorsement of their content should play an important part in marketing to young Web users.
“In our content, for example, we encourage younger users to seek out that confirmation,” he adds. “We make it easy for them to share through social media, and also encourage them in our content to speak to friends, parents or colleagues to confirm or debate information.”
For Generation X, content needs to be structured around proof points such as credible research and authored by writers who have an air of authority, says Stephens. “We tailor our content to different audiences to ensure that we are as relevant to them as possible,” he says.
“This also means that we are offering our advertisers an environment where we engage with and target readers in an effective manner that makes them receptive to advertising messages.”
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