I don’t want to make generalizations, so this post is about observations of my college students and backed up by some academic research.
Millennials aren’t on Facebook very much – at least not as much as they once were. I created a private group for the college-aged students in the program I teach and they may ‘like’ a post I’ve shared related to our program and area of study, but rarely do they respond to a question I post. They also apparently have their own closed group, and franticly discuss assignments, but that’s about it.
According to this study: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED525056.pdf (Lenhart et. Al., 2010), “Facebook is currently the most commonly used online social network among adults. Among adult profile owners 73% have a profile on Facebook, 48% have a profile on MySpace and 14% have a LinkedIn profile. ” But the study does not address usage vs. simply having an account. All of my students have Facebook accounts, and they often had them since high school, but they’re no longer active on them. From what I have seen with my students’ accounts, more than I anticipated have their personal accessible to the world. Some allow full access to all photos, but most important is that I can see their last post may be several months ago.
My students are, however, on twitter. Again, from the Lenhart et. al. (2010) study, “Young adults lead the way when it comes to using Twitter or status updating. “One third of online 18-29 year olds post or read status updates. ” My students seem to fit this model. Many of them tweet, but they use it as a chat with friends.
Again, based on my observations, with twitter, there seems to be three groups, those who don’t get it, those who use it by the minute and don’t care what they tweet (profane language) and then those who tweet, but don’t want anyone but friends to see their tweets because they want to tweet whatever they want. When I asked a student who frequently uses profanities in his tweets, he said it was his brand, and if potential employers don’t like it, he doesn’t want to work for them anyway.
Before our program they were not on Pinterest, and most were not on LinkedIn either. They’re coming around to seeing the value of LinkedIn and are hoping to connect with me, probably so I can help them find a job. What I am noticing is that their LinkedIn profile picture is often a Facebook photo and certainly not any thing professional headshot or acceptable ‘selfie’.
I recently reviewed their professional portfolios and most of them didn’t include any links to any of their social media activity – and I’m teaching in a PR/Communications program. They don’t want to give their user names or accounts because they want to be free to say what they want and not be judged on it. But they want a job. And they want to be accepted.
I’m feeling old and curmudgeonly, and I’m not. Not really. I want to help them use social media to demonstrate their skills, to network and to get a job. They’re not listening to me about brand issues and professional reputation, so I guess the only answer is to bring in someone to talk to them. It seems people employed ‘in the real world’, and not some college professor, have more credibility. The question will still be in my mind though. “Yes, but will they listen?”