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Why Y? And what?

When you’re considering your audience or market, a large factor is the “generation” of that audience or market. Today, a great deal of attention being focused upon “Generation Y.” Also called the “millennial generation” or “echo boomers,” they are the children of the “baby boomers” and represent a mini baby boom themselves. So they are a fairly large group.

Generations are generally defined by the major social, political, and economic influences present through their childhood, teen and — sometimes — early adult years. Experts disagree, often wildly, about the beginning and the end dates of generations. For Generation Y, many think that the start date is from the mid-70s and many, who would date the start later, say the end date should be about 2005.

Since the early dates estimated overlap Generation X considerably, and because we have a good time line for the influences that “Generation Y” shows in its behavior, it’s probably handier for practical purposes to date the generation from about the early 80s to the early 2000’s.

With that approximation in mind, we can take a look at generation Y’s behavior, thinking, attitudes, wants and needs.

Keeping the time line in mind, realize that Generation Y grew up with computers, rapidly developing high tech, cell phones, the Internet, e-mail, text messaging and simply loads and loads of electronic connectivity.

And, although the word “edutainment” was coined about the late 1940s, its use as a seriously considered education modality exploded about the mid-1980s along with the advent of another explosion — video games.

So, if you’re paying attention here, you probably got it that these are the folks that make up a huge percentage of subscribers to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks. Sure, Grandma may have a Facebook page, but Generation Y rules this milieu.

What does all this mean to those of you who want to speak to them, educate them or market to them?

It means that, as in any other market, you must go where they are and reach out to them through their favored modes of communication. That is why so much marketing focus these days is being directed at the social networking sites.

Yes, it is true that the entire Internet is their playground, but these are very, very connected people. Getting to know others that they do business with or get information from is step one. They are wise enough to know how much misinformation and how many scams are out there in the wild. They want to check you out. They want to get a sense of how much they can trust you. You don’t have to pretend to be young or to speak their lingo; you simply have to present yourself in a genuine manner.

Generation Y also loves technology for solving problems, learning, playing, working and relating. They love their smart phones and their iPads. They want to tweet and text message and video chat and pick up their e-mail. They want to read e-books and watch movies on their phones. They want apps, lots and lots of great, helpful and productive apps. Instant information. High-speed problem-solving.

What can you do that generation Y wants?