Social networking sites are gathering places. When they are successful, they build community. That community can interact through chat, forums, blogs and comments, virtual environments, text messaging and wikis.
Those who are 18-35ish are rarely far away from these communities due to the prevalence of cell phones with text messaging and browsers. In fact, many young people use the texting functions on cell phones more than the phone itself. I understand this. I use texting to keep in touch with my wife. Often a quick text is a faster way to communicate with people.
I also use texting with the programmers we work with at work. It is fast and I don’t need a computer to do it. In Asia text messaging has become enormous. Broadband services on cell are common place in Asia. They will become common place here as well. The trend for people to be online almost all the time will not diminish. In fact, those who are between 18-25 spend more time online than watch TV and it is a vast amount of time–over 80 hours a month.
This trend has far reaching implications.
- Entertainment choices are shifting–the computer has become a primary source, perhaps THE primary source of entertainment.
- Where people "hang out" is changing. Physical place has become less important. If you see a teenager texting on a Sidekick, they are hanging out with friends. Perhaps not at the mall, but it isn’t any less valid.
- Virtual spaces like Second Life will become more influential. Second Life already has over 6 million residents and the GDP of a small country. Commercial advertisers have already figured this out and have begun using the space to that advantage.
- The marketplace has begun shifting and will continue to do so. If you want to reach the younger consumer you must meet them where they gather. That is online.
Nonprofits must embrace the new marketplace. If the community chooses to ignore how monumental of a tectonic shift this will represent the community will fail. Theatres won’t have people in the seats. Service organizations won’t be able to easily recruit volunteers. Sales will plummet. Grantmakers will lose opportunities to fund quality applicants
So, where is your best marketplace and has it moved online yet? If it has started, don’t ignore how young people are gathering. Find your way to where they hang out and you can find a place to plant a seed.
Written by: Creech