The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Nov 7, 2007

On the plane ride back from Podcamp Boston, I delved into my second copy of Wikinomics and read an interesting statistic:

For the twenty years between 1977 and 1997, two (2) billion people were born.

The book calls this group the “Net-generation,” defined by the fact that they’ve always had access to computers and the Internet. This group (of which my wife and I contributed two members thank you very much) fundamentally thinks differently than the Baby-Boomers or Gen-X crowd. They are natural collaborators. They believe that not only should information be free, but they as individuals have the right to remix, mashup, or do whatever they need to do with that information. They have a natural distrust for traditional marketing, they ignore advertising, and yet are perfectly comfortable with receiving “messaging” from their peers.

And so I started to think. What do these two (2) billion people mean to a corporation? Of course a B2C company will salivate over the rapid growth of the coveted 18-34 demographic, but what about B2B companies?

The Traditionals never pass up an opportunity to “remind” me that this New Media stuff doesn’t work for B2B, because the people-of-influence in their client companies consist of aging Boomers, who aren’t interested in learning to use new-fangled tools. Therefore, they argue, it is a waste of time to invest in New Media.

Although I don’t agree that you can’t teach an old Boomer new tricks, for argument’s sake, let’s agree with them and then play with some numbers.

The Net-Genners born in 1977 are now thirty. They’ve been out of high school for twelve (12) years, and have been out of college for eight (8).

Entry-level management starts at about five (5) years. By eight (8) years, these folks are moving into middle-management ranks.

Therefore, even if we give up the Boomers as lost, the new guard, primed with their network-driven belief system, are already in positions-of-influence that B2Bs must communicate with — on their terms, not the Traditional’s. And that’s only the beginning of the trend. For the next twenty years, these Net-Genners will be streaming into even higher positions-of-influence throughout all B2B corporations.

My question to you. Is it worth the risk of letting your Traditionals ignore them?

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