Imagine a company with younger generations as the main target audience. Does it even still need a web site in this social era, when it can profile itself and engage its core segment on Facebook, which appears to be the favorite hang-out for the so-called 'digital natives'?
Common sense says it sure does, just as it needs other channels to interact with all types of audiences, including the younger ones. They are cross-channel and multitasking as well and even more so than others!
A recent study by Nielsen Norman Group confirms this and even warns us to overemphasize the social media behavior of younger generations. Nielsen Norman Group researchers observed 43 full-time college students in four countries while the students performed tasks on 217 web sites.
Yes college students are hooked on social media, but at the same time they don't expect everything and all to be social. They associate social networking sites with private discussions-not with corporate marketing. Web sites are key and so is usability.
Efficiency and predictability
Project Information Literacy (PIL) is an ongoing research project at the University of Washington's Information School. Through their studies PIL tries to understand how early adults conceptualize and perform research activities for course work and "everyday life" use and especially how they resolve issues of credibility, authority, relevance, and currency in the digital age.
So far the research has shown that students use an information-seeking and research strategy driven by efficiency and predictability for managing and controlling all of the information available to them on college campuses, though conducting comprehensive research and learning something new is important to most, along with passing the course and the grade received.
KISS for the multitasking generation
This aligns nicely with the conclusive summary of the study:
"Students are multi-taskers who move through web sites rapidly, often missing the item they come to find. They're enraptured by social media but reserve it for private conversations and thus visit company sites from search engines."
Important findings are also that college students are overall not that tech savvy. They know their way around the web, but they don't like to be challenged by bad usability or an overload of multimedia. So even when setting up a page for a young audience, remember to keep it clean, fast and functional. After all, this is the generation that appreciates being treated as an adult.
At the same time huge, dense blocks of text are also a deal breaker. Being students, they already get enough big chunks of information to digest.
So, if you want to reach college students, being on Facebook isn't enough. They will also use your primary business web site. Optimize it from the usability viewpoint and make sure your web copy is concise and to the point.
And that goes in fact for all generations: keep it simple stupid, be relevant and be multi-channel.
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