How College Age Millennials Use Digital: 6 Key Insights

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To challenge and enrich our current understanding of how different cohorts use the social web and mobile, we’ve taken a closer look at college-age Millennials as the first in a series of studies. We …

To challenge and enrich our current understanding of how different cohorts use the social web and mobile, we’ve taken a closer look at college-age Millennials as the first in a series of studies. We conducted this study with two sets of college students and are pleased to share our topline findings in this info bite. We hope you enjoy.

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  • 1. How College-Age Millennials Use Digital:6 Key InsightsJuly 2010
  • 2. As the social web, mobile, and other Internet-connected devices have risen in prominence we have been interested in their impact on people’s behaviors, attitudes, needs, and expectations (all of which comprise what we call NetspectationsTM). We have studied people’s use of the Internet all over the world since the early days of the Internet (call it 1994), and the new social paradigm is absolutely fascinating to us. We’ve done lots of client-specific studies and read countless survey-related data over the years. But given our insatiable desire to understand consumer motivations and expectations, we had to know more.
    And who better to help us understand the “social technology” space than high school and college students? They have been raised on digital (so-called Digital Natives). The Internet has been part of their entire conscious lifetimes.
    We’ve taken a closer look at this group outside the context of our normal client work to challenge and enrich our current understanding of their use of the social web and mobile. We began with college students (the focus of this info bite) and will continue the study with high school students later this summer.
    For this initial study we took two sets of college students and asked different things of them. One group we asked to maintain a log of every interaction they had with Internet-related technology (web browser, mobile, social media, gaming, video) for 10 consecutive days. The second group we had come into our innovation space to talk to us in-depth about their Internet-related activities and attitudes.
    This info bite represents the first in a series; we will continue to publish topline findings as we explore this topic further. Hope you enjoy.
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  • 3. Facebook trumps Twitter
    Very few are actively on Twitter (although many have dormant Twitter accounts), very few of their friends are on Twitter; they don’t see the purpose; absence of their peer networks impacts perceived value
    Facebook has assumed a vital role in communicating and staying in touch with friends; it is organically woven into the fabric of their lives; they gravitate to it without even thinking about it
    Despite its role in their lives, little passion or emotion was exhibited when discussing Facebook – it was discussed very matter-of-factly
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  • 4. The phone is as critical as a body part
    First thing they use in the morning, last thing they use at night; can’t function normally without it (digital access to friends and family, information, and entertainment is organic, and disruption to that is disconcerting)
    Not just used for texting, but for mobile apps such as Facebook, GPS, Yelp, etc.
    Some have BlackBerries, some have iPhones; iPhones are coveted by those that don’t have one
    Informal “cliques” exist among owners of various devices
    Example: BlackBerry Messenger is a platform heavily utilizedfor communicating with friends who also own BlackBerries
    Example: When an exciting iPhone app is released, wordspreads among friends with iPhones
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  • 5. Expectation of control is exhibited in how they consume entertainment
    The television is not the primary device for watching TV: Laptop is primary device for watching network / cable content because it allows for time-shifting, which is very common (e.g., Hulu)
    Online gaming is popular, even more so if it’s social and allows for asymmetrical (non-simultaneous) game play (provides flexibility to play whenever they choose without the hassle of finding someone to play with at that same moment)
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  • 6. Email is not the dominant – nor preferred – communication channel
    Facebook and SMS are primary vehicles for communicating with friends (current and lapsed), but Gchat, BlackBerry Messenger, AIM, iChat are also heavily utilized
    For more “business-like” communications (e.g., communications from school, organizations, marketers), email dominates
    Conversations via SMS (and Blackberry Messenger for Blackberry users) are replacing conversations via voice(and voicemail)
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  • 7. They have an advanced sense of responsibility regarding digital identity protection
    Cautious of and cognizant about online privacy, security, and sharing personal information – more so from a reputation management perspective than to protect againstmarketer exploitation
    Fluent in privacy settings and protective techniques
    Visceral negative reaction to location sharing:Feels “big-brotherish”
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  • 8. They have a heightened sense of what socially-acceptable digital use is (and it’s not simply mandated by their parents)
    Very aware of and recognize the impact – both within and outside their generation – of discourteous use of cell / SMS in public; may or may not affect their behavior, but they try to curb it
    Aware that real-time communication negatively impacts their attention, concentration and personal relationships
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  • 9. Within these thematic findings exists a diversity of digital behaviors among college-age Millennials; they cannot be generalized into a single, neatly-defined segment. And within this diversity lies behaviors that are both different and similar with older cohorts: They exhibit different NetspectationsTM (e.g., ability to time-shift consumption of TV content), but they also share the same concerns about privacy and technology as a replacement for substantive human relationships.
    This study has been a joy to conduct, and we plan on continuing to feed our intellectual curiosity in this area, beginning with the replication of this study with high school students later this summer; we will publish those key findings and compare and contrast them as appropriate once complete.
    If there is a particular topic in which you are interested, feel free to reach out to us via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or phone. We’d be happy to discuss our findings – and plans for future studies – in more detail.
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  • 10. About Goodman&Company
    Founded in 2003, Goodman&Company creates unique value by bridging the gap between management consultants and marketing agencies, ensuring actionability and accelerating impact. We work with our global client base to help them achieve their business goals through a variety of services in the areas of intelligence, strategy development and activation.
    New York
    1841 Broadway, Suite 300
    New York, NY 10023
    +1 212 579-0020 office
    +1 212 580-4064 fax
    San Francisco
    101 California Street, Suite 2450
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    +1 415 946-8899 office
    +1 415 946-8801 fax
    http://www.goodmancompany.com
    contact@goodmancompany.com
    http://www.twitter.com/GoodmanCompany
    http://www.facebook.com/GoodmanCompany
    http://www.linkedin.com/companies/235708
    Jeffrey Rosenberg
    jrosenberg@goodmancompany.com
    Twitter: @RosenbergATL
    linkedin.com/in/RosenbergATL
    Mark Fithian
    mfithian@goodmancompany.com
    Twitter: @MarkFithian
    linkedin.com/in/MarkFithian
    Thank You
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