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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Age of Entitlement in Social Media

Disclaimer: The Age of Entitlement attitude is not limited to age, nor do all Generation Y-ers have that attitude.

Generation Y, those babies born in the 80′s and 90′s, have been dubbed the Generation of Entitlement.  There is a plethora of articles from business journals to psychology magazines describing the typical attitude of Generation Y-ers.  Early in my teaching career, seminars on how to deal with this type of attitude and expectations were common, even at major universities.  We were warned that these generation of students were demanding.  They wanted exams grades posted within hours of the exam.  They wanted credit for effort, regardless of mastery or completion.  The phrase “But I tried….” was fairly typical.

The first lecture class of 250 freshmen I taught was likely the poster children of this attitude.  While that class was soon under control with a reality check, I decided that there had to be a serious culture setting procedure right from the beginning.  I use old school teaching methods where I set expectations high, keep my grading scale difficult, and ban all misbehaviors from my classroom.  Any student that has an unpleasant attitude is asked to leave, forever.  I also show Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture video, and I insist that all my students perform as well as his students did.  Needless to say, by the end of the semester, the generation of entitlement is turned into the generation of hard work and gratitude.

There’s no attitude switch for the Generation Y-ers when they enter social media.  The attitude of give me, credit me, and make me feel special persists everyday on social media.  It doesn’t take long to see someone on Twitter complaining about what they should have gotten.  Just show up late to a party advertising free food and free drink.  You’ll hear the Generation Y-ers complaining about how they didn’t get any free food or free drink that they deserved.  Some businesses have reported hearing the “I’m a Yelper so you should give me free food/drink.”  Sadly, that’s not unheard of from unscrupulous bloggers as well.

It isn’t any secret that I was a born in the 80′s.  I’m technically a Generation Y baby, and I’m embarrassed about the attitudes and behaviors of my generation.  Some people assumed that I was given things like my house.  Sorry, I bought my house when I was 21 by saving up all that I had earned as being a nanny.  I could afford to invest in my hobbies because I worked many hours during my early years of graduate school.  Now that I started my own business, I get emails and phone calls from people asking me how I did it.  The short answer is, “I worked hard.”  Fortunately, my doctorate is in social psychology so I had a knowledge base that translates easily into marketing and social media.  But most importantly, I worked hard to build up my skill sets and to build relationships that now support my business.

I very happy to help others get started in social media.  On the other hand, I’ve been contacted by many generation y-ers about social media and food blogging.  Most recently, someone who had only been on Twitter for two months was now wanting to start working as a social media consultant.  This person was straight out of college with no work experience to boot.  I was speechless.  Had Generation Y babies completely forgotten about hard work, learning from mentors, and earning a reputation?  Did they not realize that many successful people worked their way up?  Gary Vaynerchuck is living it up now, but he started from a basement, literally.  Rachel Ray is highly successful now, and she started making only $50 per show.

So what can you do if you’re a business that faces the Age of Entitlement regularly?  I’d advise that you set a strict policy on how to deal with the most common challenges you have.  If your business regularly gets people asking for free product because they are active in social media, implement a policy on how to handle those requests.  Hint: A complicated policy requiring those people to send you samples of their writing and/or detail the impact their strategies have on your type of business usually sends them on their merry way.

If you’ve got that Entitlement attitude, don’t be hurt.  Just be prepared to work hard.  If you fail, just try again.  If you have a passion for something, look for a mentor to help you cultivate that passion.  Show gratitude.  Thank people for their time.  Thank people for helping you.  Open your ears to criticism.  You can’t improve if you don’t know where you need it.  Look for communities in which a hardworking attitude is required and rewarded. This Week in Startups is one I highly recommend. @Jason is the complete opposite of a Generation Y-er.  If you haven’t watched Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, this is the time to do it.

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