Street Smarts vs. ‘net Smarts

What’s Happening :: Part I
It used to be television, now it’s myspace.com that garners that valuable real-estate about three inches in front of our kids’ noses. And just as my parents encouraged me to turn it off and go outside, the next wave is happening; only this time there is a new twist.

Some neighborhoods require a little more street smarts than others. I grew up in Detroit. Spending time outside and getting to know my environment and its inhabitants was a crucial part of my safety, as it allowed me to hone the social intuitive skills that we often refer to as street smarts. With the emergence of social network sites, however, the time our teens spend interacting online is starting to become as important as the time they spend outside.

As any parent knows, you try your best to give your kids all the tools they need in life as early as possible, because one day, when they have to start making decisions for themselves, you want them to make smart decisions. But what can we do when our kids are growing up in a social environment that is very much different than the one in which we grew up?

As a parent, I say we continue to talk to them about ‘net safety and let them keep practicing. In a world where digital communication continues to reach into unpredictable new territories, the ‘net sense they are gathering now, will serve them well later.

What Does it Mean :: Part II
When I put on my marketing hat, however, it’s interesting to see how this new ‘net dynamic is turning the tables. Kids, as they gather more ‘net sense, are going to be adults with an unprecedented degree of ‘net sense. They will have seen just about every cheap marketing trick in the book along the way, and they’ll know what you’re trying to do before you do.

The lesson? Just as social networks can be a breeding ground for people who may wish to trick or deceive our kids, the time our kids spend on these sites is increasing their ability to differentiate between what is honest and what is BS.

If you are a marketer trying to push your product through deceptive means like spam or flogs, you will immediately be tossed in the BS pile by the generation that has more buying potential than any other generation in history.

But if you jump in the fray and meet them on their terms with promotion of your products and/or services, you might just win over some fans. And having ‘net-smart fans on a social network is just what you want.