Age, Sage and SociaLIGHT

Britain’s Got Talent: love it or hate it, the programme raises some serious issues about children being subjected to the intense pressure of live television. Eighty-five year old Bruce Forsyth, no stranger to the age debate himself, today described the ‘emotional damage’ to performers as young as ten, commenting on a girl who had broken down in tears mid-song during Saturday’s show.

How young is too young to take part in a national televised talent competition? How old is too old to wear lycra? In life, it is difficult to set hard and fast rules about anything and the issue of age is no exception. Some would say that a woman of fifty-four might consider handing the corset and leather mini skirt on to the next generation, but they probably would not say it to Madonna’s face. And others might point out that making his debut as a solo violinist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1923 at the age of seven did no great harm to Yehudi Menuhin.

One area where age definitely does matter, however, is in the area of technology and social media. Everyone knows that if you want someone to re-programme your Sky box or change the settings on an iPhone you should ask a twelve-year-old. It is not surprising therefore to learn that children between the ages of eleven and fourteen spend an average of 73 minutes a day texting and the average teenager sends more than fifty texts a day. If fifty-eight per cent of the current generation of students are unable to go more than an hour without checking their mobile phones, then this next generation, currently at primary school, is likely to be psychologically even more embedded in the mobile culture.

For business managers who grew up with three channels on the television and a bunch of Pink Floyd cassettes in their bedrooms, the lack of clear boundary between human and machine is difficult to appreciate. But mobile phones have become an extension of the physical and psychological state for so many young people who frequently juggle several apps and devices at any one time.

Restricting a marketing and PR strategy to the printed media is rare these days; almost every business manager is aware of the benefits of a website, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Fewer have got to grips with You Tube, Google+ and blogging but these are of increasing value to business. Not only do customers look for products online, but they are interested in the corporate personality of the business behind it.

Consider the success of Admiral’s SociaLIGHT Index leaders Barbour, whose Facebook page has become a virtual community for similar minded people who are happy to identify with the image the pages project. Or look at the blog produced by accountancy software giant Sage, also at the top of the Admiral NE SociaLIGHT rankings, in which the voice of calm capable authority reassures clients and prospective customers that they are dealing with the right kind of people.

This trend towards accessing almost all information via the web is well established among the current generation of clients and shoppers but, projecting forward, things will continue to develop at a deeper level with customer relationships bound up in loyalty, community, interaction and a sense of belonging. It is all a long way from Starsky and Hutch and mobile phones the size of bricks but it is the way the world is going and business managers need to embrace social media in its full sense. It goes so much deeper than a basic profile and a few tweets; it’s like Britain’s Got Talent – it gets under your skin.