Social Networks and Internet usages by the Young Generations

Sophie TAN-EHRHARDT - 19/09/2013 mis à jour le 14/08/2014

Today, I will try to tell you a bit more about my generation’s Internet usages.

In 2013 Internet and Social Networks have become a second nature for my generation. Every question we have, every moment we want to share, every interesting thing we learn, read, hear… All these come or go on the Internet.


Some people called us Digital Natives or Y generation. Michel Serres, a 82 years old French philosopher, uses the term Petite Poucette (Thumbelina in English) because we use our thumbs to tap away at our smartphones. Digital comes from the Latin “digitus” which means “finger”.


But beyond the marketing, all these appellations have something true: we are a tactile and mobile generation. According to Microsoft Advertising’s study, 92% of 18-24-year-olds have a mobile phone. And they spend 45% of there online time on social networks.


As Museums’ people, head of department, in charge of the communication or director, I’m sure you are concerned about young people. We are a communication target for you. But not the easiest I guess!

I will speak about young people between 15 and 30. I know that this is the most difficult communication target for a Cultural Institution. Schools don’t bring them to the museums anymore and they are too young to bring their own kids.

Even worse! If you ask them, they will say that Museums are boring!

But you know that your museum, your institution, is not boring! And you want to share this image with the young people. I’m sure deep inside you; you dream that young people love your museum as much as you do!

Good News! It’s really possible!


In France for example, we have an organisation founded by some friends of mine. It’s called “Un Soir, un Musée, un Verre”, that means “An evening, a Museum, a Drink”. Young people join together to visit a museum or an exhibition and then, they share a drink or a meal in a restaurant. It’s a wonderful way to visit exhibitions with people of the same age. Most of them won’t go to museums alone. But with some friends they really like it.


Another characteristic of this organisation is that it only exists on the web and thanks to the web. The leaders, who manage the group and organize the visits, make a Facebook event to warn everybody who wants to attend. They tell the date, hour and place to meet and everybody is invited. Just click “join” X on the Facebook event. They also have a Tumblr website and a Twitter Account for those who don’t have Facebook.


The Twitter account is very popular: more than two thousand followers currently! If this account is so popular it’s because every event has its own hashtag #SMV and the number of the event. For example this evening it’s the #SMV107 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris for the exhibition “La mécanique des dessous” an exhibition about historical underwear! Most of the people who will attend this exhibition with the SMV group will “live-tweet” the visit and share what they see with other people far away who couldn’t attend, like me for example! And I really encourage you to follow them on Twitter!

By the way, if you have a Twitter account, I will also take this opportunity to encourage you to tweet during the Dialogue Day with the hashtag #eCultDD!


This little case study is a very good example of Internet usages by the Young Generation. We are constantly communicating with everybody. In order to “spend our live on social networks” as some parents say, we really have to have a social life outside the web! In Real Life or IRL as we say! We have to have friends outside and spend some time with them to have something to say on social networks. What is really nice with the SMV is the interaction. Young people are communicating, interacting people. They find museums boring because they feel uncomfortable to interact with other visitors, friends or with the Art pieces themselves.  The SMV gives the opportunity to these people to interact with other visitors from their group, and with people online through Twitter. Some members are also sometimes very knowledgeable in art history and are able to give information to the other.


I know that some people will say that social networks are not wonderful worlds where everybody share interesting things with their real friends… I agree with that. Internet and Social Networks can be dangerous places… If you don’t know how to manage them! In reality they are only tools. As every tool, they can be very dangerous and maybe kill somebody if they are used in an inappropriate way. Like a knife, or an axe for example. Would you like to forbid every knife or axe in the world? Certainly not.  You would learn how to manage this tool in an appropriate way so that they can be very useful.


For social networks it’s exactly the same. If you are convinced that you have to use them, you have to learn how to manage them.

To my mind, Internet and Social networks communication cannot be overlooked today! Internet is the most important communication media in the world. The same way you have a website, it’s important for you to have some account on social networks, especially if you want to attract young people. But not only for young people! Facebook has 1.15 Billion active users in the world, YouTube: 1 Billion, Twitter: 200 million, Google+: 190 million, Instagram: 150 million…

I guess these are not only Young People!


But eager to have a social network account doesn’t mean that you’re done with the job! You have now to question yourself!


First, remember that social networks’ main objective is to create CONVERSATION. That means you will share information with the users and they will react and interact! Every type of information is possible: lolcats, news, life moment, images, videos, etc… Ask yourself what you want to share with people! Would you like to share photos of your art pieces with some historical comment? Would you like to share videos of the backstage? Would you like to share your daily news, activities, exhibition, etc.?  Maybe all of that? Try to catch curiosity!

These are important questions because they will define your editorial line. Like a real newspaper, you will become a media. So you have to think and act as a media. Define which types of content you want to share, when, how much per week or day, etc.


Second, on which social network would you have an account? There are several types of social networks. Here is an interesting graphic brought by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas, specialists of communication and data visualisation.  This is the famous Conversation Prism. You can see on it a lot of so called socials networks websites. You will find blogs, video, music or pictures platforms, wikis, livecasting, social curation, DIY (do it yourself), etc… If you know what type of information you want to share with people, you can easily define on which platforms you will open an account! Adapt your tools to your editorial line.

You will maybe create a Youtube Channel to share your videos. Or you will maybe have an Instagram account to share nice photos from backstage, etc.


Only remember to think usage before tool.


Finally don’t be sure that social networks are free. It’s false! Not only because some of them have a paid version, but also because you will need somebody to manage these accounts. And it takes time! A lot of time! And we all know here that time is money… So see it as an investment, like advertising in a newspaper or new panels in your exhibition rooms. If you don’t have time (or money) to manage social networks, it will be wise to reduce the number of account. You can limit yourself to a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Always remember that little but well is better than many and badly. "Good things come in small packages"


At the end it’s like everything a question of choices and strategy. Don’t be afraid by the wide range of social networks, and don’t get caught by fashion. If you analyse the tools without passion, in all honesty, you will see very easily if it matches your own intention.


Thank you very much!


That’s all folks!

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