Gen Y to CIOs: What we expect from social media

TORONTO – Canadian chief information officers may assume that young employees will be yelling and screaming for access to social media tools on the job, but some Generation Y students are expecting to be told no.

At a morning event organized by One Million Acts of Innovation on Tuesday, CIOs gathered with students, startup firms and other business leaders to discuss where services like Google+, Facebook and Twitter will fit in the enterprise and how tomorrow’s leaders will exploit them.   

Despite all the hype surrounding social media, however, a panel of young people who spoke during the event said they were well aware of traditional management attitudes towards new technologies. Severe restrictions or outright bans would not surprise them.

“It’s not that I think badly of companies. I’m just expecting them to stomp down on it,” said David Millie, who is studying networking and security at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). “Chances are, if I go into a new company I’m going to be shoved into the back of a closet. They don’t want me to talk to anyone except those directly around me.”

Social media, Millie added, is largely seen as something that falls within the marketing department’s role in many organizations, rather than those who work in IT.

Generation Y also represents one of the core audiences for social media campaigns from those same marketing departments, but engaging with them isn’t always straightforward, the panellists suggested. Ronald Peters is a graduate from York University’s Schulich School of Business, and admitted to using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There’s no magic formula to attracting his attention, however.

“Your product or service has to be relevant to me,” he said. “Make content interactive, but not too heavy. A nice video would be good. There should be a fun element. Being too serious all the time sometimes turns me off.”

Another Schulich grad, Aaron D’Sousa, said he primarily uses Facebook and LinkedIn rather than Twitter, even though his focus is on online marketing. He said age, gender and other details are all important as companies hone their social media strategy.

“You need to be aware of your demographics,” he said. “What’s appealing to a 14-year-old kid isn’t going to be appealing to me. You should base your marketing strategies on that.”

One Million Acts of Innovation was co-founded about two years ago by Ted Maulucci, CIO of Toronto-based Tridel Corp., and Taimour Zaiman, managing director of consulting firm the Access Group. The original idea was to create a movement that helped advance Canada’s reputation as a home for creative breakthroughs, with a loose collaboration between CIOs, academia and other groups.

Since, then, One Million Acts has been turned into a not-for-profit corporation with a Web site cataloging the innovative ideas that spring from its events. As Maulucci said, successes so far include revamping a fourth-year course for the University of Toronto, creating a social media lab with Avaya to help small and medium-sized businesses and discussions with businesses about how to bring in more skilled immigrants into the workforce. Although a number of working groups were formed from the early events, Maulucci suggested that may not be future.

“It works better when it’s unstructured,” he said. “People would be coming to our events and they’d get really pumped, but then they wanted to know what to do. What we’re asking people to do is take a step.”

One Million Acts simply wants to keep up with what those who participate in its discussions do to further their organization or society, and to help where possible. Its motto is “connect, inspire and innovate,” and large corporations, like RBC (which hosted Wednesday’s event) are getting more involved.

The approximately 100 people who attended One Million Acts on Wednesday also filled out a survey on their social media habits, the results of which will be published in the near future, Zaiman said.

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