Today’s youngest generation, Generation Next, is the first truly digital generation—people raised and educated using digital media and the Internet as an integral part of their basic thinking. Generation Next has learned to use simulated environments, virtual spaces, teleconferences, text messaging and a myriad of other technologies individually and in combination. Members of Generation Next have mastered the ability to multitask in ways that prior generations have never imagined.

Because of its appreciation for digital play, Generation Next does not measure success by the same benchmarks as their single-tasking predecessors. Success in the next phase of the digital age will require that businesses adopt the same bench-marks as the multitasking digital natives who will dominate that new frontier. In order to know these benchmarks and how to achieve them, let’s look at some lessons Generation Next can teach business today.

One of the major differences between Generation Next and their predecessors is that the relationships adeptly built in the virtual space transfer seamlessly into the physical and business worlds. Such online social network relationships are not developed through long online encounters, but rather through regular and attentive communications in short bursts.

Generation Next uses text messaging, email and online social networking sites to stay in constant contact with their online friends. These communiqués are brief and often deal with seemingly unimportant information, such as “what’s for lunch” and “out walking the dog,” yet it is this level of personal revelation that promotes the friendships which later develop into referrals and other types of business.

Lesson 1: It’s All About Relationships

Generation Next is all about the relationship. Given the choice between a product or service provider that is better and one that is more personable, Generation Next will choose the more personable every time. Experts from Zig Ziglar to Jim Cathcart have stressed the importance of relationship-building in the workplace and with customers, clients and potential clients. Generation Next has simply made this process more efficient and more powerful with technology.

The best online social networkers have discovered that effective online social networking requires between seven and ten hours per week. Single-taskers have traditionally dedicated two hours per business day to social networking. Generation Next multitaskers have found short networking periods to be far more personal and thus far more efficient.

Tactic 1: Network Ten Hours Each Week

Lesson 2: Keep Your Network “In the Loop”

People are naturally social creatures and they are insatiably interested in what others are doing. Generation Next has taken this social interest to the level of an art form, utilizing every technology to share the moment-to-moment “updates” of their lives. Social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Plaxo provide the opportunity to share these updates directly with contacts and network members. The newest versions of these sites allow all three sites to receive updates from a single dispatch through the website. Other social websites such as LinkedIn have taken note of this important trend and have added a micro-blog feature so members can continuously send and receive brief status updates.

Tactic 2: Be Interesting to Your Network

Lesson 3: Be a Real Person by Expressing Yourself

Beyond the voyeuristic curiosity that makes profile updates on Twitter so popular, there is a need to gain insight into and understanding of those with whom you associate. Self-expression sites such as YouTube, Flickr and SlideShare provide the personal and professional insights that members of Generation Next require to make personal connections. More than just a networking opportunity or multitasking project, these expression sites allow not only for exhibiting projects and proposals, but also for showcasing talents and triumphs.

The major social websites have recognized the importance of self-expression sites to the digital generation. The best part is that in most cases, it takes only minutes to share a project completed for a wholly different purpose. Generation Next knows that the best multitasking is actually re-tasking.

Tactic 3: Project a Well-Crafted and Genuine Image

Unfortunately, those of us who were not weaned on the Internet and multiplayer, simulation-based role-playing video games will never master the art of multitasking the same way as those who are. However, by applying the lessons and tactics of Generation Next, you can master their market and succeed in their digital world.

DR. MAURICE A. RAMIREZ is a professional speaker and founder
of the consulting firm High Alert, LLC. He assists companies in aligning
business continuity plans with personnel and customer behavior
during adversity. He is Founding Chairperson of the American Board
of Disaster Medicine and a Senior Physician-Federal Medical Officer.
Dr. Ramirez is the author of
You Can Survive Anything, Anywhere, Every Time.