So here’s a question for you: which economy are we in? The Attention Economy? The Knowledge Economy? The Trust Economy? It totally seems to change depending on who’s talking, and I can’t quite keep up. Now, I’m no Ben Bernanke, but I’m actually willing to wager that instead of existing in any of those economies we actually exist in what has been dubbed the Relationship Economy, and that introverted millennials are uniquely fitted to thrive in it.
Jerry Michalski coined the term “relationship economy” in the early 2000’s and this movement has been described as “a new world where whom you trust and who trusts you are primary assets”. An economy that “is about a trusting, give-and-take process that brings producers and consumers into a much more symbiotic and communicative relationship than previous economic models.”
Okay, boring descriptions aside, my take away is that this new way of doing business and doing business well is about building trust, opening up the lanes of communication, and of course building relationships. While it may be up for debate that introverts are particularly skilled at the former two, I think I can safely make the assertion that we are fairly good at the latter, especially if we are millennials and here’s why:
1. Millennials are wired for connection–particularly of the electronic variety.
Our generation has been dubbed The Connected Generation because of our technological-savvy and embracing of cell phones, texting, instant messaging, and all forms of communication. We are connected 24/7/365 and segue seamlessly between spending time with friends to capturing the moment with a group selfie which we promptly upload for our online communities to see via our many social media accounts. In this economic model, communities are very powerful and can directly contribute to the success or failure of a particular brand effort at any given time (Twitter anyone?).
Online communities are oftentimes where introverts come alive, safely engaging, sharing, and connecting with like-minded individuals from all over the world on topics that range from romance, career advice, starting and succeeding in business, and even emotional wellness.
2. Millennials prefer authentic interactions whether it be with brands or people. And guess what? So do introverts.
In her book, Mind Your X’s and Y’s, Lisa Johnson shares that Millennials crave genuine relationships and interactions with brands that don’t feel gimmicky and overtly commercial. We don’t like being marketed to, especially if we feel like we’re being manipulated. It of course stands to reason, that the way we like to be related to, will be mirrored in our own interactions–be it personal or professional. And despite all the internet chatter about Millennials’ relative lack of soft skills, we are incredibly skilled at building and nurturing friendships–friendships that may never leave the online sphere, but are meaningful nonetheless. Introverts, despite our preference for limited social interaction also crave genuine relationships and will search those out and/or create them in their own lives.
3. For millennials, it’s ideal for the relationships we’ve forged online to be enjoyed in 3D since we’ll likely have something in common.
The Internet is great for oh so many reasons, and connecting with like-minded individuals is one of them. There was a time when grown men who like to watch cartoons about colorful talking ponies would have to enjoy their guilty pleasure alone, praying no one from the downtown pub dared visit while he was indulging the latest episode. But now? We have full-fledged Brony conventions where more and more individuals show up each year. Entire markets have been born simply due to the existence of these idiosyncrasy-centered gatherings and the merchants that serve them. And no one knows shared interests better than introverts who, more often than not, will venture out to risk energy-draining social interaction only if it’s to connect with those who are more like us than not.
What does this all mean, and why is it important?
In the Relationship Economy, he (or she) who can create the most engaged and active brand ambassadors will rule the day. Ours is a noisy world where information abounds and everyone everywhere is vying for our attention. People buy from people and brands they trust. What makes someone trust you? A carefully cultivated and respectful relationship. A relationship that will thrive regardless of how many people are screaming “Buy Now!” and flooding the marketplace with their wares because those that truly dig you, are going to purposely seek you out and maintain their connection to you.
Introverted Millennials will crush it in this economic model because in addition to all of the above, they are killer at deep dive 1:1 conversations and relating. And isn’t that at the core of every sale and every brand interaction? A one-one-one conversation with a potential consumer that you care deeply about getting to know?
Because if it isn’t, it should be.