I’m a Baby Boomer. According to a recent US study, 81% of the members of my generation are not big on blogs. 86% of us don’t visit social networking sites. 76% have no interest in sites like You Tube. 73% never visit Internet forums, and 30% never visit online news sites.

But my, how the world of marketing and advertising is changing.

Compare these results to the behaviour of Generation Y where 58% of them never read blogs. 38% never visit Facebook or other social network sites. 55% never view multimedia sites and 15% never go to news web sites.

Compare these results to Generation Z, the current teenagers. They are “online nearly all the time,” according to a recent University of Massachusetts Amherst study, with 99% reporting Internet use and 45% describing themselves as heavy web users. Of those, 72% were on social networks.

The march of time is changing our online behaviour and the value our society puts on social media.

But more importantly, the newest online generation has a particular sensitivity to being advertised and marketed to on the Internet with only 3.1% agreeing with using social networks as a medium for advertising.

So although advertisers are expected to spend close to $300 million on Facebook in 2009 and $520 million on MySpace, they may be out of touch with younger audiences who consider social networking to be off limits as a traditional advertising venue.

For marketers and advertisers, therefore, the right behavior within the social medium is critical. Marketers need to understand their target audience and its social medium tolerances. That means the type of campaign chosen, a balance among branding, advertising messages and virtual and real events and causes, requires multiple strategies. That also means marketers and advertisers have to manage the time required to create a social media success because one thing is certain, social media investments are not about money as much as they are about time.

In fact, in Michael Stelzner’s report, Social Media Marketing Industry Report: How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses (PDF, 5MB), there were significant cost reductions to overall marketing expenses through the investment in social media marketing.

Instead of investing dollars in media buys, marketers and advertisers found that social media marketing required time to develop relationships, planning time and online time. The most successful social media marketers were the ones doing it the longest and the ones spending 16 or more hours each week online in getting the message out. Even marketers who had invested only a few months but many hours online doing social media campaigns reported gaining new partnerships.

Selzner’s report listed the preferred social media tools. The highest reported use was Twitter at 86% of those surveyed, followed by Blogs at 79%, then LinkedIn at 78% and Facebook at 77%. Underutilized social media tools included YouTube and other video services at 41%, social bookmark sites like Delicious at 38%, with StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Mixx and FriendFeed trailing the pack.

The nature of social media with its strong elements of community and free expression present a significant challenge to today’s marketers and advertisers. The younger the social media audience is the more sensitive it is to being sold something. Successful social media marketing tactics have to recognize that both Generation Y and Z are digital natives while we Baby Boomers are digital immigrants.

You can advertise to a Baby Boomer. They are used to it. But Generation Y and in particular, Generation Z are turned off by blatant marketing ploys.

For marketers and advertisers engaging this younger audience, the art is in creating conversations on line, encouraging engagement, building trust, and instilling purpose. Providing a social networking environment for like-minded consumers encourages conversations among members as well as with the product, brand or cause. I was most struck by the difference between the generations when I read the following quote, “we call it social media, our kids call it life.”