Understanding Generation Y and their use of social media: A review and research agenda

Ruth Bolton, A. Parasuraman, Ankie Hoefnagels, Nanne Migchels, Sertan Kabadayi, Thorsten Gruber, Yuliya Komarova Loureiro, David Solnet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

742 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to review what we know - and don't know - about Generation Y's use of social media and to assess the implications for individuals, firms and society. Design/methodology/approach: The paper distinguishes Generation Y from other cohorts in terms of systematic differences in values, preferences and behavior that are stable over time (as opposed to maturational or other differences). It describes their social media use and highlights evidence of intra-generational variance arising from environmental factors (including economic, cultural, technological and political/legal factors) and individual factors. Individual factors include stable factors (including socio-economic status, age and lifecycle stage) and dynamic, endogenous factors (including goals, emotions, and social norms).The paper discusses how Generation Y's use of social media influences individuals, firms and society. It develops managerial implications and a research agenda. Findings: Prior research on the social media use of Generation Y raises more questions than it answers. It: focuses primarily on the USA and/or (at most) one other country, ignoring other regions with large and fast-growing Generation Y populations where social-media use and its determinants may differ significantly; tends to study students whose behaviors may change over their life cycle stages; relies on self-reports by different age groups to infer Generation Y's social media use; and does not examine the drivers and outcomes of social-media use. This paper's conceptual framework yields a detailed set of research questions. Originality/value: This paper provides a conceptual framework for considering the antecedents and consequences of Generation Y's social media usage. It identifies unanswered questions about Generation Y's use of social media, as well as practical insights for managers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-267
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Dark side
  • Digital media
  • Generation
  • Generation Y
  • Media use
  • Millenials
  • Social media
  • Social networking sites
  • Social norms
  • Social stratification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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