There’s a group of people in our midst who are more digitally connected than the geeks at your local Apple Store. They’re not readily recognizable because they don’t talk about social media (they’re too busy doing social media) and they don’t sound like techno junkies. What are the clues? You might pick them out of the crowd by the lack of paper on their desks (they haven’t printed anything in seven months because they’re so accustomed to digital tools, paper doesn’t occur to them). Another clue is they know a lot of people — everywhere. Their idea of doing social media right involves actually connecting with other humans. They leverage the two-way nature of social conversations better than anyone else.
Generational Studies Tend To Ignore Digital Natives
Digital Natives don’t get much coverage in the press or in management meetings because we’re all so engrossed in the “generational” matrix, we forget all about these folks. For the last five years, I’ve been giving presentations on the multi-generational workplace. I’m sure you’ve heard about the four cohorts that make up most of today’s workforce:
- Traditionalists, born 1928 – 1945
- Baby Boomers, born 1946 – 1964
- Generation X, born 1965 – 1979
- Generation Y, born 1980 – 1995
It’s nearly impossible to lead teams without some understanding of where people are coming from, so information on common themes and motivators is helpful. If you’re intrigued, you might enjoy Engaging The Generations At Work — it will give you a brief overview of the societal influences that helped shape each group. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there) we have to be mindful of exceptions. That’s where the Digital Natives come in. This group busts all the generalizations we’ve come to accept about the four cohorts listed above.
Defining The Digital Native
Digital Natives are people who take naturally to online communication. They can come from any of the generations. You’ll recognize them by two prominent characteristics: first, they’re distinctly comfortable with social media; second, they have a strong belief in communicating to share information. These are the folks who tweet, message, and update Facebook throughout the day. If you ask them a question, they’ll produce data quicker than lightning by accessing their many online resources.
You really have to pay attention to Digital Natives as they’re the biggest influencers today. They’ll do more for your brand – whether negative or positive – than a thousand others put together. They have a knack for rallying others around a cause or belief. They have the biggest online reach.
What To Do With Digital Natives
If you have Digital Natives in your workplace, tap them to help with the company’s social media planning. Can they take on some of the tweeting responsibilities? Take advantage of their enthusiasm for social media by asking them to teach others how to use Twitter or Facebook for your organization. Do you need contributors for newsletter articles? Look no further. These natural communicators usually have plenty to say.
Brands should particularly look for the Digital Natives who are commenting on your product or service. Engage them. If they’re pointing out faults, ask them to help you improve things. If they’re singing your praises, thank them. They’re all about two-way communications so be sure to let them know you’re listening.
On a scale of one to ten, where one means you’d rather not ever touch social media, and ten means you use it throughout the day 7 days per week, what number are you?