The Digital Native

The Digital Native

When I bought a new laptop on Friday, my mum told me all about her first ever venture into PC World. They bought a desktop computer – a Window’s ’95 – when I was four years old and my sister Georgie and I gradually abandoned the Commodore 64 in favour of it. At the tender age of 20 I am what is called a ‘digital native’, a strange term that Wikipedia defines as ‘a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technology and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts’. 

iCrossing’s head of social media Mark Higginson argues, ‘the stats show an altogether more technologically sophisticated audience amongst the 55+ age-group (the age bracket many might describe as non-digital natives), than the definition would have us believe’. He may well be right. Paradoxically, my 62-year-old dad owned a Kindle before me, but still calls me in Newcastle (from Kent) to ask if I know how the DVD player plugs into the television. 

Perhaps there is no way of knowing whether an older adult – or anyone, for that matter – will be technology savvy or have trouble answering their mobile phone. This may not seem like a big deal until you factor in its impact on branding and marketing. What does the digital age mean for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity with a high percentage of older supporters?
By far the largest proportion of users who ‘like’ Macmillan on Facebook are in the 25-34 and 35-44 age brackets (28.4% of the total and 27.1% of the total respectively). Most interestingly, though, there are 2.1% more followers of the 45-54 age bracket than there are aged 18-24. But whether this is a reflection of their use of technology or a reflection of Macmillan’s target audience is hard to say.

All the while that digital and social media marketing grows faster than the queue in Vauxhall’s Prêt à Manger, we’ve got to keep a handle on all forms of communication, from printed newsletters to Facebook messages. Even the biggest social media butterfly would agree that communication should be informative, intuitive and creative before it is ‘on trend’, which could in turn risk alienating lots of valued supporters. 

I’m sure many grannies have iPads these days, but we must put character before 140 characters.

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