digital native

The debates that define us

At the dawn of the Millennium, the world was split into digital immigrants and digital natives.

At the time, this was a novel idea as us digital immigrants were getting used to the fact that the big box sitting on the desk in our room (a computer) had the ability to connect to the internet without blowing the house up. Now we have fridges who talk to us and have the ability to read out a step by step process on how to cook the perfect chicken parmesan with a crust – but not burnt – outer layer.

There is a whole generation, my children and your children, who are growing up in a world where technology is freely available to them, they look at computers in a completely different way to us. They don’t ask their father how to build a windmill for their school science project, they ask YouTube.

Operating on a different level

What does science say about digital natives? I recently read an article on pastemagazine.com that presented some interesting thoughts.

One of the important aspects of the article was news that we already knew, yet needed to hear. In 2008, Gary Small of the University of California at Los Angeles Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour promoted the idea that digital natives’ brains are hardwired differently since they were exposed to different digital products early.

This sparked panic when people read his thoughts as a negative association, and his work is sometimes criticized as fuelling frenzy about parents damaging today’s kids. One of the early fire starters that complicated this debate was that with the rapid adoption of technology, schools were becoming ill-equipped to cater for the needs of our children.

Since then, other studies have backed up the idea in specific ways. Data from the same University of California at Los Angeles brain institute, for example, says that digital natives’ brains were more actively engaged while scrolling through a webpage than while reading printed text.

Social interactions, friendships and civic activities may operate differently in the brain, too, researchers at the University of Minnesota say.

It therefore makes sense that education begins at home. While many may think that their children are participating in a brainless activity when playing a gamer on a tablet – I am sometimes guilty of this too – we actually are unaware of how education has been gamified and how many of these games are teaching your child educational building blocks long before they go to school and get taught their ABCs.

The biggest takeaway

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the article is that while digital natives are born into a world of technology, they still need training to fully appreciate it.

The article pointed out that although younger generations use their phones and computers often for basic schoolwork or social purposes, they may not have the skills required for technology-based careers in computer science, marketing, business and health care.

Students often have high digital confidence but low digital competence, a collaboration of international researchers said in 2015. For example, a digital native may know how to use social media for social interactions but not to produce content for a media organization or branding for a company.

In a 2010 publication, Apostolos Koutropoulous said that we need to move away from the bias of insisting in naming this generation the Digital/Net/Google Generation because those terms don’t describe them accurately and have the potential of keeping this group of students from realizing personal growth by assuming that they’ve already grown in areas that they so clearly have not.

Further debunking

So we have now basically disproven that being a digital native based on the fact that you are born into a world of technology is not a thing. This also may suggest that digital immigrants may be able to compete with this group on an even keel.

The main factor in this is the ability to use technology as a learning tool. An academic paper on this subject suggests that there is a growing body of academic research that questions the validity of the generational assumption included in the digital native concept: contrary to the argument put forward by proponents of the digital native concept, generation alone does not adequately define if someone is a digital native or not. Research conducted in Switzerland concludes that it is unrealistic to attribute behaviours and characteristics by simplistically basing them on generational virtues.

The age factor has a discrete impact on certain aspects, the familiarity with the new digital devices, but cannot be considered as the variable explaining how current learners face Information and Communication Technologies.

Digital marketing agencies

This whole debate has given birth to digital marketing agencies who have found a niche in the market whereby they are better than traditional marketing channels.

An article on josic.com points out that a digital marketing agency helps businesses plan their online marketing campaigns and promote them successfully over the web. A modern digital agency is more effective for online advertisement of business rather traditional digital options like television and print media.

Nowadays, every business needs the back of online digital agencies to give a quick growth of the trade over the web. Here, the digital firm can help businesses by fulfilling their digital marketing requirements like website development, designing, SEO activities, PPC, and much more. For managing all the tasks, digital agencies outsource the work to the experts in the market and manage the client’s project smartly. Thus, a digital marketing firm takes the challenge seriously and delivers the optimum result for the businesses under the stipulated time frame.

A recent article on which-50.com explained the importance of a sound digital strategy in more detail.

Data-driven marketing

The first aspect that the article delved into was the best practices for building customer intelligence through data-driven marketing. These practices can help your organisation use data to gain insights into your customers and turn this knowledge into action:

  • Use customer data to understand and personalise each individual’s journey;
  • Invest in predictive analytics;
  • Centralise your data to accelerate insights and for ease of accessibility; and
  • Integrate external and offline data to enhance your audience segments.

Customer experience

The article then asked what the best practices were for igniting brand loyalty through the customer experience. These practices can help you create more meaningful experiences and move your organisation forward in digital maturity:

  • Think of every touch point as a brand connection;
  • Develop content with the customer’s needs in mind;
  • Work to develop a rich customer profile; and
  • Automate the delivery of your personalised content.

Mobile

Finally, the article asked what the best practices for breathing new life into mobile were? These strategies will help your organisation prepare for a mobile-only world:

  • Make mobile a priority by investing in mobile channels and applications;
  • Create dedicated mobile sites and apps;
  • Use data to determine the value your mobile channels deliver; and
  • Use data to understand valuable mobile content and services.

Embracing digital marketing is not a debate anymore. It is only the area of expertise for digital natives. It has become clear that being born into a world of technology does not make you any more of a technology expert than being born in a Mc Donald’s makes you a hamburger.

The debate in this day and age is how much value you will lose if you do not adopt these strategies. Why are companies still considering value when it is in plain sight?

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