Digital Natives: Your New Audience

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Digital natives are people who were born during and after the digital technology revolution. They’re the ones who have been using digital technology their entire lives.

Digital natives don't remember the pre-internet world.
Digital natives don’t remember the pre-internet world.

By contrast, a digital immigrant is someone who was born before digital technology became widespread, though they may have largely adopted digital technology later in life. Many business publications existed before the internet, and the transition to the web has involved bridging the gap between digital immigrants and digital natives. Digital natives are part of your audience now whether you know it or not, and they are definitely your future audience. To engage your new audience, there are several solutions for digital publishers – and step one of engagement is to get to know your audience.

Characteristics of Digital Natives

Here are some common characteristics of digital natives:

  • They live publicly online through social media sites primarily, though they may also have blogs or other websites

  • They share information frequently

  • They are always connected; digital natives are basically connected around the clock

  • They believe in transparency; transparency builds trust whether it’s with friends, co-workers, or businesses they transact with

  • They like giving input: talking “at” digital natives doesn’t work. You have to talk to them.

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The Social Media Imperative

Social media engagement is essential for business success today. Master digital technologies, and your small business can be heard, cited, and shared just as easily as a major corporation. Some marketing professionals assume that digital natives are better at ignoring marketing messages and are therefore harder to reach. On the contrary, those who have grown up with the entire world of knowledge at their fingertips are amazingly good at finding what they want. Once they find what they want, they tend to share it. Ignore social engagement with digital natives and you miss an enormous marketing opportunity. There are three major components of digital engagement: listening, interacting, and contributing.

Engagement Involves Listening

Listening means monitoring your own social network presence as well as other pages where your target audience hangs out. You need to know where your company is being mentioned and you need to listen to what is being said, even if it’s not all positive. When you listen to the social network conversation, you gain valuable knowledge about what your target audience wants and how they feel about what they get.

Listen to what social media participants are saying and learn from it.
Listen to what social media participants are saying and learn from it.

Engagement Involves Interacting

Social media engagement is not one-way. Talking “at” digital natives with constant marketing pitches is a sure way to make digital natives stop following you on Twitter and “unlike” you on Facebook. You have to contribute to conversations not only on your company’s social networking sites, but on related sites. Participating in social media discussions engages digital natives far better than simply throwing ads at them.

Engagement Involves Contributing

Digital natives are hungry for good content. When you have a strong social media presence, you have an easier time leading digital natives to your content, which may include blog posts, downloadable reports, videos, and podcasts. These people do not put up with fluff, however. If you say on Twitter or Facebook that your latest blog posts is about five ways to do X better, then your blog post better deliver. Digital natives won’t stick around if your content isn’t good, and they won’t trust you if they feel they’ve been tricked into clicking on a link that doesn’t deliver what is promised.

Digital natives are part of your audience now, and in the future they will be your entire audience. Engaging digital natives now is necessary for a strong reach in the future. Understanding what they want, what devices they use, and what they’re sharing is the key to reaching them with your content. You ignore digital natives at your own peril.

If you run a trade website, one of the best ways to reach digital natives is with a custom job board. Younger readers did not grow up in the era when a person started work with a company at 21 or 22 and stayed there until retirement. Even those who aren’t actively looking for a job are savvy enough to stay on top of hiring trends. Check out RealMatch.com’s recruitment advertising solutions for media companies and digital publishers. These solutions are a terrific way to draw new and repeat traffic from digital natives and digital immigrants alike.

Photo Credits: imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net, David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net

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