Digital Immigrant vs. Digital Native

Jul 18, 2013

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There are two prevailing schools of experience when it comes to technology: digital immigrants and digital natives. This post addresses who each one is, and how it applies to your business and digital needs.

Digital Immigrant

This group consists of anyone who can remember life without the Internet and other similar technologies. You’re looking at the early 90s and backwards. They grew up with a very tangible type of fun. Games were played outside, conversations were had face to face with an extreme amount of detail. Stories were told by memory and verbal skills alone. If they had visual aids to tell a story, it was usually their hands that provided the show.

Digital Native

This group consists of those who always had computers in schools and did homework using the Internet. This means mid- to late-90s and later. They are the group that never really had to be introduced to technology, they grew up expecting screens to be touch capable, Internet to be fast, questions about anything and everything to be answered by Google, and every type of song available to them at the click of a button. Often deemed the “now” generation.

Reaching Both Groups

Despite seeming completely opposite, you can often harness the attention of both generations. Here are five quick tips to keep in mind:

1. Use less text and more visuals. The digital immigrant group will already be confused by clicking on the buttons that you provide and don’t want to waste a whole lot of time reading through your words. Using big text saying “click here” can often help.

2. Explain clearly what you want them to do. Don’t just assume that they know what a RT or IM is, tell them where to go and what to click on, otherwise you’ll lose your older generations.

3. Make it quick. If they’re titled the “now” generation then it’s to your advantage not to advertise “later”.

4. Recognize that digital technology is always going to be a less impressive medium than their senses. Again, as many visual aids as possible will be a greater help.

5. Create a sense and culture of “community” online. If you sell online products, think about having product reviews where people can talk about the items they have purchased from you. If you facilitate meaningful conversation online it will help the older generations trust your products more.

Because, why have only one group interested, when you can have them all?

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