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Wake up to the habits of digital natives: how interaction and immersion affect your business.

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At the age of 24, Kymberly Flores is the regional sales director of the Extended Stay Hotels in Alaska. She wakes up in the morning to her iPad alarm clock and uses it to pull up her Facebook account to see what her friends are doing; then she checks for important overnight emails. This is even before she gets out of bed. As she eats her breakfast, Kym uses flip board, an application for her iPad that allows her to view and interact with several different news sources simultaneously. Sometimes, she'll read an interesting article, and "share" it with her friends on Facebook and post about how it relates to her. Kym Flores has a TV, but no cable. She watches her favorite TV shows through sites like Hulu and Netflix.

DIGITAL NATIVE

Flores is a digital native. Her growth and development coincided with the growth and development of digital communication. The term digital native typically applies to those born in the late 1980s or after. Communicating via technology has been ever present in their lives.

Flores knows the value of relationships and knowing her clients. That is why she has installed a social plug-in called "Xobni" on Outlook. As soon as she inserts an email address into the "TO:" field, that client or potential client's FB profile, Linkedin profile and Twitter account all pull up below, keeping her informed of that person's latest shared information. With that plug-in, she knows which of her clients enjoy talking about fishing, family or some other activity.

Flores has more than 800 "friends" on Facebook. As a consummate professional, Flores knows the importance of post integrity. She'll never post anything on a social media site that her grandmother wouldn't approve.

Flores uses Facebook to keep in touch, but she also realizes by writing fun, interesting posts, clients feel a greater connection with her. She realizes sales are made through strong relationships and she uses social media to strengthen those relationships. Flores has "fanned" almost all of her clients and uses social media sites to not only become better acquainted with her clients, but to stay on top of the business world and the changes occurring at each of the companies she does business with or is aiming to do business with.

Social media has transcended the sole purpose of being "social." Current events, community and world events now appear on her "wall" and appear in the order other interests. It reduces the amount of time she has to spend searching for them on other sites. Current events in the business community are also streamed into her feed regularly by the business pages she has "fanned" or "liked." It is how she is able to do business in three markets at the same time and always know what is going on in each of them.

As a digital native, Flores delivers on clients' expectations of instant gratification; the present is the only time she knows. It is engraved in her culture and has been shaped by the fact that the computer has grown and developed at the same rate she has. As the computer age has developed over the years--enhancing the way we do business--so have the digital natives and their ability to incorporate technology and social media to be ever more effective in business and client relations.

Besides being a digital native, Flores is an active member of the community. She is an Anchorage Chamber Ambassador, a committee member for the recent Run for Good 5K, and is a member of the Youth Exchange Committee in Anchorage East Rotary. Most companies and organizations would include Flores in their target market given her income level and dedication to the community.

MULTI-MEDIA IMMERSION

While Flores is a unique individual, she epitomizes the consumption characteristics of her generation. "Clients need to recognize fundamental shifts in media consumption and move beyond traditional mass-marketing to reach younger consumers," says Kate Slyker, vice president of client services at the Nerland Agency, adding that this generation is more likely to be multiscreen consumers.

"One thing that differentiates this generation is they are not just watching TV shows," she says. "They could be watching TV, on Facebook and texting all at the same time. They are truly immersed."

She advises clients that reaching out to digital natives is no different than reaching out to any other demographic. The challenge remains: Reach the right people at the right time with the right message. Understanding and crafting media plans to align with media consumption are critical pieces of that process.

What differs, Slyker says, is this demographic wants to be in charge of a conversation and self-select how and when content is being delivered. She thinks that is why Facebook is overtaking Google in use. Facebook is on their terms. They choose when they want to use it, how and on what platform.

COMPELLING ENOUGH TO SHARE

According to Lincoln Garrick, president of Solstice Advertising, reaching out to digital natives is no small feat. Folks in that particular demographic are not necessarily interested in seeking out people's opinions outside of their social group. Nor are they necessarily interested in primary source information. They want to find out what their friends think and they want to put out their opinions first and foremost. He feels it is challenging because you have to put your message out in smaller circles. He says the content of the message needs to be compelling and easily processed for it to be shared.

A lot of the media principles that worked 10 to 30 years ago, such as reach and frequency, are still applicable. Strong reach, higher frequency--both of those combined over time will generate better results if the message is viewed as relevant, compelling and honest. Today, Garrick says, we are just using different channels.

What's different now from generations before, Garrick goes on to say, is that there are more ways to get information and you can get more information in a shorter period of time. Digital natives are hyper-connected and it means their news and word-of-mouth travel faster. Their thoughts and experiences can be shared almost immediately through pictures, posts and videos.

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GOING FOR DIGITAL INTERACTION

Calvin Worthington Jr. of Worthington Ford has embraced digital communication wholeheartedly but with a traditional approach. His Worthington Ford ads are running on Pandora, Hulu, Google and Facebook. His full digital media campaign has only run for a month so far. While he cautions it is too early to gauge the effect, he estimates one in three leads are directly related to the online advertising since it has been running. When asked how it is affecting sales, Worthington smiles and says they are having one of the best months ever.

Worthington understands the value of reaching digital natives on their platforms as he also consumes content online. He says the only time he actually sees his ad is when it runs on Hulu. He has a DVR at home and fast forwards through TV commercials. One of the advantages he finds with Hulu is it has shorter commercial breaks and doesn't allow him to skip the commercials.

Worthington's next plan of action is to find how people are interacting with the Worthington brand online. He feels rather than trying to create something interesting, he needs to find what people find interesting to do and see how they can leverage that.

As for Flores, she enjoys authentic and honest marketing. She doesn't respond well to marketing that seems contrived or tries too hard to be "cool." If she likes a company or experience, she won't just share with her friends on Facebook, she'll help promote it through her channels of influence. If she is offended by a company or experience, she will most likely share that as well.

Digital natives no longer consume media and information--they interact with it. Companies now have the responsibility of embracing the differences, which can and will, undoubtedly, impact them.
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Title Annotation:TECHNOLOGY
Comment:Wake up to the habits of digital natives: how interaction and immersion affect your business.(TECHNOLOGY)
Author:Johnston, Ross
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Oct 1, 2011
Words:1328
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