I’ve always been sceptical of the ‘digital native’, ‘digital immigrant’ analogy and comparison. It feels too simplistic, too lazy. The idea that if you’ve grown up with something you’re more ‘in-tune’, aware and proficient seems reductive.
If you’re not familiar with the phrases, the Wikipedia entry states:
“The term digital native describes a person who has grown up in the digital age, (rather than having acquired familiarity with digital systems as an adult, as a digital immigrant). Both terms were used as early as 1996”
Perhaps I should relax, we were a lot less nuanced about digital in 1996 but even as time’s progressed the phrases have stubbornly persisted.
I have a good friend from Austria (chance to add a nice picture of the alps), he’s lived in the UK for many years but not his whole life, he’s from Austria. In my experience his knowledge of British politics, culture and sport transcends many of my UK-born friends (and let’s not get into his knowledge of English grammar).
One is a small sample size but it illustrates that the comparison the phrases are based on doesn’t even work, less so the analogy, and that’s my contention.
Quick aside and declaration of interest. I was born before the invention of the world wide web and was well into my working life when it became a household ‘thing’. I have more grey hair than my natural colour and my eldest child is almost an adult. I’m from Generation X.
However, this isn’t a rant against the young, or a woeful plea that older people have feelings as well. I think the ‘digital native’, ‘digital immigrant’ terms are unhelpful because we’re all in the dark. We’re constantly trying to find our way and make sense of ‘digital’. It’s an annoying (often alarming), shape-shifting, indistinct, vague, frustrating, confounding, irritating thing. If anything, it’s more like an alien planet (where the rules of physics are always changing) rather than just ‘another country’.
So, coming to the point, I’m going to write about and share a few models that I’ve found helpful over many years working in and around the digital sphere. Think of them as instruments of navigation to help you find your way. They’re not always fool proof (a sextant wasn’t much use when it was completely cloudy – although apparently modern ships still need to have one) and they sometimes need interpretation. But overall, whenever you were born, however old you are, watch this space. I’ll be writing about some loops, curves and tails to help you on your way, add light to your path and at the very least, save you a bit of time agonising about decisions and next steps.
For anyone keen to know more before these posts have been written, here’s a quick preview:
The Learning Curve - included just because my inner pedant gets slightly irritated at it's misuse. It doesn't matter, we all know what we mean, language is forever evolving etc. It's just that many years ago, as a callow apprentice I was told of its actual meaning in production engineering and, well, if you're interested.
The Long Tail - if I ever ran a totalitarian country everyone who professed to working in 'digital' marketing would be made to read the book of this name. The fundamental model that explains the disruption that digital and online brings, particularly in the world of selling things. Send off for the book, download the Kindle version, listen to it on Audible. It'll stop you trying to sell everything to everyone and put a halt to the desire to be known by people who'll never buy from you. A guy called Mark Zuckerberg designed an algorithm based on the principle of the Long Tail and so did Google and Amazon. Consider it hyped.
The Hype Cycle (or Curve) - Fittingly, this is helpful for when someone really goes on about how utterly essential something is and how you just absolutely must do/get into this thing they're raving about. Strictly speaking it's not a 'digital' model, it's got analogue roots and can be applied to many things. Essentially, it's a helpful thing to hold in mind when the world seems to be going mad and you just can't see it (Pokemon Go within your marketing campaign anyone?) Many things are hyped, many things tend to disappoint, some things emerge as viable, some of these enter a long-term usefulness. The next time your boss arrives at your desk/Zoom call with a "my 17 year old just told me" pearl of wisdom, whip out the Hype Cycle, write the thing at the start of the curve and remember to say "This is a model that Gartner recommend to help save us time and money." Remember it's not your advice and you're not saying their offspring are unknowledgeable, nor are they easily led, it's just that Gartner advice sounds like something you'd see in a Harvard Business Review email, it's pukka*.
The Loyalty Loop and it's older relative The conversion funnel - Once you've understood the principle of the Long Tail, you absolutely must get to terms with the loyalty loop. It's basically the sales funnel for the digital (and for that read "social media") age. It's about how the Customer Decision Journey (to give it its proper name) works. It shows the importance of the pre-purchase, peer advice bit AND possibly more importantly, the post purchase are-they-experiencing-buyer's-remorse bit. In short, customers/clients hopefully go on a journey from 'Never heard of you' to 'I loved it so much much I wanted to buy the company'. They (really) listen to other people on that journey and the "sale" isn't the end of the process. I'd say this is a good model to show how essential relevant content and comms is in influencing the buying decision. Similar to the Hype Cycle, this was developed by a very credible name, the management consultants McKinsey, so it's got a strong "don't take my word for it" vibe.
That's all, articles on each to follow.
*Pukka (Hindi पक्का, Urdu پكّا pakkā) is a word of Hindi and Urdu origin literally meaning "cooked, ripe" and figuratively "fully formed", "solid", "permanent", "for real" or "sure". In UK slang, it can mean "genuine" or simply "very good"