The Digital Generation Is Now Every Generation

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Everything is digital. Fine. Everyone is online. Fine.

These are just platitudes. There are many industries and businesses that are still far behind when it comes to being digital. Everything from the technology used within the organization to how they market and communicate to their consumer base. There are also many parts of the world that are not online (just look at what companies like Google and Facebook are trying to do to extend connectivity to these parts of the world) and there is a cost to our digital lives that many who are living in more rural areas or those without means can’t participate in. When we say everything is digital and everyone is online, we are – in fact – talking about the accessible business marketplaces in more developed parts of our world (the audience that most businesses are selling to). That’s the level-set.

Those that have, who do not take part. 

With that, it’s somewhat amazing to still hear baseless and antiquated ideologies in the face of facts. These include statements like: “our audience isn’t that sophisticated,” “our customers don’t use technology in this way,” “our consumers prefer the more traditional ways of being connected to us,” “ours is a people business and will always be face-to-face,” “they’ve told us what they wanted and this is not it,” “it’s still too early for where our customers are at,” etc… 

True story…

A few years back a multinational pharmaceutical company asked me to present some thinking on the current state of digital innovation. Prior to their event we had a pre-conference conversation, where the company’s head of healthcare professionals went on a ten-minute diatribe about doctors don’t have access to this type of technology, don’t have an interest in it, and are still working in a very paper-based environment. In short: the doctors don’t use smartphones, social media and technology like those other clients that you have. Right. Here’s the current state of those doctors: they finish up at the clinic, hop in their car and drive around until they can find a pay phone. Then, they call their travel agent, discuss flight options for an upcoming conference, write them a cheque and their airline ticket arrives via courier several days later. Doctors, apparently, live in an entirely other time-space continuum from the rest of us. 

On being ridiculous to make a point.

Maybe that doctor’s fabricated story is a tad dramatic in relation to what’s really going, but there is a point to be made. Snapchat will go public today. If you think that Snapchat is only for young people, you are not mistaken… but it is changing. Quickly. From the Advertising Age article, Already a Favorite of Teens, Snapchat Is Gaining Popularity With Their Parents

“Market research firm eMarketer projects that 70.4 million Americans will use Snapchat in 2017, up from its June prediction of 66.6 million users, in a report on the app’s U.S. user base released on Tuesday. The largest user base is aged from 18 to 24, but eMarketer estimates that 6.4% of users will be from 45 to 54 years old, over 2 percentage points more than previously projected. The research firm defined users as those who check the app at least once a month.Close to 8 million Snapchatters will be over the age of 45, according to the research, just over 11% of the total U.S. user base. Those older than 45 are projected to make up 12.2% of the app’s users in 2018 and 13.3% by 2019. Last year, about 9% of Snapchat’s American users were over the age of 45, and in 2015 it was just 5.6%.”

It’s no longer a generational thing. The digital generation is every generation.

Certain technologies will appeal to certain types of people, yes. But, any technology that achieves any semblance of scale does impact everyone. We have seen this – time and time again. It wasn’t that long ago when concerns over Facebook’s growth circled around this dataset that millennials were abandoning the platform (or their growth was levelling off), because the olds were coming on. Years later (today), Facebook is ubiquitous. The same happened with Instagram. Look no further than Sprout Social‘s recently published report, The Q1 2017 Sprout Social Index, which states: 

“With more than one billion active users, Facebook, which began as a collegiate social community, has graduated. Across all three generations, respondents identified Facebook (43.6%) as their social network of choice. Collectively, respondents found Facebook to be 29% more popular than Instagram–the respondents’ nearest, cross-generational preference.Facebook’s widespread popularity is nearly identical among Gen X (64.7%) and Baby Boomers (65.2%). When it comes to Millennials, however, our survey findings weren’t as distinct. Facebook might be Millennials’ most beloved platform but the group’s preference for Facebook over other social networks isn’t as pronounced as it is for Gen X and Baby Boomers. Both older generations identified YouTube as their second favorite social platform and the divide between the two networks is staggering. For Gen X, Facebook is 54% more popular than YouTube.”

Thinking less about specific age brackets and more about how digital impacts our lives.

This is the opportunity for business professionals today. One eye could be watching how the younger generation adopts to newer technology (watch them now for chatbots, virtual reality, etc…), while the other eye, ears, brain, hands and the rest of the body needs to think – at a whole other level – about a world that is no longer divided by the young (or millennials) and the Gen X/Baby Boomers (or the olds) but rather a truly connected and digital society. This is who we are now.

It is no longer about who is using digital, but rather how they are using digital… because they all are.