Who's Your Audience? Digital Natives v Digital Immigrants

Your relationship with electronic gadgets depends on how old you were when you first started using them, according to a biometric study conducted by Time Inc.

“Digital Natives” — those who have grown up with mobile technology as part of their everyday lives — are more attached to their favorite devices: almost two-thirds of them (66 percent) carry their devices with them from room to room. Fewer than half (41 percent) of “Digital Immigrants,” who adopted mobile technology as adults, are likely to do so.

What consumers do with their favorite devices also differs by age. Digital Natives are multi-taskers, with their attention split among various media simultaneously. These may include several different electronic platforms (smart phone, tablet, laptop), traditional media like television, and even non-electronic media like magazines. If on a single device, they’ll have multiple channels (such as tabs in a web browser) open at once.

This means that their emotional engagement is very limited: as soon as they’re bored, Digital Natives switch their attention to something new. They switch channels and platforms up to 27 times per hour, almost every other minute.

Digital Natives are used to picking up different pieces of a story from a variety of sources and piecing them together. They don’t necessarily expect a linear presentation of facts. “This study strongly suggests a transformation…that is rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans like never before,” said Dr. Carl Marci of Innerscope Research.

Not only do Digital Natives switch channels more frequently, they frequent different channels than Digital Immigrants. While about 80 percent of online adults — 146.5 million people — use social media networks, those networks differ by age. Except for Facebook, almost all social media sites are far more popular with people aged 18 to 34 than they are with people 35 and up, according to a study by Netpop Research.

Channel
Facebook
YouTube
Wikipedia
Twitter
Yelp
Total
90%
56%
43%
20%
7%
Women 18-34
92%
66%
48%
24%
11%
Men 18-34
92%
83%
65%
34%
15%
Women 35+
92%
37%
28%
10%
2%
Men 35+
85%
52%
40%
17%
4%

Understanding these generational differences will enable you to better reach your target audience, both by choosing the appropriate networks, and by presenting material in ways that will snag the fast-moving attention of Digital Natives.

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