Social Media

Do Millennials have a digital advantage?

Much is being said about Millenials, this new generation brought up with social media and digital omnipresence. Will they be at an advantage or a disadvantage versus us old codgers who do things the old fashioned way?

With each new generation comes new ways of doing things, and with that the criticism that they will either gain or lose something. The truth is, of course, a little bit of both.

The 80’s generation and the advent of MTV brought with it a rapid fire barrage of visual stimuli. We, as Generation X, were supposed to be the generation with no patience and no attention to detail. We were supposed to be the generation with perpetual ADD. Not holding down steady careers, not committing ourselves to relationships, and generally destroying civilisation as we know it.
Based on the lives of my friends and former classmates, I’d say these predictions were dead wrong.

Now they’re saying the same thing about Millenials: no attention span, no patience, looking for instant gratification, etc. Time will tell if the predictions are true, but I doubt it.

But I can say one thing with certainty: Millennials are not necessarily more digitally savvy than anyone else – full stop! This self-perpetuating myth that they are more adept at mobile and web technology is pure rubbish.

I see new recruits come in to our company all the time. Call them Millenials if you want. They’re young, ambitious turks looking for their big break in advertising.
But with rare exception, very few of them have the faintest idea how digital technology works. Sure, they’re more likely to be on Facebook or Instagram or whatever the latest social platform is, and using their smartphone to connect, but they still don’t “get” digital any more than “older” people. They can’t inherently design or write a website out of the box, and they need to be taught the fundamentals just like everyone else. They don’t “get” what makes a good iPad app versus something that no one will want to engage with.

I’ve yet to meet a fresh recruit who comes into a meeting and is able to parlay their experiences as a Millenial (whether in University or social life) into a meaningful marketing campaign.

This isn’t a criticism! It’s an opinion based on experience and observation. Fundamentals need to be taught, regardless of age or generation.

So my answer to the post-title is “no” – millenials do not have an inherent leg-up.

Just because you have a licence and drive a Prius doesn’t mean you have the faintest idea how hybrids work differently from gasoline engines. Or how cars work in general! Same goes for millenials and their digital know-how.

I may sound like a broken record, but we need to get back to the principle disciplines – the fundamentals – and build from there.

The millenials bring with them a new opportunity: their inherent embrace of new technologies. They may not understand how to market a website effectively and maximise ROI. But they will understand what makes an app worthy of their attention, for however long they feel interested in it.
Which, when you think about it, is really nothing new; just think about every generation since WWII, embracing everything from cars to colour TVs to computers. It’s what young people do – embrace the Next Big Thing.

So if there’s something they can teach us as marketers, it is to keep a keen eye on where their interests shift, and follow along and keep up. At the end of the day, they’re young people, and this is just how young people have always been!

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