Last week in San Jose, I was talking to a group of marketers about how digital natives and digital immigrants use social networking. Inevitably, the subject of Twitter came up. In our recent BuyerSphere research, we found that Digital Natives (the younger generation that grew up with technology) use Twitter or microblogging platforms more than Digital Immigrants (the older generation that adopted technology as adults). Someone in the audience said that he thought it was common knowledge that younger people don’t “tweet” but older people do, running counter to our research. The following chart shows the percentage of difference in time spend each week between the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants in our sample:
The core audience for Twitter is squarely in the Digital Native age group. I think the answer lies in how the respective groups use Twitter. And this difference in usage and attitude extends beyond Twitter to almost any social networking platform.
The Digital Immigrant views Twitter as a tool. It’s a way to get information out, build traffic to a blog, connect with someone. We treat it as technology that offers us another way to get things done.
But for the Digital Native, Twitter is just part of the world they live in..like air or water. They don’t treat it as technology. It simply is. This attitude towards technology as not being technology is common amongst Natives. They don’t have the same “Gee Whiz” awe of technology. They’re not constantly comparing Twitter or Facebook against the good old days. Why should they? For them, this is just part of the world they live it..there is no reference point in the past. That’s why Natives spend substantially more of each week interacting with technology that connects them with their lives and social circle. For myself, FaceBook is a destination, as is Linked In or Twitter. I only go there when I need to do something. But for the Native, it’s just part of their environment.
Finally, I want to share the view of another Digital Immigrant, Comedian C.K. Louis, who ranted about the Native lack of appreciation for technology.