Think back to when you first learned English. If English is your first language you probably can’t remember learning the rudiments of it.
Compare that with any other languages you might speak. I speak a few and it took me a long time to learn them. OK, maybe not to learn a bunch of words and basic grammar, but a long time to learn which version of a word was appropriate and to develop an accent that sounded more natural for the language. The hardest part is getting to the point where you can think in the language so you’re not constantly translating, in my case, from English.
Think about communicating with a non-native English speaker in English: you can hear the unsure vocabulary and the accented speech. Now think about your business. Odds are if you’re using digital channels for communication, you’re not a native speaker. You probably are translating many of the marketing or other business lessons you’ve learned into digital. As with other languages, you might be speaking with an accent or using the wrong word. In fact, unless you’re under the age of 15 or so you’re not what some folks call “digital native.” That notion is having some big impacts and many more are on the way.
One example is the Google Chromebook. These inexpensive computers are making their way into schools and kids are learning to live with cloud-based software. No hard drives, no program updates, no ongoing software expense. If you’re Microsoft that’s a killer. There are other things digital natives do that are changing things over time. Cord-cutting is one we’ve discussed quite often. Traditional TV is based on programming and counter-programming to draw in the biggest number of eyeballs all at once so you can sell advertising against broad demographic targets. What happens when the cord is cut and people are their own programmers? They’re very comfortable doing this – how has the language they’re speaking changed your business? How has the technology of programmatic media buying and advanced behavioral targeting changed the need to aggregate those broad demographics? If you’re trying to get women 18-49 and the market demand is for people who have looked at a mommy-blog in the last week, aren’t you speaking a different language?
The point is this: digital natives speak technology just as you speak English. They grew up with it and don’t know a world that existed before it. If your business model isn’t taking that into account or if you’re not becoming fluent in that language, you’re heading for failure. Maybe you need a great translator but do not assume that this is the equivalent of going to a place on vacation where they speak enough English for you to slide by for a little while. The digital natives are restless – have you learned enough of their language to address them in an understandable manner?