Embracing my Digital Youth

Photo by gluemoonWhen I was a kid, someone told me that the best way to see if spaghetti was cooked was to throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.  I was reminded of this today while attending a media and technology conference .  So many middle-aged, middle-management nonprofit professionals throwing all kinds of “new media” tools at the wall to see what sticks and helps them raise money, gain exposure, save children in developing countries, etc.

  I participated in a panel on “digital youth and analogue adults”, and I learned that I truly am right on the cusp of a major generational shift.

I am in charge of website and communications at my work, I am on facebook at least 10 times a day, talk to my colleagues across the office on google talk, and, update my blog at least every six months (ha).  But still, I’m very different than people just a few years younger than me.  For instance, I have a land line.  I watch TV (though I DVR my favorites).  I read the actual newspaper (but only on Sundays or while I’m sitting alone at lunch).  I rely more on email than on txting, twitter, etc.   

Sitting with a bunch of nonprofitheads pondering the use of social media I couldn’t help thinking that for most, they’ll never be able to pull it off.  Part of marketing your organization is about disseminating a strategic message.  But participation in any online community requires being your genuine self – any hint of a pitch, whether you’re selling a product or a cause – can get sniffed out immediately.  How do you balance getting your message out and really being a member of a community?  Thoughts are welcome.

3 Responses to “Embracing my Digital Youth”
  1. Beth Kanter says:

    I think that you are right that we are in the cusp of a generational shift and that in 15 years — things will be really different.

  2. I really appreciated your comments yesterday and your insights here. We are in a unique moment, certainly, but I think its important to keep in mind what makes an effective communication. Matching up the right message, messenger, and medium for each audience is something that we can lose sight of with all the new and shiny tools. And the communications that will resonate, as you aptly pointed out, are those that are genuine. It reminded me of a post I loved earlier from Katya’s Marketing Blog, “Technology isn’t about wires, it’s about bonds” (www.nonprofitmarketingblog.com/technology_isnt_about_wires_its_about_bonds/)

    If you’re interested in some more of the “Technographics” (as Beth called them, I loved that term), I really like Pew’s recent study. It’s not the same as an engagement ladder, but it breaks users into Types based on how they use new technologies, as well as other traditional demographic data. It reminded me of how the VAN (I think) used mircotargeting to break voters into types to make for more effective voter contact. Its certainly still a generalization, but I find it more useful than the either/or (digital/analog) paradigm that is sometimes bandied about, I think there are far more shades of gray.

    Those are my thoughts at the moment, I’m still processing and reflecting.


  3. Kate Barr says:

    I agree with your view that socal media can’t overcome the foundational problems with bad, manipulative or dishonest communication. I do think, though, that the new media will work out in the long run because good.communicators will find the appropriate use. I was at the session you describe, and I thought your final comment about knowing your audience and reaching them the right way nailed it.

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