Getting Your Digital Immigrant Executives to Understand the World of Digital Natives

People are still craving knowledge about social media
I just finished the social media measurement seminar with Glenn Fannick of Dow Jones (Update: He’s since posted some poll results). It was a free seminar, so there were a lot of registrants (over 1100) the actual attendee roster was over 600, but what was most impressive was the engagement of the audience, there were lots of responses to the three polls we queried and over 190 questions. Justin Flowers said he learned a lot from the webinar (his expectations were low since it was free), and there are dozens of responses within Twitter. The webinar will be available for anyone, and the slides, so stay tuned for that.

Yet, many organizations have not adopted
One of the questions from the crowd was “how do I convince my management to embrace this new social media world?” It was interesting to hear that many folks are having a hard time convincing their management to join in this scary new online world, where customers are talking directly to prospects and your employees are no where to be seen. Convincing management (often digital immigrants) to join the online world (where digital natives live) can be challenging.

Look at the coming generation
I suggested that a conversation start with executives about the changes in communication, and if they have pictures of kids of their desk, that’s a good way to start the conversation. Ask you senior leaders how their kids communicate, if they don’t (perhaps they’re too busy running the company) ask them to take a closer look, and get back to you. My former CEO analyzed that his kids were using IM on PC, surfing the web, Text messaging on phone, school work on the couch next to them and the TV on in the background…and that was considered studying!

Immigrants vs Natives, guess who wins?
This next generation of digital immigrants are using the the web and other digital channels to communicate, update each other, and talk (Forrester’s 2007 stats indicates nearly two-thirds of teens access a social network at least once a month) and nearly 1/3 of adults access social networks a month. This doesn’t include other tools, just social networks. The truth is, this next generation of natives will enter the workforce with connections to employees, customers, prospects, partners, and even competitors, firms must be ready.

Getting started
So, for those guides that are leading the immigrants, start by education, focus on the opportunities and risks, and come forth to executives with a plan. More on that in the future.

Update: Brij has some analysis on our webinar and posted the poll results.. If you review our webinar and blog it, (even if you don’t agree with us) let me know and I’ll link to it.

Missed the webinar and want to read the highlights? Heather Havenstein of Computer World has a great write up: Companies must listen to the Web 2.0 world. Those that ignore social media critics risk being blindsided by negative comments, experts say. More thoughts from direct news.