I witnessed a local organization’s curfuffle this week and heard an older leader exclaim, “I’m not going to let any 29 year old upstart tell me what to do!” which got me to thinking.
As is typical throughout time, older experienced people are leading organizations and businesses. But the people they are leading or sharing some degree of leadership with have a completely different world view. What is different now is the size and degree of separation.
The digital divide is in reality a digital chasm.
Generation Y or Millennials, born from the 1970’s to 2000 and Generation Z born after 2000 are born with digital in their DNA, according to Brian Solis at Altimeter Group and a whole host of research he quotes in his latest article, New Digital Influencers: The Coming Youthquake
Most of you, my readers, run business development organizations or are trying to attract customers to small locally owned businesses. Most of you are GenXers or older.
You have a complicated relationship with the digital world that is the most comfortable place in the universe for many of those who you are trying to serve, Millennials!
“No, no!” you say. “My customers are not digital heads. My customers are normal people who love authentic, regular, people to people experiences.”
The reality is that Millennials make up over 35% of the workforce today and by 2015 they will represent half. These are the people who are buying stuff and building businesses in huge numbers. If they aren’t mine and your customers right now, they will be soon.
These are the people who are texting and posting pictures on YouTube between contractions as they have chlldren.
These are the people whose brains are truly wired so differently that they in fact can multitask, keeping multiple screened devices going at the same time! We GenXers and older (me) are fooling ourselves if we think we can multitask.
These are the ones who would have to get on a plane to visit with their most valued friends, because friendship now has no geographical boundaries.
Are your training efforts and marketing programs reaching Millennials?
In our business development classes too often we are still teaching as if the internet is an optional digital billboard.
In our marketing, we’re still treating social media as an information disseminating device. We post something and disappear until the next time we post something, never interacting or digitally socializing.
Becoming a digital native is like learning a foreign language
We all who are older than our Millennial friends, customers and clients need to step up and become digitally fluent if we want to be relevant. Our wisdom and understanding of how things work in the world still has meaning and importance but our ability to communicate depends largely on our willingness to step whole-heartedly into the digital world.
In Solis’s post he talks about the fact that digital fluency is a choice. People of every age are making the shift. They’re connecting and interacting through social media. They are moving to multiple devices for information and entertainment. They are checking with 10 or more friends and other resources online while making buying decisions.
It’s time to jump into the deep end of the digital pool if you truly want to build a thriving small local business in the digital age.
For SBDCs and micro enterprise associations it’s time to become thoroughly digital in order to be relevant and of service to those young business creators needing your help.
It truly is The End of Business as Usual, and we all must embrace and teach the new paradigm. Small business development organizations throughout the world should be the most tech savvy groups around, and right now, with few exceptions, they are not.
Small local businesses run by Millennials are already aware of and using digital marketing. They need assistance in applying marketing theory to digital practice. Older entrepreneurs need training and encouragement to become digitally fluent in order to succeed.
It’s challenging, it’s exciting and it’s the future. It’s not about letting some 20 something upstart boss us around. It’s about learning to speak their language so that they can understand us and we can understand them. It’s a new world out there!
Here are several past posts on similar topics:
photo on Flickr by David Shankbone – the new face of protest. Taken at Occupy Wall St. September, 2011