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.

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  • Hi, Jeremiah –

    I caught parts of your webinar today, and I thought your presentation was really insightful and smart. You almost make it all sound manageable! I’m in the business of convincing other businesses they should get into the world of social media, so you gave me some terrific ideas today.

    Thanks for the great slides, too – well done.

  • Thanks Beth, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Excellent webinar from the parts that I heard today. Wish I could’ve heard it all. You Twittered today that it would be available. Any word on when & where? Thanx!

  • Jeremiah – I recently gave a key note to a division of a Fortune top 20 company about building their personal leadership brand.

    The people briefing me before the conference were adamant that they did not want me to cover the subject of social media as they have strict policy on internal and external comms and reputation management.

    However I did include it in the context of the multigenerational workforce and trends in personal branding and it really caught their attention.

    I think that could be one way to get business leaders to start to pay attention – put it in the context of the talent agenda and the multigenrational workforce. It certainly worked for me.

    I look forward to watching the webinar.

  • Dave

    I believe an email is going out on Monday which will give follow up directions to the archive, for those who registered.

    I’m sure someone from Dow Jones (who ran this) will come by and leave a comment when it’s ready.

  • Thanks all for your attendance and responding to the polls. I hope people enjoyed listening as much as Matt, Jeremiah and I enjoyed putting it together. There’s so much to talk about on the topic it was hard to get it all into one hour. So I really would love to do a follow up session.

    Also, the audio and slides are being packaged by ON24, the company that ran the webinar for us. We are expecting it to be ready before the end of the week. I’ll post a link here and on my blog when it’s ready.

  • The webinar was excellent. It was quite succinct & practical.
    Thanks again Jeremiah for sharing your insights with us! They’re always very helpful.

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  • Really enjoy and find value in all your posts about explaining social media, open social and all this good stuff to the powers that be.

    I think it is extremely necessary for the next wave of social media growth.

    I have been turning many new, hungry marketing folks onto your blog.

  • Kin

    Glad to feed those hungry marketers!

  • Great post and on-the-mark. We added significant social networking tools to our latest generation of collaboration software, ICEcore.

    Most of our clients — even our own management — are digital immigrants, just by virtue of age. Part of our strategy assumes that the social networking dimension of our application will accelerate adoption. People can get going by using tools that are easy and familiar, like the ones that they (or their kids) use outside of work.

    But, getting people to use social media is a big leap, as you point out, if they’re not digital natives. The key in the enterprise, we’re finding, is setting up the executives’ personal workspaces for them, making the software easy, then just getting them there (“Eighty percent of success is showing up” – Woody Allen).

  • Jen Harris

    The way we are approaching this subject is not top down, but rather bottom up!
    Figure that if we offer communication tools internally & to our customers first that the “upper crust” will have no choice (and they will see actual benefits) to joining the conversations.
    And yes, our “C” level does know it’s going on, but are not yet convinced of the power, nor do they really use it…yet.
    My biggest challenge is trying to avoid the dibble/dabble effect.

  • jeremiah

    Sorry I missed this one.

    I am starting down that path of how to get “the business” to engage in social media. My thinking is not so much to sell something new, but to look at their existing issues. The trick, I think, is to not preach the technology but to get them to look at structure, process and behaviors. They need to understand how these are changing in a social media world.


  • I’ve put together a page on our team’s wiki that includes blog links, press coverage, a link to download the Webinar, a link to a social media white paper Jeremiah did with Dow Jones — as well as newly transcribed FAQs (questions and our answers from the event).

    I also encourage folks to post additional questions on the Wiki.

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  • Hi, Jeremiah –

    I caught parts of your webinar today, and I thought your presentation was really insightful and smart. You almost make it all sound manageable! I'm in the business of convincing other businesses they should get into the world of social media, so you gave me some terrific ideas today.

    Thanks for the great slides, too – well done.

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