Two generations enjoying the technological revolutionAnyone past the age of 45 and with no formal training in IT is often perplexed by any turn of a conversation that gets into software, hardware and... social media. When it goes further into programming and code, then we become truly lost. Yes, we do understand a lot of basic IT and systems concepts, but beyond a certain point some of us do draw blanks.

The FT ran an article entitled "Coding as a second language". An excerpt:

Alliott Cole sees a large number of tech start-ups in his work as principal in the early-stage investment team of private equity firm Octopus. The trouble is that he often struggles to comprehend what those writing the software that underpins those companies are talking about.....Now, however, as modern technology is changing his industry, he feels the need to revisit the basics of how technology functions.

So, a company called Decoded offers training courses to people who are digital "immigrants". It was launched by three former advertising executives and an award-winning web designer /developer. It is clear that "immigrants" will never be able to speak "digital" without an accent, but at least they should aim to understand and use the "grammar and syntax" properly.

So much for understanding code and the new digital language these courses help convey. However, the digital divide is still there when it comes to the use of technology on a daily basis to access websites, both social media and other. Advertisers need to understand the differences and similarities between these two groups when they design their digital campaigns for social media. Indeed, the younger generations, especially those under the age of 30, have grown up not knowing a world where digital technologies were not ubiquitous. This is a generation steeped in technology and adept at multi-tasking: texting friends, downloading music, uploading videos, watching a movie on a phone or tablet, and reading and/or posting things on Facebook and Twitter. They use three, and sometimes even four screens simultaneously (i.e. TV, Laptop, Tablet, Mobile). Companies trying to figure out how to use Facebook for marketing should keep this fact in mind when they design their complex digital campaigns. Also, it is important for companies to keep in mind that a current 6 year old's idea of a computer is a smartphone or a tablet.

Rumour has it that certain venture capital firms in the Silicon Valley will not invest in a technology company if the CEO is older than thirty!

Don Tapscott's Grown Up Digital is a look at the age cohort he calls The Net Generation. Net Geners are those currently between the ages of 11 and 30, who are the first generation to have literally grown up in a digital world– and are part of a global cultural phenomenon that's here to stay. Our view is that when it comes to using a computer or any other device to navigate any site on the internet – be it web or mobile, a "native's" brain functioning is very different from an "immigrant's".

You may have your own view on this type of market segmentation – one that is at least partly shaped by your age but also by how adept you've become in using digital technologies. And if you are a researcher, that will probably determine how prone you are to embrace new techniques and platforms such as online qualitative research and more specifically online focus groups, online communities or active web listening.

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Michalis A. Michael and Dr. Nicos Rossides

Michalis A. Michael and Dr. Nicos Rossides