The digital native: A people strategy equals transactional engagement

The biggest mistake organisations, big and small, make is they don’t get the digital native.

In 2005, Rupert Murdoch infamously said, “What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands of the digital native“.

In 2012, we can still observe our media owners struggling with the digital native internally and externally to their organisations.

In 2001, Marc Prensky led many scholars in the debate about the digital native, a tribe who have never lived without technology as an intimate part of their lives.

We are now 11 years on and what is the impact?

Digital natives and digital migrants are your staff and your customers; you are one of them too. We are all digital natives, immigrants, migrants; we are all online in one way or another.

The shift has happened and digital is now a seamless integrated part of everything we do. It is just a part of life and business.

Five big “freak outs”

1. The technology is so complicated, how am I going to get my head around this???

People get weighed down by the technology, blinded by a smoke screen of “specialists and experts” scaring the crap out of them, and saying “if they don’t get social media their business will die”. Shock jocks the lot of them.

2. Oh-mi-God, our processes have to change!!!

It’s about people, not process. You can change a process; it is really hard to change people.

3. This online stuff is so disruptive to my day and my business; I wish it would all go away.

Viewing the digital world as a disruption, not an opportunity is futile. The opportunity doesn’t have to be difficult to realise, it’s simple when you realise it’s about people.

4. Tell them to stop saying that!

People say things publicly you may not like: you can adapt to learn from it, hide from it or argue with it. But stop getting bothered by it.

5. Show me the money!

Business put transactions first, people and relationships last. It’s about the people not the cash. The transaction will follow if you have the relationship in the first place.

Five-point strategic digital people plan

1. Social contagion

Consumer social contagion

Fads, copycat imitation and mass following. Remember
– Power Rangers cards, people went crazy for them
– Farmville, Angry Birds, etc, being played by masses
– Virtual pets, from Furbies to Tamagotchi

All social epidemics drive peer-to-peer, word-of-mouth promotion and sales. Create your own social epidemic.

Business social contagion

Google must be one of the best examples of a company that has created social engineering not only in its products but also in its company culture. People are your culture, social conative behavior patterns, breed and feed your company culture.

2. The voices

Understanding that in the digital world people have a voice and can fast switch many people into voting with their voice, and their feet, right out of your door. You would be very wise to listen to them, everyday. And not using software, but by using people to listen to people.

The mum of a six-year-old, Gretta Hawkhead, caused a storm that went public and viral over Target’s clothing range for young girls is just one of many social media disasters where a brand has no people-to-people listening strategy.

3. Forget the technology

The technology will do what you want it to do. Start with what you want people to do and work from there.

4. People not process

Process is important but it is people that make the process work. If you haven’t involved your people in the change for the digital people programs and its process, it will never work.

If you involve your people in the why and the solution, life becomes much easier. As we are all digital people, you may also find that they can offer input and direction to help drive the team forward and adapt processes to suit our digital world.

5. Recognise the relationship and the transaction will follow

Forget loyalty and reward, think relationship and recognise those connections. We all value being treated as people, not as numbers or orders. We all value good content; we all want to talk to people. Give consumers this and the transaction will come.

This is transactional engagement – something marketers think they can magic up. Without a people-to-people strategy, engagement and transactions will be as illusive as it is proving to be for most brands in the current marketing climate.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of digital and interactive consultancy company Bendalls Group. With over 20 years’ experience, Bendall has worked with global brands including BBC and Virgin, and is an expert in how businesses can approach strategy in the digital world. You can follow her on Twitter at @FiBendall, and can contact her through Bendalls Group.



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