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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Recruiting & Reaching Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants: Part Two of a Three-Part Series



By Jessica Miller-Merrell

In part one of this series I talked about why it’s important to recognize that the approaches utilized for digital natives and digital immigrants must be different. I shared about how to launch your strategy for reaching each group separately and I said that the first step in the process is research. It’s sometimes an overlooked part of recruiting (and marketing) strategies but it’s absolutely vital to the success of the campaign.

To kick start your research efforts, we’ll tackle the characteristics, including differences and similarities, of digital natives and digital immigrants.

First things first Before I begin defining each group, I want to dispel some myths about digital natives and digital immigrants. Generally speaking, people like to categorize these groups based on a few key factors, with age being at the top of the list. While it is true that statistically speaking, generation X is more accustomed to utilizing social networks for just about everything, there are some seasoned professionals who have been on Twitter since the day it started. Additionally, it may hurt you in the long run to make assumptions about the level of usage by digital immigrants. While you do have to make some generalizations in order to categorize these two groups, don’t be too quick to rule out social network usage by seasoned professionals or digital immigrants.

The differences Digital natives are those who have basically been utilizing social networks and interacting online for as far back as they remember. They may have rode the Xanga, Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram (and I could go on and on) train over the years and use their social networks for everything from soliciting restaurant suggestions to finding a job. Conversely, digital immigrants have migrated, so to speak, based on recommendations, peer pressure from friends and family or because of professional reasons, to mainstream social networks. While there are varying levels of each group, digital natives are more likely to be interactive, exploratory than digital immigrants. On the other hand, digital immigrants tend to be less jaded and more open to someone reaching out than digital natives.

Other differences include the amount of time each group typically spends online, how they react to advertisements and posts and the way in which they search for jobs. For instance, digital natives are more likely to work their way through their network, exploring job opportunities and letting one link lead them to the next, while digital immigrants are more likely to go straight to the source or search exactly what they’re seeking. It’s important to keep these differences in mind as you develop your recruiting strategy.

The similarities Digital natives and digital immigrants do have some similarities and luckily, their similarities exist in areas that are important for recruiters. One of their main similarities is that they both desire genuine conversation and connection, which stems from real world interaction and the desire to have the same thing in their virtual worlds. The second most important similarity is that these conversations need to happen in a centralized location with a contact person they see and hear from. As I said, these are the areas in which recruiters live and excel. Utilizing your network to connect with candidates and creating conversation are both something you are likely extremely accustomed to and something that will produce results.

What similarities and differences of digital natives and digital immigrants can you add to these lists? Let us know in the comments below.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs

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