The Acculturation of the Digital Immigrant

We’ve been there: Cautiously advising clients to not think of solely relying on digital or social media for crucial or critical communications because their audience members “aren’t all online,” “don’t pay attention to Facebook,” or even “don’t have computer access.”The Pew Research Center recently released their 2014 Social Media year-in-review. And from, we can make some new assumptions. The divide between digital natives and digital immigrants was thought to mark differences between young and old, haves and have-nots, and even the “with it” and the not-so "with it” crowds.

As the Pew Center’s most recent social media usage study illustrates, the divisions between social media natives and immigrants continues to shrink. When the fastest growing group of Facebook users is the over-65 bunch, it is clear the immigrants have become acculturated.

% of online adults who use the following social media websites, by year

This observation by itself can initiate some new assumptions. Today, in this day and age, we should assume all audiences are online and on social media, in one degree or another, using a full range of digital tools to satisfy their wants and needs.

Further, as the use of particular social media platforms ebbs and flows (for example, the number of younger Facebook users declining as older users sign on), we might also assume adoption rates among all users – native and immigrant – will happen faster and faster.

Instagram usage may be notably higher among younger people but we can expect quick change in those figures. New platforms will be accepted by people of all ages more rapidly as they become increasingly comfortable adopting both media and devices.

Facebook users

What does this mean for marketers?

  • Forget the myths around usage by age, income or really any segment
  • Assume all members of your target market are on social media or online in some manner
  • Use social media as a reflection of who you are and who you expect your audience to be
  • Vary the media you use based on your specific goals and measurement results
  • In any case, social media usage for communications is not an option anymore