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5 Traits of a Digital Native

Be a Digital NativeLet’s talk digital natives. They are everywhere in today’s world, and I myself, happen to be one of them.

Digital natives are those that were born into the age of the Internet. They're indigenous to the digital world of today one and they share a natural comfort with all things technology. I'm not just talking about being familiar with the Internet and your iPhone. They're experts in computers, online streaming, video games, televisions, and literally all kinds of technology. 

While there are many different kinds of digital natives, there are five primary features that I believe are the most telling. 

1) We're Intuititive Learners 

Digital natives are immersed in technology on a daily basis. Because of that, they can comfortably get into most devices, websites, social media platforms, and all other kinds of technology, figure out how it works, and use it accordingly. Sometimes they might need to refer to the directions or to the manual, but it's only if that digital native can't intuitively figure it our on their own. 

Not only that, we prefer to intuitively figure things out. Think about a light that suddenly came on in your car's dash. If you don't recognize it, how likely are you to search online for solutions to your problems? With a few taps of your finger, you can use a tool to intuitively figure out the answer to your problem. (Just don't do this at a red light, please!)

We can easily make an anaolgy to website design. If you can't make your website function in an intuitive manner, you're risking losing potential business through two major issues. First, a poor user experience (often seen in a high bounce rate) is one of the critical indicators of good or bad site SEO. 

This raises a critical problem with the websites of certain businesses. They fail to serve this critical demographic; the digital natives, and as a result, are failing to bring in new business through their website. 


Our intuitiveness goes way further than just websites and online presences. We desire to be intuitive. How else can you explain the need to have the best available technology? If a digital native wants to wait in some line at a mall to get their iPhone X, there's probably a good reason they'd want the new technology. Like it's face-recognition features or it's crazy nice new camera. 

Of course, you don't have to agree with that digital native's decision to spend $999 on a phone, but that's beside the point...

We are a part of the intuitive innovators and early adopters, constantly upgrading our technology for that next best product or service. Comparatively, the digital non-natives tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to embracing new technological trends.

Digital natives are notorious for being those advocates for getting others adopting innovative new trends and technologies. Not only are we innovative in our technology preferences, we seek out roles at innovative companies as well. We thrive off of dynamic work environments that get our creative juices flowing. 

2) Our Ability to Multitask is Enhanced

Let me start off here by saying that overall, multitasking is proven to hinder performance and efficiency. That has been proven many times. I would say that these people are doing it wrong.

Digital natives need the following things in order to multitask efficiently: a system that helps them stay organized and the discipline to adhere to that system. Let me explain my process to help illustrate my point.

To help myself manage the many things I need to get done on a weekly basis, I set my calendar every week. I prioritize everything by four different categories: urgent and important, not urgent but still important, urgent but not important, and not urgent or important. I start with the major tasks that I need to undergo, like collaborate on a content strategy document, go to the doctor, or be in an internal company meeting. With these major (urgent and important) tasks planned for, I can strategically work other projects that still need to be completed as needed. 

When it comes to these other (not urgent but still important) tasks, I refer to a small planner that I fill up every week with a to-do list for each client. However, I've seen people be successful with many kinds of online tools, like Evernote, Google's suite of apps, Microsoft Outlook, simple iPhone to do lists apps, and tons of other tools.  

It might be hard to get to the less important tasks that need to be completed, but by planning for them, it will be much easier to switch over to that task when the time comes. 

Older generations are mind-boggled by the number of activities digital natives can juggle all at once. We are natural-born multi-taskers. Texting, while sending an email, with a TV show on in the background and browsing Facebook newsfeeds is just another day in the life of a digital native.

It should be said that digital natives need to be wary of their ability to multitask. By spreading ourselves thin, it's very easy to do many different things half-assed instead of maintaining quality standards with the required amount of work. However, effective planning, organization, and discipline will ensure that you're set up for success when multitasking.

3) We are Social

You might argue that digital natives are always looking at their phones in public or whatever, but the fact is digital natives are some of the most social people Planet Earth has seen. It doesn't take a physical converstion to have an interaction with someone, and that's not changing anytime soon.

I can meet my friends at a nice restaurant, take pictures of my meal, and share them with all of my friends that weren't there so they can see how delicious my tacos were. 

But what about the people that are just now coming into social media? Facebook is the most popular social media platform for people over 50. Are these people digital natives? 

These people should be considered 'digital immigrants' or simply late adopters. They've migrated over the digital realm and are starting to embrace technology. They understand how other people use it, and it's a great way for that age group of people to keep track of their family and other things that are important to them.  

Digital natives were born to adapt to change, as that is an inevitable part of the digital world. We grew up around computers, phones, laptops, etc., allowing us to easily adapt to most technology. Yes, we may have a preference when it comes to our own personal devices, Macbook vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, iPad vs. Galaxy Note, but we are likely able to navigate anything you put in front of us. And if we can’t, we’ll intuitively figure it out.

Adaptability also comes in the form of convenience for us. When a new app is developed that makes our daily lives easier, you better believe that we’re going to download it. For example, you can get takeout at almost any restaurant around but only a select number of restaurants deliver. Then, apps like Postmates, Favor and Seamless started popping up, that will deliver any restaurant, you name it. Let me tell you, this has drastically changed the way I get my Chipotle fix. Digital natives are more than willing to adapt to any new technology that adds value.

4) We Lack Patience

Digital natives are notorious for their impatience and even sheer laziness.

Hell, we're the people that got so fed up with being single we created an app to help. Tinder, Bumble, and other dating apps exist because we lack the patience of going through the hassle of going out and actually talking to people.  

Our need for instant gratification can be detrimental at times, but companies can also take advantage of the impatience of digital natives. Let me explain how that can be achieved.

HubSpot has a feature on websites that allow you to implement custom search on websites built in the COS. You should care about that because it allows people to find the content they're looking for much quicker than normal. For example, if you're a company that has expertise in a very technical industry, you can create articles speaking to the complexities of that industry and add this site search functionality. That way people can search for an industry term and quickly locate that content.  

Conversly, if you fail to consider the impatience of digital natives you could lose out on potential business. 

  • Do you have a video that you integrated into your website? Chances are it's slowing down website performance.
  • Do you have a clear and intuitive navigation path to all major pages on your website? If you don't, people will not take the time to find those pages.
  • Is all of your best content behind a form? It's actually a best practice to convert that 'gated' content to a longer webpage.

Digital natives' tendency to seek out instant gratification can lead to sales. If you make your content easy to find, a dutiful digital native can find your content online. And if you're doing your content the right way and providing value to readers, they're more likely to consider you a thought leader. Better yet, you content can help you generate sales to directly contribute to your bottom line.

5) We Feel Empowered By the Internet

Let's take a second and think about just how awesome the Internet is. 

Internet Live Stats is website created by developers, researchers, analysts, and other types of nerds to showcase the real-time statistics of the Internet.

As of the right now (5:00 PM MST Thursday, November 21st, 2017) 3.787 billion people are online, there are 1.294 billion websites, and there have been a staggering 3.890 billion Google searches (not to mention Yahoo!, Bing, and other international search enginges). If you haven't checked out Internet Live Stats before, you definitely should.

The Internet has empowered digital natives to be able to do some pretty cool things. 

Think about all the entreprenuers out there that have been able to take an incredible risk and start their own company. These hard working digital natives are able to connect with other professionals around the world thanks to the Internet. Geography doesn't hinder innovation. 

Digital natives are remarkably active in the online community. We engage with other like-minded individuals on the Internet, through social platforms, blogs, and forums, allows for deep collaboration with others. Through this engagment, we foster the creation a collective, interdependent culture. The digital age has only heightened our ability for collaboration and will continue to do so in the future.

Let's apply this to websites, digital communities, and sales systems. Your confusing and non-strategically constructed website doesn't have to be that way forever. That old blog that you never contribute to anymore can grow into a vibrant community of credibility and thought leadership. And lastly, your broke-ass sales system can be fixed. 

Final Thoughts

There are teams of people around the world that make their livelihoods on doing all of the above. And we're only getting better with more efficient and incredible technology.

Digital natives are intuitively solving problems around the world, and we're not slowing down any time soon. Our impatient and always-multitasking nature can get in the way, but only if we allow distractions to hinder from our focus. It also helps to proactively plan out how to expend our mental and physical energy. 

Digital natives can help digital immigrants and those not native to technology navigate the overly complicated aspects of technology and the Internet. Reach out to our digital natives for a consultation and get your website, sales system, or online presence back on track. 


This blog was originally published on 7/10/2015 and has been republished for freshness.