You could argue that digital technology today knows no bounds. It has become virtually omnipresent in our lives, at work and at rest, and to me it represents the ultimate medium for inclusivity through an ever-simplifying user-interface. Inclusivity should suggest that digital technology is age defiant; anyone of any age can take advantage of it, and indeed do.
But ever so often I talk to experienced, accomplished business people who have put themselves on the ‘dinosaur list’ when it comes to online communications (or at least when it comes to anything digital beyond email and maybe a website). The course of the discussion usually takes one of two directions. There’s either an admission that they would really love to ‘get with it’, but they’ve concluded that they’re probably long past it, and they’ve managed pretty well so far without it (they’re the ones that call themselves a dinosaur); or they’re brewing a plan to go forth with the help of ‘a young graduate who’s grown up with social media’. Seriously. These articulate, otherwise confident people who have achieved great things in their lives and their work are hiding behind the sofa to avoid the prospect of going digital.
Why? Could the era of Pong tennis be to blame?
The science behind computers is bewildering if you really think about it, so it’s probably best that you don’t, and in 2015 you really don’t have to. They just work. But maybe those of us who lived through the clunky technology of the 80s, well before the slimmed-down, intuitive version that exists today, are at a disadvantage?
I’m 50. When I was at University studying business, I learnt computer programming. Not by choice, by the way. It was one of those things you were expected to do back in the early 80s, and for someone like me who sat better with the arts than the sciences, it was hard. It was also big. Processors the size of a room, gushing out heat and noise at an intimidating scale. The only experience I had of technology at home, before eventually progressing to an Amstrad PCW Word Processor in about 1988, was a Pong tennis game that plugged into the TV and bleeped – I saw one recently at the National Media Museum in Bradford. My daughters were highly amused at its lack of complexity. (If you’re reading this post for amusement because you weren’t even thought of in the 1980s, you can experience the sights and sounds of the Pong tennis game here).
So, in the early days technology was complex. To take advantage of it you needed to be a boffin, and if you’d class yourself as a digital dinosaur, with deep-rooted memories of trying to master SQL et al, you may be feeling somewhat reticent to go there again. But are you sure you want to cast yourself out of the digital age just yet?
A ghosting approach may come back to haunt you
Fair play if you plan to outsource aspects of your business operations – that makes business sense, but if you’re planning to hand over management of your social media to a ‘young person in the know’ I’d challenge you to think twice.
I accept that people half my age have pretty much grown up on facebook, but I’m not sure that means that ‘young people’ have the edge over me and my peers when it comes to improving my profile online. Hiring a young person ‘in the know’ about all things facebook to ‘do’ your digital marketing or build your online presence surely diminishes the potential leverage you could achieve by doing it yourself. Worse, it could do you more harm than good. Would you send that person to represent you with one of your biggest prospects, at a conference or at a professional networking event? If not, then consider your potential reach virtually, relative to in a ‘real’ networking situation, and think again. Unless you are able to clone your knowledge, responses, opinions, interests and experience entirely, this ‘ghosting’ approach to digital communications could come back to haunt you.
That said, doing nothing at all is also potentially a lost opportunity of cosmic scale.
Focus on the knowledge, not the knowledge gap
Knowing how to use the Twitter or Facebook is one thing, but if the internet can be used to cascade in-depth knowledge and experience that has been built over years of practice, and to elevate your profile from local to global, it’s worth getting it right, and relatively speaking it really isn’t that difficult. Rather than focusing on the knowledge gap, put it in context – how difficult would it be to master social media, relative to the battles you’ve faced, and won, throughout your working life?
If you have cast yourself as a dinosaur, I challenge you to transform your thinking, and to put digital technology in its rightful place – as complementary to all that you have learnt and achieved so far. Learning how to use the tools is far less of a challenge than you might have assumed. I’m living proof.
Keep it simple
It can be quite awe inspiring when you start to open the door to developing your online profile. There’s a platform for just about anyone to do just about anything. But really, you don’t need to use them all. If you decide to make the dinosaur in you extinct, choose the right online platforms for you – the ones that will legitimately help you to achieve your business and personal goals, by distributing interesting, useful information to your target audience, in a manner that suits your personal style.
I’ve definitely found that the old adage of ‘quality rather than quantity’ is what counts in this digital age.