Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I have succeeded as a digital age parent; what I learned from my 12 year old son

Despite the fact that I am showing you two pictures of myself, this is not a post about "selfies".

The other day, I changed my formal looking Skype profile picture to what I thought to be a more playful picture I just happened to have on my phone. It was of me and our dog Kenji, and I thought it would be a fun profile picture.

I Skype with my 12 year old son Robert every day, so he saw that my picture had changed. The following conversation then took place:

R: Hey, you changed your Skype picture.
M: Yes, I did.
R: .. (silence)...
R: Daddy, don't you use Skype a lot for your business?
M: Yes, I do all the time.
R: Well, what do you think important business people will think when they see that picture?

I thought about it. And then I changed my picture back.

I always say that I live my life in full disclosure. And I am not afraid to do so, because I am my own editor in chief, and I share only what I am comfortable to share. I also have set up kind of an editorial board of myself: Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest are about me as a person. Twitter, this blog and LinkedIn are about me as a professional. Instagram and Skype are a little of both. Google+ is just there to prop up the search game. And so on.

The lines are blurred and not always as clear, but these rules kind of help me to determine what I post where.

I thought it was amazing that my now 12 year old son had the awareness of thinking through the implications of picture + target audience = association & positioning. And the fact that "every day people" (especially the young 'uns) have an understanding of message concepts, target audience and the potential implications of how they match or mismatch has great implications for businesses in today's "Always On Marketing Economy":

  • Kids apparently know inherently what "fits" and "does not fit" in terms of images (= messaging) relative to a brand (in this case, the brand of "me").
  • Because they are able to determine appropriateness of that fit they will, as a result, elevate or discount their assessment of that brand.
  • They will call you out if it is, in their eyes, a poor fit. Maybe not to you directly, but perhaps to their (online) friends.
Think about it. All the 12 year olds today are already active and socially linked consumers with an expansive digital footprint and awareness. If you are targeting them with your brand, you better ensure that you get the linkage right. 

Now fast forward 10 or 15 years: they will have become that coveted target audience called "Young Adults", having grown up in a world where all of what we are developing, learning and applying today has been their natural habitat for their entire life. Do you really think that a couple of TV spots and a "Like Me" Facebook promotion are going to do the trick?

Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future referred to anyone under the age of 15 as true digital natives, and how true this is is clearly demonstrated in this short story. Use the digital natives as your mentors, and listen to them when they share their opinion, in person or online.

In the end, the ability of my son being able to put these things together is of course a great testament to my outstanding parenting skills...

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