PR strategists put a lot of effort into categorising audiences and segmenting “publics”, and a key demographic characteristic for many campaigns is age. It may be fairly obvious that the target group for some products and services will defined by how old they are, but the majority of campaigns need to consider quite a broad age span. Others might place emphasis on gender, education, income, or lifestyle.
Having defined a target demographic the next stage is to try and and identify which platforms and channels they are likely to use. Here it becomes useful to consider the extent to which the targets are likely to be Digital Naturals, individuals who are comfortable in an online environment, being equipped through experience and exposure to the both its cultural norms and the technological competencies required to operate effectively.
The characteristic features associated with being a Digital Natural include:
- Routine access to online platforms (owning a smartphone, having home broadband etc)
- Regular use of online platforms for news, conversation and information-seeking
- Propensity to share information, opinions and emotions
- Digital aptitude, including the ability to critically assess sources and content, having reading writing skills, motor and sensory skills
Individuals will score differently against these broad groupings, and the groupings, or propensities, will need to be sub-divided in ways tailored to the behaviour the campaign is designed to influence.
The strategist can then decide to what extent people who share similar values that are linked to the campaign target are likely to be considered Digital Naturals. If these propensities are expressed strongly in a target group, the ways to reach them will become clear. If they targets are unlikely to be considered Naturals, the reason can be identified. For example, certain individuals might be strongly disinclined to share information on social networks but still have ready access to a range platforms and channels, whereas others may be keen to share but don’t have the economic means to participate. The possibility of these two positions, polar opposites, explains why there is no binary negative to the Digital Natural. (Compare this with the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant divide which is presented as stark, and fixed, based on birth year and and associated assumptions which are increasingly hard to justify).