digital citizenA Saturday Night Live skit this past weekend poked fun at Millennials, often characterized as being Digital Natives. The skit over-emphasized the stereotypes yet, as with most stereotypes, the hype does not match the reality.

Battery Ventures commissioned a study with Ipsos, an independent research firm, to look at the social media characteristics of Millennials. Against the common thinking, many Millennials opt out of social media:

  • 11% do not have a Facebook account
  • 54% do not have a Snapchat account
  • 41% do not have a Pinterest account
  • 39% do not have a Twitter account
  • 39% do not have an Instagram account

Millennials may be Digital Natives, but they may be applying their digital skills in different ways than the common social platforms. Saturday Night Live aside, stereotypes and statistics do not necessarily match.

Social and News: An Empowering Blend

Millennials are engaging with news stories. Another survey was conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Here they found that 64% of Millennials say they regularly keep up with what is going on in the world.

Social media platforms, still used, provide an interesting angle to the news. Forty-two percent regularly post or share news content to Facebook, and 34% regularly comment on news stories. While Millennials seem to use Facebook to see what friends are talking about, they use Twitter to see what is trending. Social nudges keep the news insights growing and raises engagement.

Millennials are informed. More than being informed, Millennials engage with diverse viewpoints through their social channels. News channels and social channels deliver a mix of news and insights.

Informed Plus Diversity

Diversity delivers strength in understanding and potential action to undertake. Within their social media channels, 70% of Millennials say that their feeds comprise diverse viewpoints. When Millennials want to dig deeper, going to search is usually with first stop (57% use search to find other articles). For hard news, Millennials will go to the original source. News sites play a big role still.

An interesting note is Millennials are willing to pay for news sources. Ninety-three percent of Millennials use a subscription, and 40% paid for at least one news-specific service, app, or digital subscription.

One of the more noteworthy elements in this research is the way Millennials use the news. The three ways Millennials use the news are:

  1. Civic – becoming a better citizen
  2. Social – connect with friends and family
  3. Practical – solve problems and stay healthy, financial and well-being

Within each of these, a certain responsibility is implied. The responsibility mix includes self and others. The power of the news comes from how we interact with it, engage others in the stories, and then what we do differently to create better workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, states, and countries.

Millennials show very encouraging signs on each of these fronts. Too many get stuck in the “funny” stereotypes and miss the real opportunity unfolding.

The Necessary Shift to Digital Citizen

Digital Native may describe the impact of growing up with technology, but it does not designate the responsibility required. Being a Digital Citizen raises the calling for Millennials and all generations. Here is the scenario happening:

We read a news story in our social feed. A few hours later, a blog post about the same news story appears. Later in the day, another perspective arrives. Our interest rises. We search the news story to learn more and dig into one or more news sites to get more information. So far, we have an understanding of the news story along with a few different insights on it.

Next, we form our opinion and begin to share it through one of our social platforms. At dinner or lunch the next day, we ask our friends what they think and gain their insights on what should be done. Problems begin to be solved, and we get more passionate in an action we can take.

A new world of being a Digital Citizen arises, and it contains a mix of news, opinion, conversation, and sharing. Eventually, if enough passion is stirred, collaborative action is taken. This is leadership activated!

When we think about the Digital Citizen model, four types of Digital Citizenry rise to the top. They include:

Social Digital Citizen.

Social media includes a mix of family and friends and the pictures that go with each. However, we also share news articles of interest and add in our opinions and insights. We move from being a bystander to being social with an issue. We participate. We educate. We become educated. We interact with civility throughout but look for ways to resolve and move our conversations to fruitful action.

Voting Digital Citizen.

Convert information into action is vital. Voting is an action to take. Informed, engaged voters are the best kind. By being an informed, voting citizen, the result is better candidates and more productive election results. Better citizens and better candidates should produce better solutions. Again, when we work together in a civil manner, good work happens.

Corporate Digital Citizen.

Business news is important, too. We learn about what it takes to be a better leader. We learn how bad choices can ruin a career or business. We learn how to build accountability into our actions as well as into our team and departmental environments. Being a good corporate citizen is a mix of social, news, and action, too.

Being a good corporate citizen extends outside the four walls of the organization. Participating in industry organizations shares knowledge and moves bigger initiatives forward. Writing blogs or exchanging ideas in a user community solves problems and shares insights.

Corporate citizens create community within their business by working with peers and colleagues and within their industry by collaborating with diverse stakeholders.

Community Digital Citizen.

Healthy lifestyles can happen through what we read, understand, and act upon. From healthy well-being to financial well-being, we need to understand how to create a better life for ourselves and our families. Equal to this, we need to determine how we can extend this same healthy learning and actions to the greater community around us.

Social media creates a way to create broader connections, even within our local communities. The next step is to activate those social connections into community connections in which we work together for better neighborhoods and a healthier community.

The Unique Attributes of Successful Digital Citizens

Although digital is in the title, the true Digital Citizens leverage their social media skills into community skills. In other words, digital channels open channels to our immediate communities. The Digital Citizen model is outward to inward and inward to outward. We extend beyond our nearby borders to gain insights and build relationships, and then we leverage those new insights and connect with others nearby.

Digital Citizens drive positive change close by and further away. Digital Citizens carry a new connection power. Most importantly, Digital Citizens carry a collaborative power.

Are you ready to join Millennials and be an empowering Digital Citizen?