Digital Marketing, Social Media

Social Media Marketing to Digital Natives

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The prevailing wisdom from so-called gurus, rockstars, and ninjas of the social media world has been that social media is a great tool for “free” marketing; after all it’s free to set up a Facebook page. This was fine 8-10 years ago. Not anymore. With digital natives going from teenagers to young professionals, times have changed.

Digital natives don’t use social media in the way we think they do.

At least, when they’re buying something. Since about 2008, people have pushed the idea that social impacts only certain stages of the purchasing journey.

Dave Evans wrote Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day, where the below diagram is from. He calls it the Social Feedback Cycle, showing user-generated content impacting on the consideration stage.

Dave Evans Social Media Marketing An Hour a Day

It immediately hit me that what he was saying was true but that I wanted to explore further. Since 2008, Digital Natives had gone from teenagers to professionals with disposable income. Surely something had changed in how social media was used?

Digital marketing is so fluid, that what was once correct, doesn’t ring true anymore. If it has taught me anything, it’s that ‘one-size-fits-all marketing’ should be abolished.

Digital natives do use social media post-consumption to convey feelings about brands, but they also use social for every single part of their purchasing decision. And they don’t even realise they’re doing it. It is totally normal for them, they don’t think twice about it.

This was what I came up with; the Digital Native Social Feedback Cycle.

Fino Hood Social Media Digital Native diagram

How did I know this?

Well, apart from being a digital native, this was my University dissertation topic. I actually had to speak face-to-face with a bunch of my peers instead of sending tweets, snaps or emoji-filled texts.

Every single part of the Consumer Decision Journey is impacted by social media:

Need or Want Recognition

Increased accessibility and visibility of what others have is influential on their purchasing habits.

Think people buying bottles of expensive spirits in nightclubs and posing for photos that go up on Facebook, where others see them and go, “hey, that looks really cool, I want to do that!”.

Search of Information

Digital Natives use social media as a way of filtering information to that which is most relevant to them. They don’t necessarily go on with the intention of purchasing something, but if there is discussion occurring around something, they believe it’s more relevant as it sits within their social graph.

Evaluation of Alternatives

The iPhone vs. Samsung Galaxy debate doesn’t just go on in tech blogs or review sites. It goes down to the individual posts that digital natives use to gain the wisdom-of-the-crowd, or even have alternative options brought into the mix that were previously not considered. It creates as personalised a review as possible. Facebook friends know each other pretty well. They perceive each other to have similar needs and wants.


Social minimises the situational factors that can negatively impact a purchase (e.g. time, convenience, something else catching a consumer’s eye).

A Facebook ad direct to product page creates less friction towards conversions, and hopefully stops people from clicking away. That being said, social only does so much. Your website needs to be up-to-scratch to convert when they’re on there!


A lot of digital natives said they didn’t use social media mid-consumption, but in actual fact, this is the very start of the feedback cycle.

Experiential data is the most important kind of influence on digital natives. When someone takes time from experiencing a product or service to actively post on social about it, it’s clear that it has had an impression, either positively or negatively. Think checking-in on Facebook at a great restaurant, or similarly,  airline rage tweets for that missed connection.


This is the classic one that everyone thinks about with social media. Product broken? Tweet them. Loved a film? Share the trailer on Facebook. Pretty self-explanatory.


Social has changed the way we even get rid of our purchases. Putting your old car up for sale? Why not use Facebook where you’ve got a smaller but more trustworthy network to sell to.

So What Do You Need To Do?

Digital natives are the savviest consumers that marketers have ever dealt with and represent a monumental shift in consumer behaviour. If we lump them all together as one mass-market (which I’ve already said we shouldn’t…), they watch unboxing videos on YouTube, compare the minutiae of product specs and consume less and less live TV. They post on social pre-, mid- and post-consumption, all the time inadvertently influencing others. The extent to which customers and potential customers use social media is massively underrated.

This post does leave out a proportion of the population that aren’t digital natives. However, that percentage is diminishing literally everyday. This will only become more prevalent.

The best way for marketers who want to capture the hearts of digital natives is to make sure their social is best-in-class. That doesn’t mean just getting an intern in to post content to boost engagement metrics. There needs to be a strategic goal in mind; sign-ups, traffic, purchases.

Look at implementing more video into your content plans. Engage with people from day one, not just post-purchase. Pro-active is 10x better than reactive. Implement paid social for those platforms where social reach is dwindling (like Facebook).

The biggest challenge for marketers is yet to come, as this is only the beginning of these types of consumers. How do we target those who have never not known Facebook and Twitter? Who have only listened to advert-free music streaming services and don’t listen to the radio? Netflix/Amazon Prime Video instead of TV? These are exciting times that are fluid and constantly changing.

Don’t think of analogue solutions to digital problems.


Let’s stop doing social like it’s 2008. That was 8 years ago. People still used the original iPhone. We need to start treating social as the go-to channel, because we’re only at the beginning of this massive change in consumer behaviour. Use video to capture the imagination of the audience, without it necessarily feeling like an advert. Start approaching social with a strategy that incorporates organic and paid solutions, and start understanding the ever-increasing importance that digital marketing plays in a consumer’s decision journey, and you’ll be in a far better place than a lot of people.