The Digital Divides – They Lives!

When most people talk about the digital divide, it seems they are referring to the inability of low income people to surf the Internet. Or, basically, to receive and regurgitate the messages that we, the digital elite, are sending to them online.

But there are plenty of small businesses and small non-profits – run by educated, middle class people – who are being left behind, too. This is not simply due to a lack of access to the internet, but the inability to keep up with the rapidly changing environment of social media, search engine marketing, and the like.  I also think it’s the inability to imagine the possibility of this new world, like Clay Shirky has described in his book Here Comes Everybody.  Perusing the job postings of local non-profits, I don’t see many marketing and communications positions that even incorporate knowledge of social media into their job descriptions. I think perhaps they don’t want to scare off some of the older professionals (including people in my age group!) but it’s surprising that it’s not even mentioned. Again, evidence of another aspect of the digital divide.

Big corporations and most of the national non-profits have the resources for getting their message out. And despite the promise of the Internet, I think it is only being partially fulfilled for the small players.

Lately I have been trying to see this as an opportunity. I was initially shocked that people would pay to learn how to use Web 2.0 tools, including LinkedIn and Twitter, but EveryDotConnects has been hosting workshops on this subject! 

 So what should we, the digital elite, do to help our brethren discover the potential that exists in social media? Will our moms forever continue to simply forward us cute and/or alarming emails and, if they’re businesspeople or community leaders, have 1998-era Web sites? And if they do participate, will it continue to be mindless regurgitation? Wait a minute, even those 20-somethings are doing mindless regurgitation… so yes we do need to ensure that technology is used for good… and why should social media literacy be relegated only to the young and hip and savvy?

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3 comments so far

  1. eliz.s. on

    I work for a small business, and although I consider myself young(ish) and hip, I am the one who set up our not quite web 2.0 website. I think depending on what your business does, Twitter may not serve you well. I don’t see it being much use for our company (especially since confidentiality is an issue for certain of our jobs).

    The idea that nonprofits aren’t aware of the need for social media knowledge is disappointing. If anyone can benefit from social media, it is certainly nonprofits!

  2. lauratex on

    Oh, I certainly agree that not every business needs fancy 2.0 stuff just for the sake of fancy 2.0 stuff. I have been in those fights over unnecessary Flash intros since 1.0 even.

    I think for some small businesses, some basic search engine marketing would help them attract more potential clients and participation in certain other existing social networks might help attract new clients…

    As for non-profits, I’m sure there are some (the non-advocacy types or the ones with large endowments) for whom a conversation with their constituents is looow down on their list.

  3. Emee Pumarega on

    While I consider myself (slightly) young and (almost) hip, my problem with the web 2.0 “revolution” is simply the amount of time it takes to stay on top of all the technologies. I can sign up for twitter, facebook, write a blog etc. etc. but to manage these items on limited business time is just crazy. In addition, remembering all of the logins and passwords. Don’t get me started on feed aggregators that say they are a one stop shop — there seem to be about twenty of them now! So I now I have to have a SocialThing, a Ping.fm, and twhirl too? Omigod. Stop the merrygoround and let me get off. Oh wait. I just signed up for BrightKite. Can someone else manage this for me please? *looks at Laura*


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