Tips on mastering the "socio-techno divide"

Shelly Palmer often criticizes big media for ineptitude and slowness to change, but for digital marketers at the Breakthrough Summit, he offered advice on succeeding in trying times.

Shelly Palmer isn’t one to mince words. Seemingly always on the lookout for a well-placed jab, his no-nonsense commentary is a trademark on his daily MediaBytes wrap-up. Palmer promised much of the same in his “Digital Power User Crash Course” at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Coconut Point, Fla.

Calling it a “get digital preview,” Palmer set out to give attendees the core skills and understandings they need to prosper in the 21st century.

As he often begins many of his presentations, Palmer first explained what he calls the “socio-techno divide.” Simply enough, there are two groups of people when it comes to digital: anybody older than 35, which he calls the TV generation, and anyone younger than 35, who is either born digital or a digital immigrant.

The crux of his argument for moving the 35-and-older crowd into a more coherent digital understanding is that “the speed of information is directly related to success,” he says.

Palmer says he always makes it a point to give his audience new tools that will help them do something better today than they could yesterday. “What’s the point of telling people stuff without giving them real tips and things they can learn today?” he asks rhetorically.

Not surprisingly, Palmer spends a great deal of time discussing social media and its evolving role in the day-to-day functions of business.

He recalls some lawmakers’ poor use of Twitter during President Barack Obama’s first formal speech before Congress as a sad but stark example of how social media can be used in bad taste.

“That doesn’t indict the technology. What it does is indict the people who don’t know,” he says.

Had someone been actually using that properly, it would have been a different story.

Rather than snarky missives with misspellings, Palmer asks why those senators that were later criticized for using Twitter from the floor didn’t have staff prepare concise commentary that could be added to the political debate in real-time? All it would have taken is three tiny URL addresses that could have directed followers to lawmakers’ plans for big issues like health care, the economy, and energy.

“What they should be doing is communicating with their constituents any way they can,” Palmer says. “In the hands of fools, foolish things get done. Smart people get smart things done. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

That essentially wraps up Palmer’s decidedly pro-digital advocacy, particularly against those who argue that technology is to blame. Palmer is no technology apologist. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” he says.

Leaps in technology have only given marketers better tools that make life easier and less expensive, nothing more, he says. And when marketers don’t think clearly about their use of social media, it mostly results in a lot of noise.

“The people that are doing it right, you don’t hear about them because they’re already doing it ubiquitously right,” he says. “You can’t throw money at this problem and fix it.”

Finally, Palmer tells iMedia where digital marketers will be affected most as a result of the recession, starting with consumers’ technology choices. And with many consumers opting to maintain slower broadband, less powerful tools, and older technology to save money, the entire content chain is being disrupted and put on hold.

“All of that is just going to slow everything down, and pretty dramatically,” he says.

Higher media consumers are usually the ones that care most about technology and how they’re receiving content, but Palmer thinks this depression is going to exacerbate that problem in ways we haven’t fully grasped yet.

“It’s not the actual dollars, it’s the behaviors that will never be behaved… and it’s going to be profound,” Palmer says. “It’s going to hurt a lot, I promise you that.”