Forbes Insights in association with Google released a report yesterday that suggests many interesting ramifications for the future of Internet marketing, particularly in the areas of pay-per-click marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing. Titled “The Rise of the Digital C-Suite: How Executives Locate and Filter Business Information,” the report illuminates a stark generational divide between the top executives at large U.S. companies who are under 50 years of age and over 50 years of age and how they make use of tools such as search engines, blogs and social networking websites, online video, and PPC ads. Based on these differences, the report predicts that “profound organizational evolution” will take place as “Generation Netscape”—those under-40s whose careers began in the 1990s—move into the senior positions at their companies.
The report is based on a survey of more than 350 top executives at U.S. companies with at least $1 billion in annual sales. The subjects were questioned on their information-gathering styles and whether or how frequently they used different Internet tools. Though the effect of age on one’s comfort level with technology is a given, some of the findings in the Forbes/Google report are still rather shocking. For example, the report found that 41% of under-50s frequently use pay-per-click advertising to gather business information, compared with just 6% of those over 50. Perhaps less surprisingly, 59% of executives under 50 use online social networking websites daily or several times per week versus 18% of those over 50.
One of the report’s most interesting findings was that, in its own words, “search is the executive’s home page.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents identified general search engines as very valuable, but here also the connection between age and usage was striking. Thirty-nine percent of the executives under 40 perform more than 20 work-related searches per day, versus 17% of 40-to-49 year olds and 6% of 50-somethings. This suggests that search engine optimization will become more rather than less important even as social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook gain importance as information-gathering tools.
Speaking of Twitter, 56% of executives under 40 said that they use micro-feeds such as Twitter at least several times per week, versus 34% of 40-to-49 year olds.
The core lesson with which the report concludes is that the generation of executives under 40 is “likely to take collaboration and networking in research to unprecedented levels,” turning transparency and openness into “core professional and personal attributes.” To download a copy of the report, visit http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/digital_csuite/index.html.